Introduction to Time Blocking With Toggl Track

Time slots blocked out on a calendar

What is time blocking?

Time blocking is when you use your calendar app to schedule everything you plan to do in your workday ahead of time. Instead of using it just for meetings, which is often time demanded by others, you intentionally set your own priorities.

Why use time blocking?

Why not just make a checklist? The advantage of time blocking is that it’s specifically great for tackling the following three problems.

• 😩 Anxiety

To-do lists can increase anxiety when there’s no time or energy left to complete items more quickly than new items are added. The main problem with using to-do lists to plan your workday is that they don’t take into account the time component. Five-minute tasks are shown right next to two-hour tasks as if they’re the same. 

When you use the calendar to schedule work, you’re forced to think about how long each task will take. This means you’re less likely to schedule more work in a single workday than you’re able to do, and more likely to make better decisions when prioritizing work. Blocking work time in your calendar will also help you to say “no” (or delegate) more often, as it’ll be easier to notice when you already have too much on your plate.

• 🙃 Procrastination

It’s different procrastinating when you know exactly what task you should be working on, as opposed to when you vaguely feel like you should be working on something. Not starting a specific task on time means you’ll have to either rush it and deliver results with worse quality, or extend it and then be forced to push one or more remaining tasks to the next day–or worse, into the evening.

Time blocking can also produce a psychological effect similar to what happens with the Pomodoro technique: By giving yourself a limited time to finish a task and creating a fake deadline or an artificial sense of urgency, you’re motivated to finish a task on time.

• 🥱 Work/life imbalance

Some might be tempted to work at weird times to compensate for an unproductive day, or to skip meals to finish a task. But your calendar can be used for more than just work tasks. It can be used to block out time for lunch, dinner, exercise, and personal stuff. 

Time blocking can help maintain a more regular routine. It can help you eat more or less at the same time every day and to stop working at a reasonable hour so that there’s time to relax and do something fun. For those who like to burn the midnight oil, blocking time for sleeping can help regulate your sleep time, which can be just as important as getting enough time to sleep.

Blocking your time off is as important as blocking time for work tasks.

Sounds great! How do I get started?

  1. 📆 Use a calendar program that allows you to create multiple calendars so you can have separate calendars for meetings, work tasks, and personal tasks. This will give you more flexibility with configuring notifications and other stuff. You can also use different colors to make it look nicer and differentiate between different kinds of tasks.
  2. 🏗️ Create the backbone of your day in your calendar. Start by creating repeating events for breakfast, lunch, and dinner–use the personal calendar for that. Some people also block time for sleeping.
  3. 🏆 At the beginning of every week, think of the three main things you’d like to accomplish that week and add them to your tasks calendar. This is to make sure you’re prioritizing correctly–otherwise you might end up being busy without accomplishing anything important.
  4. 🚰 At the beginning of each day, look at the empty slots and fill them with the tasks you’d like to accomplish that day. This is where to-do lists might still come in handy, as a general way to collect miscellaneous tasks that can be placed into these time slots. Unless you’re a robot, make sure to leave some breathing room between tasks.
  5. 👯 Consider finding a “time blocking buddy” so that you can keep each other accountable. With the buddy system, you’re both forced to reflect back on every workday and find ways to keep improving. You can then check in at the beginning of the workday and share what’s planned for that day, and again at the end of the workday to let your buddy know how it all went. Knowing you’ll be held accountable at the end of the day is a powerful tool to help keep things on track.
Illustration of man and woman examining a large calendar

How to make time blocking even better

Use a timer–like Toggl Track

Maybe you’re already familiar with the concept of time blocking. But there’s an easy way to give your time blocking game an upgrade. 

Time blocking without a time tracker is good, but a timer can make it better. Timing your tasks enables you to measure how much time was spent not on task, and then compare the results to the previous week to see if there was any improvement. 

Time blocking encourages you to be realistic, because everyone is given the same budget per day (24 hours) and each item on the list is going to cost you. Maybe you realize, after timing yourself on a certain task, that it will never take you less than 30 minutes. By comparing your plans (time blocking) with reality (time tracked) you can plan better.

Take advantage of our integration

Comparing Toggl Track time entries (the time it took you to complete tasks) to time blocked calendar events (the time you scheduled for yourself to complete tasks) can already be a very helpful way to compare planning and execution. 

But we took it a step further: Google Calendar integration. But what does the external calendar and Toggl Track marriage look like in practice? Let’s talk features–new features, and what they mean for the user. 

Calendar view and Google Calendar view–at the same time

View your Google Calendar events and your time entries side-by-side in a calendar-like view of your week. You get a quick visual overview not just of how you spent your time that week, but also of how you planned to spend it.

Skip the descriptions

Start corresponding time entries with a single click of a Google Calendar event. No need to manually type out the description. 

Manual Mode made easier

A single click will also turn past (Calendar) events into time entries, for when you forget to track time. You can also adjust the start/stop times of the entries by dragging and top/bottom of the entry.

November 2, 2020