Resource Corner Blog

How Time Blocking Will Optimize Your Work Day (and Life in General)


As the business world quickly learns to adapt to an increasing number of remote-workers, some workers are struggling to optimize their time. In the remote work world, scheduling time to meet supervisors face-to-face and accessing critical work information can be a struggle. In past surveys, around 70 percent of office workers cited office noise as their biggest barrier to productivity. In today’s landscape, that office noise is replaced by television, children, significant others and music.

Research shows the average workers only have two hours and 54 minutes of productive work per day — regardless of how long they sit or stand around. For health and human services agencies, those five-plus hours of non-productivity are serious hindrances to profit and success. And, for employees, those down hours can lead to issues with well-being and happiness.

Chances are, most of you have a schedule. From c-suite to entry-level, most employees operate on some form of schedule — whether that be self-imposed or regulated. But is that schedule really working? Are your employees actually putting in a full day’s worth of work? And, are their schedules actually designed to help them accomplish tasks (both in life and at work)?

Probably not.

What if there was a schedule that actually worked? Some of the world’s greatest leaders (think Elon Musk, Bill Gates, etc.) swear by “time blocking,” a scheduling strategy that helps them maintain those “superhuman” engagement levels. So what is “time blocking” and how can it help your business and your employees during their workday and beyond?

Buckle up. You’re about to go on a magical scheduling journey that will change your life.

Who Should Use Time Blocking?

Time Blocking is a time management methodology that helps you get strategic with how you spend your time during the day — both at work and in your personal life. The idea is simple. At the beginning of your week or day, you decide how you’re going to spend your available time during the day, and you create blocks in your schedule for each specific task you have to accomplish.

In general, we like to think of time management tools as productivity hacks reserved for billionaire CEOs like Elon Musk, who work over 100 hours a week. But time blocking is for everyone. From college students to employees to CEOs, Time Blocking isn’t just for scheduling out a horde of think-tank meetings; it’s for anyone.

How do you know if Time Blocking is right for you? If you have any of the challenges below, Time Blocking can help you solve them:

  • You juggle multiple responsibilities at work every day
  • You’re having trouble finding a work/life balance
  • You spend mindless time performing repetitive tasks
  • You feel like you could get more done, but you don’t have the time
  • You have interruptions that impact your productivity
  • You don’t have time for holistic work
  • You feel downright busy and pressured daily

In other words, Time Blocking is for most everyone. We all waste time. The average person spends 35 minutes deciding where to eat, seven minutes thinking about exercise, two hours and 22 minutes on social media, four to six hours watching TV, 90 minutes dealing with interruptions, 96 minutes looking at non-work related websites, and countless hours mindlessly working on repetitive tasks.

Now, imagine what you could do if you took back your time. Have you been wanting to workout, but you can’t find the time? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you wish you were more productive and happy at work? Time Blocking can help you realize your goals. 

What is Time Blocking?

With Time Blocking, you organize your entire day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to a single task or a small group of highly related tasks. By dedicating a certain number of minutes or hours to one specific task, you can hyper-focus on one specific goal — reducing distractions, eliminating mind wandering, and increasing your overall task completion.

But we’re not just saying that. Science backs us up.

Not only does multitasking cost you around 40 percent of your productivity time, but even sitting near a multitasker decreases your work intelligence by 17 percent. Time Blocking helps you “block out” all of those distractions and focus on what really matters, the task at hand. With Time Blocking, you don’t have to feel the dread of leaving tasks half-finished, and you don’t have to agonize over upcoming deadlines. Instead, you hone in on the task at hand, complete it, and then move on to the next one.

To start, you want to take a moment at the beginning of every day (or the night before!) to set your schedule. Think of all of the important tasks you need to finish tomorrow — taking deadlines into account — and then block each task out into a block of time. Once your schedule is set, you are the boss for the rest of the day. If you notice yourself getting distracted, look at your schedule, realize what you’re supposed to be doing, and get back to it.

Tip: For all those newer remote workers, time blocks can be a great way to create a work-life balance. Workers can schedule their day by work, play, and bonding. Remember, Time Blocking isn’t just for work — it’s for the entire day.

It’s important to note that Time Blocking is relatively rule-free. You can schedule tasks by the minute, hour, or even across multiple hours. Try to find a healthy balance between in-depth and relaxed. You don’t want to over-schedule–that can lead to more friction. For example, instead of trying to put 20 five-minute blocks in the day for specific emails, simply schedule “email time” during a 100-minute block.

The Science Behind Time Blocking: Three Ways Time Blocking Will Improve Your Day

Let’s skip the fancy words and shoutouts to CEOs like Bill Gates, who tout Time Blocking. Sure! That stuff can be helpful. But you want proof, right? Encouraging employees to adopt new time management methods is a big deal. It’s how they spend their day. You need concrete proof. So let’s back Time Blocking up with a little science.

1. Time Blocking Makes You Aware of How You Spend Your Time

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Well, to be more precise, there are 990 active minutes in a day (you need those 8 hours of sleep!) We’ll bet you a dollar and a donut that you have little idea how you spend the majority of those minutes. Sure, you may know that you are “at work” for eight hours a day. And you probably know that you spend a few hours each day relaxing.

But do you know exactly how you’re spending those hours? Humans are absolutely terrible at predicting how much time they should be spending on a task. We’re also prone to procrastination. The average employee spends two hours a day procrastinating. We also spend a bucket of time on social media, playing video gameswatching TVtalking to employees, thinking about working (for real), and even working on already completed work projects.

Tip: Review your Time Blocking schedules regularly to find areas of improvement and see how you spent your precious time.

In truth, most of us have no idea where our time goes. Time Blocking changes that. You can literally see where your time is going. If a new task enters your life, you have to mark it down on a calendar. Most of us spend our lives watching time fly out of the window. With Time Blocking, you’ll know exactly where it’s going. If you started Time Blocking today, you could look back at your calendar four years from now, and you would instantly know what happened during that day. It’s all right there.

2. Time Blocking Cuts Out the “Busy Work”

The vast majority of employees spend a significant chunk of their work time on busywork. To really understand how big of a problem busywork is, let’s look at email. The average worker spends 28 percent of their day responding to (and writing) emails. That sounds bad, but not catastrophic, right? Not so much.

It takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on track after an interruption. Sure! You can still work immediately after checking an email, but your work won’t be at full productivity until almost half-an-hour later. Now, remember that 28 percent of the day checking emails? Those emails aren’t coming all at once. The average worker sends and receives over 120 emails per day. So, during the workday, employees spend a significant amount of time checking emails, and after each checked email, they lose their full productivity for around half an hour.

Think about that!

Tip: Consider attaching a signature to the end of your emails that lets people know that you will reply at a certain time each day.

All of the busywork like emails, texts, Slack messages, etc. that we deal with day-in-and-day-out rob us of our productivity. Time Blocking helps you avoid those busywork distractions. Since you’re focused on only one task at a time, you can save all of those busy activities for a single block of time, instead of letting them rob you of hours of productivity as they pop up.

3. Time Blocking Makes You Hyper-focused on One Thing at a Time

We’ve already talked about how big of a time robber multitasking is. But let’s dive a little deeper. We’ve all heard that “two percent of the population is proficient at multitasking.” Yet, we all like to think we’re in the two percent. We’re probably not. Multitasking is estimated to cost businesses over $450 billion in productivity loss annually. When you multitask, you lose around 15 points of IQ (the same as staying up for 24 hours). And we’re almost ALL always multitasking. The average Millennial switches between media types around 27 times per hour.

The business world has a multitasking problem. And Time Blocking may be the savior of that issue. Multitasking is obsolete with Time Blocking. Instead of focusing on a “general” area of work, you separate your day into specific tasks. That means you can focus on a single task for each goal for the day and reap the sweet rewards of improved brain power and focus.

The Two Biggest Time Blocking Mistakes

Any time you change your daily routine, it can be difficult to adjust. To help, let’s go over the two biggest barriers to Time Blocking — overscheduling and underestimating.

Mistake #1: Your Over Scheduling

Let’s make this simple: don’t overdo it. It can be tempting to try and schedule your entire life out on a piece of paper. That’s a quick road to stress. Sure, you should be diligent and detailed, but you shouldn’t be over-detailed. Elon Musk says that he schedules everything out by the minute. You’re not Elon Musk. Don’t try to schedule every second of your leisure time becuase you’ll burn yourself out.

Tip: At first, try scheduling leisure time as a single block. Or, if Time Blocking is daunting for you, only use it for work. Baby steps lead to big results.

Instead, take it easy. Make big time blocks for leisure that still give you some freedom and fluidity. Remember, the schedule should help you dominate your day, but it shouldn’t dominate your life. You should also be willing to make adjustments on the fly. You should be able to accommodate those emergency requests by moving your schedule around — but save it for emergencies only.

Mistake #2: Underestimating (or Under Scheduling)

This is, without a doubt, the part that trips most people up when they try time management. It’s ok if you go over the projected time limit. Sometimes, things take longer than you expected. That doesn’t mean that the rest of your day’s schedule is bunk. Instead, if you go over the time limit on a projected block, make adjustments. Life isn’t perfect. Schedules aren’t perfect. And Time Blocks aren’t perfect. You’ll have to adjust.

Tip: If you go over on the allotted time, try to push ALL of your blocks back by a certain amount of time. This works particularly well if you don’t overschedule leisure time. Sometimes, work cuts into leisure time. It happens. But the last thing you want is to throw out the schedule for one bad apple time block.

Are You Ready to Nail Time Management?

Time Blocking is one of many time management methodologies your business, and your employees can leverage to get more done. Of course, there are other time management methods, and you may find another method that works better for you. That’s fine! The big picture message here isn’t that Time Blocking will save your day. It’s that time management is a critical part of living a healthy life and improving your overall work productivity.

Want to know another life hack that will help you save a significant amount of time and resources? TenEleven’s electronic Clinical Record (eCR™) software can help you save time and money managing your mental and behavioral health records. Want to learn more? Check out our Free Demo.

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