Time blocking is a simple but powerful way to plan your days. It helps you to turn each day from a puzzling mix of scheduled events and unscheduled tasks to a simple, doable plan. The key is to treat each task, meeting, errand, or activity as a separate piece, and decide where it belongs in the puzzle. While you can do time blocking with nothing more than a notebook and pencil, you might want a more customized tool. Whether you prefer planning on paper or using a digital tool, here’s how you can start time blocking with Teamup.
What is time blocking?
Time blocking is a smart planning system that helps you actually get things done. The concept is simple: block actual time on your calendar for the tasks you need to do. Treat those blocks as you would any other appointment or scheduled event.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and Slow Productivity, is a long-time proponent of time blocking:
I take time blocking seriously, dedicating ten to twenty minutes every evening to building my schedule for the next day. During this planning process I consult my task lists and calendars, as well as my weekly and quarterly planning notes. My goal is to make sure progress is being made on the right things at the right pace for the relevant deadlines.
…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.
It’s an effective strategy for Newport, who is a Georgetown computer science professor, prolific podcaster, and best-selling author. Newport even created a planner designed for time blocking.
How to do time blocking: paper or digital
Newport’s approach is clearly paper-based. For a lot of folks, planning on paper is helpful. It’s tangible and comes with certain constraints. Sometimes those constraints are helpful, forcing you to stay focused and limit your scope to what you can physically fit on the page.
Paper-based time blocking
If you prefer to do your time blocking on paper, Teamup’s blank calendar printables are a great tool. A daily print-out is already filled in with hours marks; you can quickly sketch time blocks onto the hourly grid. Draw a line down the middle and you’ve got a two-column daily spread so you can track your planned blocks with your actual day.
Here’s the typical approach to paper-based time blocking:
- At the end of the day, take 10-15 minutes to block out your time for the upcoming day. Review your calendar for scheduled appointments and time-bound events. Then check your task list or open projects for your priority items. Assign blocks of time for the most important things you need to do.
- As you go through your day, use your time blocks as a guide for what to focus on and how much time to dedicate to each task. If things change, note what actually happens in the other column of your daily plan.
We’ve made a collection of 2024 blank daily schedulers to make planning easy. Download each month’s set and print out the days you want, and as many copies as you want. If you prefer to print blank schedulers from your own Teamup calendar, you can do that too. Our Printables page has instructions. You can also use the PDF blank calendars with a tablet and stylus. It’s a nice method that gives you the tangible aspect of paper planning with the easy adjustment of digital time blocking.
Digital time blocking
Using a digital time blocking tool gives you more flexibility and can be a bit easier to manage. And if you’ve always got your phone in hand, or typically work from your computer, it can be nice to have your time blocked schedule right there. You can create a free Teamup calendar strictly for time blocking, or incorporate it into an existing Teamup calendar.
Here’s how you can get started with digital time blocking:
- Create or open your Teamup calendar.
- Set up sub-calendars for time blocking. You can use the same two-column approach as you see with the paper-based approach: planned and actual. As you go through your day, adjust time blocks as needed from the Planned to the Actual sub-calendar, as shown here:
- You can also set up sub-calendars or iCalendar feeds for task lists, meeting or travel plans, team or family calendars, project timelines, etc. See an example. Having all these scheduling factors in view helps as you make decisions about how to allocate your time. Scheduler view, shown above, lets you view sub-calendars side-by-side so you can quickly compare schedules and see open slots in each day.
There’s a lot of benefit in time blocking, and we’ve covered it in detail here: a step-by-step guide, advanced techniques, overcoming time blocking challenges, and examples of time blocking for projects, business, academics, and remote work. Whether you prefer analog or digital planning, Teamup is an accessible tool that makes time blocking easy.