Timeblocking

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Timeblocking or time blocking (also known as time chunking[1]) is a productivity technique for personal time management where a period of time—typically a day or week—is divided into smaller segments or blocks for specific tasks or to-dos. It integrates the function of a calendar with that of a to-do list. It is a kind of scheduling.[1]

When done properly, timeblocking can help eliminate distractions and discourage unproductive multitasking.[1][2][3]

History[edit]

The practice of timeblocking is nearly as old as the use of calendars. Evidence suggests that calendars during the Bronze Age corresponded to a particular agricultural action. This enabled farmers to plant and harvest at the right times, reducing crop spoilage.

As the standard definition of a calendar gradually evolved to the Gregorian one that is widely used today and each unit of time became subdivided into smaller and smaller segments, timeblocking evolved to a more detailed scale.

One of the early adopters of timeblocking was Benjamin Franklin

While the first known user of timeblocking is unknown, Benjamin Franklin was known to be an early adopter. Franklin avidly detailed the activities he would undertake every hour of the day, including rest and chores. He blocked off hours at a time to engage in deep work and allocated two hours for lunch.[4]

Since the advent of personal digital assistants in the 1990s and later smartphones in the 2000s, timeblocking has transformed from a paper-and-pen format to a digital format in the form of calendaring software and time-tracking software. Digital calendars enable users to share meetings and send meeting invites, furthering collaboration. This has reduced the need for paper calendars, though users still remain.[5]

Benefits[edit]

Timeblocking aids in daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly planning. It is based on a single-tasking mindset, promoting devoting one's full attention to a task for a specified duration of time. The main benefit of timeblocking is that it helps users achieve more in the same amount of time. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work and assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University has stated,

Sometimes people ask why I bother with such a detailed level of planning. My answer is simple: it generates a massive amount of productivity. A 40-hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure."

— Cal Newport[6]

Timeblocking can help users be more realistic about what can be accomplished in a day and help them structure their day more productively.[7] Additionally, timeblocking personal time such as breakfast in the morning or vacation time can help alleviate workplace-induced stress. Timeblocking encourages allocating deliberate time away from the desk, reducing the chance of employee burnout. This can help workers feel more rejuvenated and more productive when they are working.[8] Finally, timeblocking creates a sense of artificial urgency to get each task done in a predetermined amount of time which may help some users accomplish more in the same time period, with one study finding that professionals who timeblock accomplish 53% more tasks than otherwise.[9][10]

Criticisms[edit]

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, once espoused a no-frills approach to calendar organization, advocating for only putting deadlines on calendars.[11] However, in recent years, he has expressed doubts about his previous approach to calendar management, reneging on his previous ideology. In an interview in 2014, he has supported timeblocking by stating, "yesterday I blocked my calendar for two different time slots to work on a project."[12][13]

Relationship with other methods[14][edit]

  • Timeboxing is a variant of timeblocking used in project management.
  • The Pomodoro technique is a productivity framework that espouses that professionals should focus without distraction on work for 25 minutes then take a break. Its interval-based technique complements timeblocking, though the Pomodoro technique is more of an ad hoc measure for unspecific work whereas timeblocking is a proactive planning methodology for specific tasks.

Notable users[edit]

  • Benjamin Franklin timeblocked his day by the hour, allocating time for sleeping, meals, and recreation.[15]
  • Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, is known to block entire days thematically. He described his schedule as:

On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company and the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.

— Jack Dorsey[16]
  • Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen timeblocks free time, "time to think", as well as his sleeping time.[17]
  • Cal Newport spends 20 minutes each evening timeblocking his next day. He attributes this to allowing him to focus on "deep pursuits" and achieve more in a day.[18]
  • Bill Gates utilizes timeblocking as well to schedule his day.[19][20]
  • Elon Musk also timeblocks his day.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Powers, Tara (2020). "Creating and sticking to a schedule". Working from Home for Dummies. Indianapolis: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 25–26. ISBN 9781119748496.
  2. ^ Mokhtari, Kouider; Delello, Julie; Reichard, Carla (May 2015). "Connected yet distracted: multitasking among college students". Journal of College Reading and Learning. 45 (2): 164–180. doi:10.1080/10790195.2015.1021880.
  3. ^ Reh, F. John. "Why chunking is better than multitasking for improving work efficiency". thebalance.com. Retrieved 2020-08-21.
  4. ^ "10 lessons from Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule that will double your productivity". Ladders | Business News & Career Advice. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  5. ^ "A History of Time Blocking – The School for Individual Task Scheduling". scheduleu.org. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  6. ^ "Time blocking 101: A step-by-step guide to mastering your daily schedule". RescueTime Blog. 2019-07-09. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  7. ^ "Increase Productivity With Time Blocking: A Step-by-Step Guide". monday.com Blog. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  8. ^ "Time Blocking". toggl.com. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  9. ^ Rampton, John (2019-04-16). "Time Blocking Tips Top Experts and Scientists Use to Increase Productivity". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  10. ^ "Quantime | Timeblocking Philosophy". Quantime. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  11. ^ "Basic GTD: The Calendar". facilethings.com. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  12. ^ "Why David Allen Seems to be Changing His Mind About Scheduling – The School for Individual Task Scheduling". scheduleu.org. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  13. ^ "GTD Connect online learning center". GTD Connect. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  14. ^ "Quantime | Timeblocking Philosophy". Quantime. Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  15. ^ "10 lessons from Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule that will double your productivity". Ladders | Business News & Career Advice. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  16. ^ Umoh, Ruth (2018-08-13). "The simple strategy Jack Dorsey uses to run Twitter and Square can help you take control of your day". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  17. ^ Clifford, Catherine (2020-06-17). "Why billionaire VC Marc Andreessen schedules every second of his day, including 'critical' free time". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  18. ^ Newport, Cal. "Deep Habits: The Importance of Planning Every Minute of Your Work Day". www.calnewport.com. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  19. ^ "How to manage time effectively even if your schedule is hectic". Ladders | Business News & Career Advice. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  20. ^ Kruse, Kevin. "Why Highly Productive People Use 'Time Blocking'". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-08-04.