Productivity

Master Your Productivity with Time Blocking Apps: The Ultimate Guide to Effective Time Management

May 26, 2023
IN THIS BLOG

Introduction

You aren’t the only one struggling to get more done in a day. In fact, inefficient time management is one of the main stressors for most people! That said, you can do something about it. Once you put paid to this source of stress, you’ll also focus better on your work. 

So, how can you do that?

We’ll be discussing how to make that happen through the time blocking method. Simply put, time blocking refers to breaking your whole day into blocks. Next, you can assign specific tasks to each block and start ticking them off your list. For instance, a typical 9-5 workday consists of 8 hours. Therefore, if you want, you can divide it into sixteen blocks–each lasts for 30 min. 

Consider time blocking to be an exaggerated version of the now ubiquitous Pomodoro Technique. Like the latter, it also has one caveat: once you enter a block, you only focus on the designated task. Consider Mr. Burgundy of the Anchorman fame. He is always so deep in the zone, he’ll read anything on the teleprompter!

Get Chrome Productivity Extension, Pomodoro Assistant, and level up! 

Including phrasing signing off as a question!

TL;DR

We’ll be looking at time blocking, its subtypes, and how it works before switching our focus to the tool that can help you with it, i.e., the time blocking app. So far, we’ve covered:

  • Time management can reduce stress
  • One good way of getting things done is via time blocking
  • Time blocking is about assigning big blocks of your day to different tasks
  • When you focus deeply on just one task, you’re more likely to complete it
  • Ron Burgundy will hold your hand through the whole thing

Understanding Time Blocking

Time blocking doesn’t involve an open-ended to-do list. Instead, it is based on a solidified schedule that’s already built to prioritize your most important tasks. That way, you won’t dither about what to do first–and waste even more time!

Types of Time Blocking 

Task Batching 

Group similar types of and sized tasks together and push them into a single time block. The seldom you have to shift your focus to complete a new task, the more productive and effective you’re going to be. 

Day Theming 

Like getting all your fights done in a day.

This is like task batching but for the whole day, instead of a time block. That means you can assign similarly themed tasks to each day of the week and focus on one type at a time. This is ideal for people with multiple areas of responsibility–and all compete for their time! So, a CEO can focus on finance department-related jobs one day and then switch to strategy-based tasks the next day. And so on.

Timeboxing 

Hey, we can't ALL be Ron.

Have a major to-do on your list that you know will suck up all your time? Timebox it! That means break it down into smaller jobs and impose a time limit to completing each. When you know you have only so much time to spend on a certain task, you’ll feel highly motivated to get it done. 

Time Blocking–Psychology & Productivity

Simply put, time blocking works because it keeps us from becoming victims to Parkinson’s Law:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

It means if we don’t want to get distracted, we’d best schedule every minute of our work day. 

  • What’s more, by single-tasking, we work more productively than we would if we split our attention across tasks! 
  • Additionally, time blocking also designates breaks and relaxation slots. Knowing you’d have time to check email, texts, or Slack keeps FOMO at bay
  • Finally, mindful time blocking eliminates distractions and keeps unimportant tasks from cluttering your work desk–or stressing you out needlessly. Less stress and no overworking symptoms = happier you!

Effective Time Blocking Strategies

Did you know you’d be more likely to do something if you plan out its specifics, such as the place, the date, and the time for it? That’s also why it’s the first step of time blocking. Start early, be comprehensive, and jot down all your weekly to-dos in one place.

Ala Ron Burgundy

Prioritizing Tasks based on Importance and Urgency

Ala Ron Burgundy

Once you have the whole list in front of you, it’s time to start prioritizing. If you don’t, you’ll waste time thinking which task to do first. So, begin with the most important ones and the ones that need more of your attention. If you’re confused about where to begin, try:

  • The Eisenhower method
  • Eat that frog method
  • Picking tasks based on how much closer they take you to your annual goals

P.S. The Pickle Jar Technique’s another time budgeting strategy you can try!

Breaking Down Tasks into Manageable Blocks

Next, start allotting time (your time blocks) it will take you to complete each job on your prioritized task list. For tasks you think will require more than one session, break into micro-tasks and assign a block to each. We’d suggest doubling your estimates on the first go to avoid falling into the Planning Fallacy trap. But, you’ll get more adept at time estimates the more you practice.

Leveraging Your Productivity Levels for Best Results

There’s one more thing you should be focusing on when assigning time blocks. Schedule yours with your daily energy flows–not against. Your energy and creativity levels influence your productivity, which fluctuates all day long. 

So:

  • First, find your most productive hours
  • Then, schedule the most arduous jobs during that time
  • Fit the other tasks accordingly
  • Stick to the designated task for each block 

Incorporating Breaks and Self-Care Activities into Your Schedule

You’ll need to be mindful of two kinds of breaks when using time blocking. The first is the buffer, which is extra time before and after every block. Whether you make it a part of the block proper or not is up to you, but you’re going to need those 5-10 extra minutes to answer unexpected calls, emergency meetings, etc.

The second type of break is to keep you from a burn out. How you spend it is again up to you, but we’d recommend nothing work-related. You can also try working for close to an hour–52 minutes to be exact–and recuperate by breaking for 17.

Differentiate between Deep, Shallow, and Reactive Tasks

Deep tasks will require either total focus or be major-sized. So, give them the exclusive treatment:

  • No allowances for anything else
  • Multiple sessions if needed

Shallow tasks won’t take much of your time or attention. However, if you ignore them, they tend to pile up, such as:

  • Emails
  • Calls to make or return
  • Contacting a co-worker about something

So, don’t forget to assign blocks to these!

Finally, reactive tasks are informal, mostly interaction-based, but important. Consolidate as many of them to form one block and plod on!

Adjusting and Adapting Your Time Blocking Schedule as Needed

If it’s your first time around the time block, you will fail. You might:

  • Not complete a task within the allotted time
  • Have to re-assign multiple blocks to what you thought would be a simple task
  • Get a call from your boss before you even begin your time blocked schedule for the day

And so on. But you know what? That’s totally okay and expected. Take it in stride and try again the next day or do better on the next block. Keep at it until you don’t just have a functional schedule, but a replicable one. Sure, the details might change with time–and the projects you work on–but the kernel will largely remain the same. 

Choosing the Best Time Blocking App

Okay, we know that was a looooooot of information. And it’s okay to feel overwhelmed if it's your first time blocking foray. But that’s where a time blocking app comes in!

Importance of Selecting the Right Time Blocking App

Sure, you could simply mark everything on paper or a digital calendar. But the right-for-you time blocking tool will also come with these perks:

  • Integrate with your current calendar for error-free and centralized scheduling
  • Integrate with other tools and apps
  • Have an intuitive interface that begs to be used
  • Customized features, such as colors, lists, themes, and notifications

The Top 5 Time Blocking Apps in the Market

So, are you ready to find out which apps are the best and which of them is right-for-you? Let’s begin…

Timely: Time Blocking for the Future

Timely proclaims itself to be an AI-based best time blocking app. You can use it to plan your time blocks and stay weeks ahead. It tracks task completion time along with providing you with other insights, such as time draining tasks and workflows broken by interruptions and distractions. 

Sunsama: Integrated Time Blocking

Sunsama might actually be the best time blocking app that lets you improve your work-life balance. It doesn’t need much room to operate and can help you plan–on a daily basis. So, you’d have to add your tasks and estimated completion time each day. On the plus side, it integrates with:

  • Jira
  • GitHub
  • Trello
  • Gmail

Also Discover: 5 Best JIRA Alternatives That Make Time Tracking Less Complicated

Plan: Time Blocking at its Simplest

Plan’s a very simple time block app. Besides its  easy-to-use user interface, it will let you drag your to-dos to your calendar. It’s best for non-techy people who want a no-nonsense look at how they spend their work days.

Todoist: Personalized Time Blocking

Todoist is the next time block app and task manager on our list. After you’ve scheduled your tasks on the app,Todoist lets you personalize them in different ways, such as:

  • Adding due and recurring dates
  • Choosing filters
  • Putting labels
  • Inserting new sections
  • Dividing a big task into subtasks
  • Setting task priority 
  • Sharing to delegate
  • Deciding between daily and weekly goalkeeping 
  • Setting notifications
  • Leaving comments

TimeCamp: Time Blocking for Teams

TimeCamp merges time blocking software with project management. You can get precise estimates for task completion and reports of how you spend time on your computer. It also works well for teams.

Also Read: TimeCamp Alternatives: Discover Which Time Tracking Tool Can Supercharge Your Productivity Today

Time Blocking–An All for One and One for All Solution?

You’ve now read about the many benefits of time blocking. It’s time to visit the flip side and see if there are any drawbacks. The main issue with this time management strategy is its rigidity. Once you’ve jam packed your calendar, you won’t have much room for emergencies. Neither can you entertain fun, spontaneous encounters! 

And there’s also the fact that we may not be as good at estimating task completion duration as we think! 

It brings us back to the question:

So, where else should you look for a better and more effective way to manage your time?

We’d suggest using timegram because it:

  • Tracks time automatically and unobtrusively–no switching off or on!
  • Creates accurate timesheets automatically–find your prime productivity time!
  • Doesn't take screenshots or log your keystrokes–privacy intact!
  • Lets you filter based on tasks, individuals, and projects–managers’ lives made infinitely easy!

Also Read: Employee Surveillance: Is it Actually Affecting Work Productivity?

Conclusion

Time blocking lets you be more productive and less stressed while ensuring you practice more effective time management. And while it may not be for everyone or even every situation, it does come in handy. We’d just recommend not scheduling the heck out of each day and using a good quality time blocking software to create blocks only when you need to do deep focus tasks. 

That said, if you don’t want to spend hours painstakingly creating a schedule but still want a time tracking solution, look toward timegram and how it works

The best thing about our app is:

It does all the time tracking work for you! 

FAQs

1. What is the meaning of time blocking

A time blocking app can help you manage your work hours better by allocating a block of time to each task. You can then spend each such block focusing only on one task, instead of spreading yourself thin while trying to handle everything at once!

2. What is an example of time blocking?

If Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy was into time blocking, he’d fix a big chunk of time for small talk with his crew. During those hours, the only thing he’d focus on would be to remain the center of attention. In other words, time blocking refers to dividing your day into several chunks, assigning a task to each, and focusing on completing only one task per block of time.

3. What is time blocking for mental health?

Some mental health experts recommend setting up time blocks in such a pattern that you can toggle between different tasks. They think you'll be more likely to stay focused if you do that instead of spending a five to six hour-long chunk on just one task.

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Midhat Hadi

About the author

Midhat Hadi successfully caught herself a PhD in Botany. When she's not gloating, she writes fiction and blogs.

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