Do you ever have lots of tasks on your to-do list, but you’re not sure how you’re possibly going to fit it into the 24 hours in a day?
Good time management is defined as organizing and planning how you’ll divide your time between different activities. Being able to visually see this breakdown on a calendar is a strategy that will help you manage time more effectively.
In this post, I’m going to introduce you to the technique of calendar blocking– what it is, why it’s so powerful, and break down the exact steps on how you can start calendar blocking your upcoming week in 30 minutes or less.
After reading this post, you’re going to feel more confident to take back control over your time and start calendar blocking today as part of your weekly planning routine.
What is calendar blocking & why it’s powerful
Calendar blocking is essentially scheduling the tasks on your to-do list onto your calendar as if they were events and appointments you’re making with yourself.
Think about it… the reason that to-do lists don’t work is that they don’t take into account the time and energy needed to do a task.
It’s so easy to cram 20 tasks on a single day’s to-do list, because just writing them down on a list doesn’t force you to think about how long the tasks will take and whether it’s realistic to expect to accomplish them all.
And day after day, seeing un-checked to-do items on your list will lead to feeling unmotivated and defeated. And that’s not what time management is supposed to help you achieve.
Instead, when you calendar block and schedule your tasks into specific time blocks during your day, that forces you to think about the time a task is going to take and whether your to-do list is reasonable.
Calendar blocking will make sure you’re setting your day up for success, because you’re being realistic about what you can get done with the time you have. And this success will generate confidence and momentum to keep you motivated to get things done.
Ways calendar blocking will transform time management:
Takes away stress about the unknown
Calendar blocking gives you a clear plan of how and when to spend your time on your tasks, in order to be able to get them all done in the time that you have.
Having a clear outline of what tasks you need to do and when to do them will eliminate the uncertainty of how you’re going to have time for it all. And once you have that plan, all you have to do is follow it.
Generates realistic expectations, which translates to momentum
We are what we repeatedly do. The converse can also be true.
When you’re lacking clarity and structure in your to-do list, it’s difficult to be realistic with your planning and be able to get it all done.
Each day that you don’t complete all the tasks on your list, you end up lowering your standards and reinforcing the belief that you don’t expect to accomplish the tasks you set out for yourself.
Now on the flip side, if you’re able to be more realistic about tasks you can reasonably accomplish with the free time you have, you’re more likely to achieve your plan because they’re realistic expectations to begin with.
When you tick off all the tasks in your planner day after day, you breed confidence and the trust that you can do hard things, and that you can manage your time successfully to reach your goals and get everything done.
Habits are formed by actions you repeatedly do. Therefore, getting things done and having a productive day (or not) becomes a habit over time.
Gives a big picture view of your time
Calendar blocking is also very powerful because it gives you a clear picture across the days of the week how the tasks build off of each other and all fit together.
Let’s say you have a busy week with multiple assignments and exams. Maybe you have to start studying an hour earlier than usual one day, and maybe you’ll have to end 30 minutes later in order to fit all the tasks into your free time.
But calendar blocking allows you to see that plan in advance.
Calendar blocking and seeing a bigger picture view of your week prevents you from following your usual routine, and then at the last minute realizing you still have unfinished tasks and staying up all night finishing things you hadn’t planned for in advance.
This is why I always recommend that you calendar block your week so you can see how your time comes together in a cohesive way.
You have a purpose
When you calendar block, each time slot has a specific task that it’s dedicated to.
So if you’re waking up 30 minutes early one day, you know exactly what the purpose of that work session is. That helps to make sure you don’t end up procrastinating that time on something that isn’t your priority.
It’s easy to get distracted by an email, or a question from a classmate. Having a clear purpose and priority to your work session helps bring your focus back to the task at hand.
You know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing at all times. This will help make sure you stay on task, instead of jumping from task to task or getting distracted by things that aren’t your priority.
YOU’LL LOVE THIS POST: How To Set Up Your Planner For Maximum Productivity
How to start calendar blocking in 30 minutes:
1. Set up your digital calendar
I always recommend setting up a digital calendar, and optimizing it for calendar blocking so it’s super efficient.
With digital calendars, it’s easier to access it wherever you are, add in Zoom or other links for your events, and drag time blocks around without needing to cross it out and re-write it on a paper calendar.
You’re going to want to create calendars for different parts of your life. Maybe you’ll have separate calendars for school-related things, personal life, and other hobbies.
Now that you’ve set up your calendar, you’re going to move into the next phase of calendar blocking: getting your task list ready.
2. Brain dump your tasks
I recommend calendar blocking on a week-by-week basis because it gives you a coherent picture of your time. But, even if you’re not planning a whole week you can still follow this framework.
This second step is all about brain dumping all your tasks for the upcoming week.
When you’re doing a brain dump, you’ll list out tasks, thoughts, and anything else creating mental clutter in your brain. You don’t want to filter or organize anything– this step is just focused on capturing everything on paper.
It can be helpful to write out your different classes so you can list all the tasks associated with assignments and studying for that class to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Make sure you list the tasks for each class, your study sessions for the upcoming week, and anything else.
- Break down big tasks into small actions
You’ll also want to break down any large tasks – like write philosophy paper – into smaller, actionable tasks.
You may want to break down the task of writing a paper into tasks like: do research on topic, write first draft, edit and write second draft, format paper and reference list, finalize and submit.
This will help you be more accurate in scheduling your tasks, because you’re clear on what action and task you’re actually doing in each time block.
- Write in due dates
For any task that has a due date or deadline, you’ll also want to write that date down so that it’s easy to reference. This will help you decide when you should block it in your calendar in the next step.
3. Schedule it in
Now you’re ready to create time blocks for each task and schedule them into your calendar!
1. Scheduling the non-negotiables
The first type of things to schedule will always be the non-negotiable things, like your class lectures, exam times, and other commitments and events that you don’t have control over.
Ideally they would already be in your calendar, but if they’re not, make sure to add those events in first.
2. Scheduling your life routines
You’ll also want to add in your life routines – like your morning routine, workouts, meal times, etc.
These are considered non-negotiables because these routines keep your life running smoothly so you don’t want to forget about them.
3. Scheduling tasks with due dates
The next thing to schedule is the tasks with a due date. You’ll want to make sure you’re able to get the assignment or studying finished before the date, so these take higher priority.
Since you broke down the tasks into smaller, actionable actions, you should be able to roughly estimate how long each task will take. Don’t worry about needing to be exact– my system has times for catch-up built into this process.
4. Scheduling everything else
Now that you have everything that’s high priority and the non-negotiables scheduled
Now it’s time to schedule all the rest of your tasks around the non-negotiables and priority tasks. Again, roughly estimate the time you’ll need for each task and create calendar events for those tasks.
And don’t be afraid to get a little creative with how you schedule! Maybe one week is extra busy, so you need to wake up early to do something, or quickly fit a task into a 30-minute break in between classes. Be creative and re-shuffle your time slots for a schedule and plan that helps you fit all your to-do’s into the free time you have.
5. Add catch-up time slots
The last step to this process is to add in times for catching up on tasks you didn’t finish in the time you scheduled for them.
Your calendar blocks are only estimates– it’s impossible to actually know how long something will take.
It’s useful to have at least 1 hour of catch-up time every couple of days– and if you’re just getting started with calendar blocking, adding catch-up time every single day will be very helpful as you get used to estimating your time with more accuracy.
There are also many other options to customize and really make calendar blocking work for you– it’s all about finding the right system to help manage your time.
I hope this post has given you a quick overview of the steps in calendar blocking and an introduction to all the reasons why you should start using calendar blocking as your go-to time management strategy! Leave a comment down below about what your thoughts are on calendar blocking if you try it out!
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