Time Blocking

Time blocking is a simple concept.

A time block is a meeting with yourself.

Time BlockingLike all successful meetings, a time block needs a specific agenda, i.e. what you are going to do, a specific start and end time, and follow on “action items” – what you are going to do next. What you do next might be simple like checking an item off your list as done or far more complex.

What is most important right now?

What is the most important thing for you to do at this point in your life, your career your whatever. Is there “One Thing” that is the most important? Prime candidate for time blocking. Plan some time blocks for the most important thing(s).

Time blocking is related to lists, and often involves takes high priority items from your list and scheduling dedicated blocks of time to them just as you would with meetings with others. Depending on how your lists look (many lists are tactical), you may also use time blocking for strategic longer term non-list items as described above.

Time blocking can span weeks and longer. As an example a friend of mine is working on a book proposal, and has two regularly scheduled blocks of time, Monday and Wednesday from 6-8AM. He has kids, a fulltime job, but he can carve that time out for something so important to him.

Setting up time blocks may involve negotiations with a spouse, your boss, or co-workers.

Ignore Distractions

When using time blocking it is important to avoid distractions as much as possible during the time block. That means no checking email every 5 minutes, ignoring Facebook, Twitter, etc. Turn off or ignore your phone. You need to respect the time block and your commitment to it, just as if you are having a meeting with others.

Work Somewhere Peaceful

Part of having a successful meeting is scheduling it someplace free of interruptions. The same applies to time blocking. If you work in a cube in a hectic interrupt driven environment you may need to go elsewhere during your time blocks.

Somewhere else might be as simple as grabbing a laptop and going to a coffee shop. Perhaps it’s an area with some distractions, but that may be much better than your “cube.”

At Hewlett-Packard, where I went from an office with walls to a noisy cube surrounding by distracting and often annoying people, I found I could schedule conference rooms for meetings, and often would schedule “meetings with myself.” I never thought of them as time blocking, but they certainly were. Formally I just scheduled the room; I didn’t tell anyone why.

Take (some) Breaks

With a longer time block, certainly longer than an hour, occasional (emphasis on occasional) breaks are suggested. This is exactly the same as a longer meeting. In a 4 hour meeting with others you’d better have breaks for coffee, bathroom, etc. Same with a longer time block.

Use Time Blocking however works best for YOU

I apply simple time blocking within a day and only to high priority tasks. For example, this week I have blocks of time most mornings I’m dedicated to studying for a certification exam, and others to taking an exciting online class I’m signed up for at Udemy.

Some people like my friend “The Major” apply time blocking to the longer range. For example, I’ve seen him block out entire weeks months out for specific tasks. Others time block their entire days, scheduling something every hour. I do not do either. Maybe I’m just not that organized, or maybe I don’t need to be, probably some combination. I do what works for me and you need to do what works for you.

Side note: Time blocking works better earlier in the day for most people, even those of us who consider ourselves night owls.

Many highly successful people use time blocking is a significant part of their time management. You ever notice how successful people not only get a lot done, but get the right things done?


6 Responses to “Time Blocking”

  1. Kate G from Wichita says:

    I’ve started waking up an hour early the last 5 weeks (and I am far from a morning person) to work on a something that is very important to me. During that hour, I work ONLY on that project and nothing else except drinking coffee. I am making substantial and ongoing progress, and I never was before consistently. Thanks for giving me what I’ve been doing a name: “Time Blocking!”

    Might add 30 more minutes of “Time Blocking” to lunch and hide somewhere, maybe even in my car, to speed up my effectiveness/progress!

  2. molly wender says:

    Nice article, Ted. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  3. Daniel Twum says:

    Ted,

    Thanks for confirming something I have been practicing for the last 5 years – making time to do what is important because life is very short.
    Hope all is well.

    cheers,
    –Kudjo

    • Ted Demopoulos says:

      Kudjo,
      Great to hear from you old friend.
      I’m sure we agree on most things, especially making time for what’s most important.
      For example, it may be Christmas, but as soon as my son is out of the shower I’m off the computer for the duration 🙂

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