How to Use Time Blocking to Get More Done
When I attended the College of William & Mary (Go Tribe!) I was a tour guide for the Admissions office. (“Hi, I’m Louisa. I’m a senior History and Education double major. When I’m not in class, I’m in a service organization, sing in the Women’s Choir, and work part-time.”) My favorite tour I ever gave was for a 5th-grade class that visited Williamsburg for their class trip.
I showed the kids the historic campus, a few classrooms, my dorm room, and a cafeteria. They were so excited and had about a million questions for me about college life.
“Can you write in purple ink?”
“You can pick anything you want to eat in the whole cafeteria?”
“Wait, you only go to class for 3 hours a day? What do you do with all that other time??”
As many K-12 students start remote learning (and remote teaching for teachers) this month, I think that question is true for all of us. How do we organize the rest of our time and make sure that we get all the required stuff done?
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The answer is time blocking, friends. This is a time management system. You create a schedule and block off time for assignments, writing, chores, family time, etc. That’s right – you block off time for everything you do. While that might sound overwhelming, it actually frees you up since you will always know what to do next.
Before we dive in, grab either your calendar or the handy dandy time blocking template I created for you. Just click below!
How to Use Time Blocking to Get More Done
As I mentioned earlier, time blocking is a time management technique. During each block, you focus ONLY on the assigned task. You don’t have to spend your limited mental bandwidth switching back and forth – you just focus on 1 task. (If this sounds like an all-day version of the Pomodoro Technique, you’re right!)
For those of us who procrastinate, this is a godsend. Since you already spent time making the darn schedule, you are more likely to complete the tasks you would otherwise procrastinate over. Hello laundry, my old friend. Not sure what you’re supposed to work on right now? Just check your new schedule!
It also allows you to spend time on “frivolous” things without feeling any guilt. You’ve given yourself time to get your work done, so the rest of the time you can fill with things you WANT to do. Hello Tiger King!
Step 1: Categorize
Make categories for recurring events or commitments in your life. Those might include:
- Practice (sport, musical instrument, etc)
- Family Time
Alternately, if you want to focus on time blocking for just school or just work, think about the different tasks you have to complete and make those categories. For students, those might be reading, writing, or studying. If you work, your tasks might include replying to emails, writing reports, or calling customers. Teachers, think lesson planning, grading, e-mailing parents, etc.
Once you have a list of categories, color code them. The color code will help when you’re ready to schedule your time. Your color-coding might look something like this:
Step 2: Block that Time
Now, hop over to your calendar or the Time-Blocking Schedule I made for you. I like to add the most important categories (school and work) first and then add the rest in the order of importance. Use the color code AND label them, especially if you’re taking multiple classes or work 2+ jobs.
A complete schedule for a college student might look something like this!
In the beginning, you will need to estimate how long you think tasks will take. And you will probably get it wrong. That’s ok because you will get better over time. I tend to overestimate how long I need, especially when I’ve just started a class or a new type of task. On the bright side, if I finish early I get to relax for a few minutes!
For my perfectionist friends – don’t go all rigid on this schedule. It’s more of a guide than a strict schedule that MUST.BE.FOLLOWED.AT.ALL.TIMES. Life happens and schedules get messed up.
Step 3: Use your blocks.
When time blocking, remember to focus only on that task for the block. You’ll be amazed at what you can get done! If necessary, place your phone in another room or put it on DND. Additionally, turn off notifications on your computer or turn off the wifi while working.
As you get used to the schedule, you will be able to estimate the amount of time you need for each task. Make those adjustments in tomorrow or next week’s calendar.
I hope my directions and the sweet downloadable template I made for you help you a get a handle on your own time!