How To Use Time Blocking To Increase Productivity

The whole idea of revamping your time management system — or lack thereof — might seem intimidating at first, and that's okay. Just reading up on how to improve your current practices and habits could be good for your future work, and you may make small steps toward improving your productivity or feeling more organized. 

There's definitely some bad advice out there when it comes to productivity, and too much pressure surrounding work can negatively impact your mental health. However, with many of us working from home more often and relying on our own discipline and motivation to get things done, we can use all the help we can get. 

When it comes to productivity, it's important to keep your own working pace in mind rather than comparing yourself to others and caving to external pressures. Whether new organizational methods make you feel like breaking out into hives or you just aren't sure exactly how to get started, time blocking is a simple tool to help you make the most of your week while keeping in mind how the last one went.

Make a schedule you'll actually stick to

The idea of time blocking contradicts how we might typically spend our workdays juggling tasks, emails, and meetings. However, if we take the decision-making out of the moment and instead make plans for the day in advance when we're able, we stand a better chance of staying on task. Taking up to an hour at the beginning of your week to anticipate your ideal schedule for the coming days will save you time and increase your productivity in the long run.

One of the most effective ways to plan our days is by grouping similar tasks together. You may want to try task batching, in which you separate your day into blocks for shallow tasks, like low-impact emails and paperwork, and deep tasks, which require more long-term thinking. Timeboxing is another management tool that entails assigning start and end times to each specific task.

When you receive inevitable pings and requests, you can add them to your list alongside the tasks you didn't complete today. Then, tomorrow, you can add the new obligations to the appropriate block. You should also consider blocking time for unforeseen issues and breaks, as well as finding what time of day you're at your best work-wise.

Another helpful tool is picking a theme for the day — say, Friday is for scheduling and emailing clients, Thursday is for brainstorming new projects and creating a plan of action. A Time-Block planner may be just the solution to your productivity problems. 

Add a weekly review

When you find deadlines piling up, it's best to look back at how your pacing has been in the past with a similar deck of assignments. By planning a weekly review of your progress, you'll have a clearer idea of what you can accomplish. Plan your review for the same time and day each week if possible, whether that's Friday after all is said and done, or Monday while you make your plan for the new week. 

It is also important to have a unit of measurement for your productivity. Whether it's the number of words you write or how many emails you send, there's likely a way to track how much you're really getting done in a given number of hours, and then set reasonable goals. These measurements will eventually paint a bigger picture of what you hope to accomplish in a week, as well as what distractions might be coming up during specific tasks.

While we push toward more productivity, it's important to remember that we'll eventually reach our output threshold. It can be difficult to get started on a Monday when you don't have a plan of action for the week, but it's still important to avoid putting ourselves into a mindset of toxic productivity while making our schedule. Having realistic goals based on your own output history can help combat feelings of inadequacy or guilt around your work.