Distractions cost you more time than you think. On average, it takes about 23.5 minutes to get back to the same level of focus after a distraction. That's a lot of time wasted over nothing.
One of the strategies used to manage time and, more importantly, operate distraction-free is called time blocking.
What is Time Blocking?
In simple words, time blocking is the process of breaking your day into slots and working on a single task in each slot.
Essentially, you fix a start and end time for a task and focus on just that task during the entire duration. It is crucial to distance yourself from distractions like email, chats, co-worker interruptions, etc.
You can use a task list to see what tasks you need to pursue through the day but use a calendar to know when you should be pursuing it.
Advantages of Time Blocking
- Higher levels of focus: When you work on one task at a time, you are likely to have better focus and finish that task quickly and effectively.
- Task Prioritization: The process of blocking time and adding things to your calendar forces you to think about your tasks in terms of resource allocation and priority.
- Higher Completion Rates: When you have a set deadline for a task, you are more likely to complete that task without obsessing over it being perfect.
- Time Report: This methodology forces you to keep track of your time, which you can later analyze to figure out how best you can allocate your tasks and priorities for the future.
Common Pitfalls with Time Blocking
There are two common pitfalls when it comes to Time Blocking.
- Over-estimating your ability to finish a particular task and then overshooting the deadline. To avoid this, give some buffer room for unfamiliar or novel tasks.
- Not budgeting for breaks and distractions will cause you to slip up in your routine. So block some time for tending to necessary distractions like email, messaging, leisure, etc.
How to Select Time Slots, Effectively
A good rule of thumb to follow while selecting time slots is to align your short-term everyday tasks with your medium and long-term vision. You can follow this 5 step guide to fine tune your time allocation process.
- Assess the total available time.
- Create 1-2 small break slots every day.
- Take the large slots and assign them to your most important tasks (MITs).
- Schedule MITs* for the beginning of the day.
- Budget for open slots for ad-hoc work.
- Review your time utilization patterns every week.
- Optimize and repeat the process.
The best way to get started is by creating smaller time slots and gradually moving to larger ones to improve your ability to focus.
Disadvantages of Time Blocking
- Analysis Paralysis: Spending too much time analyzing the schedule in the initial days is one of the reasons some people struggle with this practice at first.
- Contingent Events: In the short term, it is hard to plan every day meticulously despite the looming threat of one significant contingency ruining the entire schedule
Partial Time Blocking
The practice of partial time blocking might help overcome the disadvantages of the system. You can start by allocating a small chunk of time every day to your MIT*, and the rest of the day can be ad-hoc.
And as you get used to the system, you can schedule more hours under different blocks and gradually reduce the ad-hoc time.
It is all about starting small and building on it. So just get started.
Also, did you know that you can block time using the Routine app by just dragging and dropping a task? Read more about how you can use Routine for time blocking in this short tutorial.