Have you ever spent the entire day working and realized it is now 5 pm and you have completed none of the most important things on your to-do list for the day?
You are not alone. This happens to all of us, especially when we are dealing with constant disruptions, attending lots of meetings, or busily context switching.
One of the best ways to take back control of your calendar and ensure you are getting the most important work done is to use a defensive calendaring method called time blocking.
In this post, we're sharing some of the most popular time blocking templates, along with how you can use them.
What is time blocking?
Time blocking , also known as timeboxing, is a productivity management system that many knowledge workers use to get more done.
Time blocking works by allowing you to allocate chunks of time to work on similar tasks.
This time management technique gives your days more structure. Some added benefits of time blocking can include:
- Creating your optimal morning routine
- Improve focus with large blocks of time dedicated to deep work
- More control over your daily schedule
- Reduce the need to context-switch or multi-task
For example, if you are the founder of a productized service business, you have a lot of responsibilities and tasks on your plate on any given day, like sales, marketing, finance, people ops, client services, etc.
Time blocking can help you schedule and actually complete your most important tasks each day, week, or month.
How to create a time blocking schedule
The best part about time blocking is there isn’t one way that you have to use it in order for it to work.
You can set up a time-blocking system on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annual basis.
The simplest way to get started (and actually stick to it!) is to allocate chunks of time to different tasks directly in your Google or Outlook calendar.
Some people use Excel or Google Sheets or go completely analog with a paper planner. However, in our experience, this complicates the process by introducing another layer (you have to check both your calendar and a spreadsheet or paper planner!) and makes it that much more likely that your new habit won’t stick.
Here is an example of what a time-blocked day might look like in Google Calendar.
It is easy to set up time blocking chunks in Google Calendar. You just need to commit to a time-blocking system and get it added to your calendar.
It is much harder to stick to it, especially when business and life happens.
For example, your calendar says you should be spending Monday morning on deep work tasks, such as strategic business planning. You get to work and realize there are 3 small fires in your inbox, and you also have to hop on calls with your support manager, your sales rep, and an angry customer. Before you know it, it is lunchtime, and you’ve gotten zero deep work done.
That’s where using a scheduling tool, like SavvyCal, can help you protect and stick to your allotted time blocks.
So, people can automatically book a meeting with you in the specific time block(s) you’ve allocated in your calendar.
Here is how this works.
Let’s say you’ve set up a designated time block for sales calls in your Google Calendar.
Then, in SavvyCal, you’ll set up a matching time block under Availability. Then, you’ll select “Add a time block.” Now, anytime you have an event on your calendar called Sales Call, SavvyCal will mark it as available for someone to schedule with you.
This can work in all aspects of your role, not just for sales calls.
For example, if you have a podcast, you might have dedicated time blocks set aside for recording and interviewing guests.
You can set aside a time block in SavvyCal to ensure you stick to your allotted schedule.
Different time blocking templates
There are dozens of different time blocking templates available that you can use. In this section, we’re exploring five of the most popular time blocking methods.
Daily time blocking templates
If you are brand new to time blocking, then daily time blocking is a great place to start. It is the least overwhelming to get started with (i.e. your planning one day at a time), and you will get fast feedback. So, you can understand if you are allocating too much or too little time to specific tasks.
This is especially important since time-blocking newbies can easily fall victim to the planning fallacy, where they overestimate what they can get done in a short burst of time and under-estimate what they can do in a longer period of time.
Not to mention, you can set up time blocks in 15-minute, 30-minute, and 1-hour long increments.
- 15-minute increments
If you have a manager schedule with lots of meetings or for people who have to complete many small tasks during the day or work best in very short sprints, then you will benefit from 15-minute blocks. This allows you to make better use of the meeting in-between times.
Instead of checking social media, the news, or an impromptu chat, you can focus on completing one micro-task in 15 minutes without distractions.
Some examples of micro-tasks might be updating a specific report, replying to an important email, or sending a meeting recap email.
2. 30-minute increments
If you have a manager schedule and find 15-minute increments to be too limiting, you might want to switch to 30-minute chunks.
Additionally, the 30-minute increments can work well for people who use 25-minute Pomodoro sprints. This can make it easier to complete important tasks.
3. 1-hour increments
If you have a maker or hybrid manager-maker schedule, then one-hour increments allow for longer periods of concentration, which helps if your daily tasks are more complex or take more time.
So, you can schedule deep work tasks more easily into your day.
You may also want to combine several hour-long chunks to complete particularly meaty tasks without having to context-switch. For example, writing code, building a wireframe, or editing a video.
Weekly time-blocking templates
Weekly time blocking templates or planners are useful for people who like to see their whole week at a glance or anyone who likes to plan their week in advance (be it Friday afternoons, Sunday evenings, or first thing on Mondays).
This allows you to chunk out your entire week into 15-minute, 30-minute, or 60-minute increments.
For example, this can work well for founders, CEOs, as well as many individual contributors, such as software engineers, designers, and writers.
Founders and CEOs can use this method to allocate enough time to get their 3-5 most important tasks done that week.
On the other hand, ICs can block off big chunks of time, where people can’t schedule calls with them, to focus on their craft and what they are being paid to do.
Monthly time blocking templates
If you want to plan out a large project or initiative, a monthly time blocking template may help. This style can help you break down a large multi-week project into smaller, less overwhelming milestones over the month.
Typically you can use the one-day increments to mark down only the key tasks that must get done on that day to stay on track with the project.
However, an advantage of the monthly planner is that you can see all the project’s tasks at a glance, giving you an overview of your progress.
For example, if your company works in 2 or 4-week agile sprints, then a monthly time blocking template can work well. You can map out and allocate the proper amount of time for all of the key tasks that need to be done during that sprint.
Quarterly and annual time-blocking templates
You can also set up time blocking templates for the entire quarter or even the whole year. This works best for large company initiatives, like overhauling your pricing strategy or a website redesign, or big professional goals.
Quarterly or annual planning templates work best at a high level to ensure you aren’t scheduling too many complex projects in a short period of time.
Because this planner spans an extended period, you’ll likely fill this out gradually throughout the year.
Time blocking = calendar control
In sum, using any of these time blocking templates (or a variation of it) can help you take back control of your calendar and ensure you are completing your most important tasks.
SavvyCal can help you protect your allocated time blocks. Get started with a free trial.