The best hack to use if you’re struggling with time management
This post is all about time blocking.
Time blocking is a really valuable time management tool, but most people get overwhelmed just by thinking about it!
I promise it seriously doesn’t need to be overwhelming.
Let’s break it down into some simple time blocking tips that will remove the overwhelm and leave you with a super effective productivity tool to help you stay on top of it all – academics, work life, personal life – everything.
This post is all about time blocking.
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TIME BLOCKING TIPS FOR STUDENTS:
What is time blocking?
Time blocking is a productivity method with the goal of achieving better time management by dividing your day or week into smaller, more manageable blocks of time. By grouping similar activities together, you lose less time task switching and are able to knock way more off your to-do list.
Essentially, it means putting your to-do list on your calendar by actually allotting periods of time to different tasks that you need to get done.
What’s the point of this?
It helps you actually visualize your to-do’s and make them a lot more tangible!
This is also why some people find it overwhelming. When you first see all your to-do’s laid out in a calendar format, it suddenly feels like you have a lot less time than you thought.
But I like to think of it like creating a budget. Having the structure of a budget or a calendar doesn’t limit you; it enables you to utilize your resources (time or money) better so that you can have MORE (time or money) to dedicate to what you really want.
1. Set priorities
The first step you need to know when you’re first learning how to time block is how to set priorities.
It gets really overwhelming when you put a bunch of to-dos in your calendar and then realize you have no time for anything else. But time blocking allows you to be realistic with yourself by actually showing you when you’re stretching yourself too thin so that you can re-evaluate and focus on those high priorities FIRST.
I always start my time blocking with my highest priorities. I’ll put classes, appointments, or work hours into my calendar and then build the more flexible things (social life, cleaning, hobbies) around the immovable stuff.
It just takes a bit of practice to get used to it!
2. Set up your digital calendar
Some people prefer to time block on paper, but for the most part, it’s done digitally. The reason for this is that it’s way easier to move blocks around or readjust things as needed – your schedule isn’t set in stone.
If you don’t already use a digital calendar, set one up. Open up the Calendar app on your computer or just use Google calendar! Whatever platform you use, the main point is that you need to have one place you go to create your time blocking planner.
3. Group similar tasks together
The art of grouping similar tasks together is really going to be your big time-saver here.
When it comes to time blocking for students, grouping similar tasks might mean that you dedicate certain days to certain classes. For example, if you always have a history class on Mondays, then you might also want to dedicate Mondays as the day when you work on your assignments for that class.
As another option, you might find you need a break or find it hard to focus on the same topic all day. If this is the case, use the remainder of your day for a different type of task, but still make sure you’re not switching it up too much.
For example, if you have an exam to study for, it’s a lot more productive to spend two hours studying for that exam than it is to spend 30 minutes studying, go out with friends for an hour, spend 30 more minutes studying, go to the gym, and then spend another hour studying. Every time you switch back to studying, you’ll have to get in the zone all over again, set up your supplies, etc. and it honestly just takes up more time than you would think!
Instead, a better example would be to study for two hours, then go to the gym, then meet up with friends. That way, you’re grouping all the studying together and all the movement/socializing together!
4. Set a theme for certain days
This goes hand-in-hand with the last tip.
If it’s helpful for you, you can try to set a theme for different days to help break up your time in a more straight-forward way.
For example, let’s say I’m taking a history, math, and english course. Here’s what that time blocking example might look like:
This is a super simplified example of a time blocking calendar using themes. But notice how I’ve grouped the same topics or types of work on the same days. This makes it a lot easier to plan out a schedule!
5. Decide what times are off-limits
The reality is, NOBODY can go non-stop 24/7.
You have to be realistic when you’re time blocking. Decide what times are off-limits to schedule anything.
Maybe you’re really not a morning person and you need a solid 2 hours before you can do anything productive.
Or perhaps you hate working past 6pm.
Maybe you simply need a break in the afternoons.
You know your own work style best. The point is, decide what time and how often you’re going to take breaks and make sure you really do take those breaks.
6. Input appointments right away
Whenever you make a new appointment, put it in your calendar RIGHT. AWAY.
I don’t care if it’s two days from now or 6 months from now… You need to put it in ASAP.
For one thing, it means that you don’t have to think or worry about “when did I schedule that appointment for?” and you don’t need to go calling the person back to ask what time your appointment is for.
If you just put it in right away, it saves you that time PLUS it means when you get to the point where you need to time block that week, you already know that there’s an appointment scheduled for a particular time and day, so you don’t have to ever worry about overbooking yourself.
7. Anticipate the unplanned
The truth is, stuff is always going to come up that you just couldn’t have planned for. You are NEVER going to stick to your schedule 100%.
How do you deal with this?
When you’re making your schedule, account for the fact that you’ll go off schedule at times and things will come up that put you off track.
Leave breaks and buffer room in your schedule so that you don’t have the pressure or stress of needing to stick to it 100%!
I always recommend leaving at least 15-30 minutes between tasks or events when you can.
8. Consider breaks
It might look really great on your calendar to schedule a 5-hour block of time dedicated to studying, but the truth is that you’ll need some sort of break at some point in there.
You don’t necessarily need to schedule out all your breaks on your calendar. It might be easier for you to simply assume that you’ll need a couple 20-minute breaks here and there, and take them when necessary.
It’s just helpful to keep in mind as you’re making your schedule so that you ensure you allot enough time for each task, breaks included!
9. Don’t stress about being rigid
Time blocking takes a LOT of practice. Don’t feel like you need to get it 100% perfect on the first go.
I’ve been time blocking for over 2 years and I still learn new things all the time. But even through the learning process, it’s a really helpful time management method that genuinely does make me more productive.
So just be patient with yourself! If you go off schedule a little, it’s okay! Just re-evaluate what changes you can make next time to make your schedule work better for you.
10. Be specific
In order to best keep track of all your tasks and what you’ve actually gotten done, it’s best to be as specific as possible when you’re making your schedule with time blocking.
For example, instead of blocking out 3 hours for “homework,” at least write the specific class that you’ll be doing work for, or even the exact assignment.
Being specific like this means that you won’t have to think about what you’re supposed to be doing when you actually sit down to do it. Instead, you’ll have an exact overview of your day or week ahead of time and you’ll be clear on exactly what’s happening!