TimeblocksYou have heard and probably used the expression, “… let’s block out some time for …”

Timeblocking is a technique to break down projects or daily tasks into set periods of time, which allows you to accomplish more than you would with a less organized schedule. This time management technique may not be for everyone, but my experience is that we can never have too many tools or techniques to help ourselves or team members accomplish our goals. This technique can be used to improve project planning, delegation, time management, and productivity.

If you don’t finish your task within the allocated time, you might be tempted to continue until you reach your goal. However, make sure that you analyze what you’ve accomplished and review your progress at the end of each timeblock. Ask yourself the following: did you complete your work? If not, why not? How will you schedule your tasks differently next time?

Timeblocking is also similar to the Pomodoro Technique that involves working for timed segments, usually of 25 minutes, followed by a short break. Occasionally, you might decide to skip the rest periods if you’re absorbed in a task. However, the rest periods are necessary for you to return to your work with more energy and enthusiasm.

Approach to Timeblocking
Many people approach their work one task at a time, and concentrate on each until they complete it, however long this takes. Timeblocking is different because it encourages you to focus on time instead of tasks. To use this time-management tool, you allocate a certain number of hours or days, called a “timeblocks,” to each activity. You then use this time – and only this time – to complete the task.

Timeblocking is a simple and effective way to manage your own, and your team members’, daily workload. For yourself, this ensures that you don’t spend too long on a task that isn’t worth the effort. For team members, it helps to ensure that they don’t over-engineer solutions, and unintentionally blow the budget you have available for the work.

Timeblocking as a Scheduling Tool
Let’s examine using this tool to schedule a full workday.
The first step is to estimate how long each item on your To-Do List. Action Program or schedule should take to complete, and allocate a set amount of time to each one. It is OK to include lunch time and breaks plus, contingency time for unexpected requests or interruptions. Next, set a timer on your smartphone, computer or other devices to let you know when it is time to move on to the next Timeblock.

Team Approach to Timeblocking
Timeblocking can also be used to delegate work or projects to your team members. This can be particularly useful to fight the tendency toward procreation or multitasking. It can also help where people have a tendency to over-engineer work, or where there’s only a limited budget available to complete it.

The first step is to discuss the tasks you want your team member to complete, and agree on the length of each timeblock. Try to avoid assigning a deadline without asking for their input first. Encourage them to use some of the aforementioned strategies to organize their time, or to find an alternate method.

When time expires at the end of the timeblock, ensure that they stop working on that task, and review progress. Determine if the task was completed or evaluate the length of the Timeblock. Check the attitude and motivation of the team to gauge the satisfaction level with the process. As necessary, evaluate suggestions and review and agree to changes the next time to ensure the correct Timeblock.

Timeblocking Benefits
Using Timeblocking to manage your daily tasks and delegate work has a number of advantages. Deadlines improve some people’s focus and enhance their creativity, particularly if they’re procrastinators, because the time limits force them to ignore distractions and prioritize their work. Timeblocking can help to keep any perfectionist tendencies in check, and limit the amount of time spent on low-value activities.

Since most of us may lose some time when we switch between tasks, Timeblocking can help to narrow our focus to one activity at a time, because you know that you’ll switch tasks once you have completed each one.

Finally, Timeblocking can be used as a productivity tool. You can use this information to schedule high-priority work during peak productive periods and save less important tasks for times when you are more likely to be distracted. Timeblocking can also help you to evaluate time requirements for other projects and avoid burnout.

Limitations of Timeblocking
Using Timeblocking to manage your workload may not be appropriate for everyone. For example, you may find it hard to stop and switch to another task when you’re in “on a roll” and don’t want to risk losing your train of thought. Telephone interruptions and colleagues unexpectedly stopping by to chat could be a distraction.
Some projects must be completed to a high level of quality, however long they takes. Be aware that Timeblocking can cause you to unconsciously rush.

If the Timeblocks are too short, you may not accomplish much; if they’re too long, you might lose focus or procrastinate until the end of the period. So, keep records of how long different tasks take, and organize your workload accordingly.
Timeblocking can be a powerful tool when used appropriately.

Related Articles:   PRIORITIZE, Prioritize, priortize   and   It’s Your Time … make the best use of it!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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