by Kelley Oreglia from Ann Kelley
In today’s world, with never ending streams of emails and Slack pings, it can be very difficult to stay focused and productive throughout the day. If you find yourself overwhelmed, and unable to efficiently execute tasks, time blocking can be a powerful tool to increase productivity.
Time blocking is a simple and effective strategy to prioritize tasks, and stay focused. The basic idea is to set-aside a certain amount of time to every task you need to complete. This helps accomplish multiple things; it blocks off this time from other projects or interruptions, gives you a set amount of time to complete something, and helps you prioritize what you need to get done.
Implementing time blocking is easy. You just need to create a plan, set-up your schedule, and commit to forming a new habit.
Time Blocking Plan
The first thing you’ll need to do is set up a “time blocking plan”. Sit down and list out all the tasks you need to get done in a day or week, both at work and in your personal life.
Larger tasks should be broken out into steps that can be accomplished in about 25 minutes, smaller tasks should be grouped together with other similar tasks.
Breaking your tasks down into 25 minute batches is called the Pomodoro Technique. It allows you to plan your tasks efficiently, and make the best use of your time instead of jumping for one stream of thought to another. The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s as a tool to help him focus in college.
Once you have your list, prioritize them by what is most critical and what will be the most challenging to complete.
Set Up Your Schedule
The best tool for time blocking is whatever electronic calendar you’re already using.
Take your high priority tasks, those that will be most challenging to complete, and block off your peak performance time to complete these tasks. For most people this is the early afternoon, but if you’re a morning person or night owl do what works best for you.
Schedule empty blocks throughout the day to allow for flexibility, and breaks.
Overtime, you’ll gain accurate feedback on how well you are able to execute tasks throughout the day. If you find you’re not getting enough time for replying to emails, and spending too much time on something else, you can adjust your schedule as needed.
Commit for a Month
New habits form over time, to ensure you make time blocking a habit commit to using the technique for a month. Set aside time at the beginning of each week to create your time blocking plan, and set-up your schedule.
One of the biggest challenges to time blocking is handling distractions. New requests coming in can throw off your schedule for an entire day. Cirillo uses a strategy called “inform, negotiate, schedule, call back”. You need to inform those around you that you’re busy, find another time that you can address their need, schedule it, and call them back in that time block.
Once you've successfully implemented time blocking you will experience significantly improved productivity throughout the day. With scheduled time to reply to all those emails, and Slack pings, you will no longer be constantly distracted and pulled in different directions. Enjoy your new found sense of drive and focus, and get to work!