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The Power of Time Blocking

Build a time blocking system to achieve your goals

By Matty Reed
November 5, 2023

Each day we make choices about how to prioritize our limited time, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Ideally, our values, principles, and long-term aspirations would guide our decisions. However, we often succumb to the demands of our immediate responsibilities and fleeting desires.

By evaluating our priorities, planning ahead, and focusing our attention on one thing at a time, we can be more productive and intentional with our time.

This article will introduce the power of time blocking and how it can help you stay focused on what matters and achieve your goals.

Schedule Time to Achieve Your Goals

How can we minimize time spent in low-value activities?

How can we prioritize activities that bring us closer to achieving important life goals?

An effective approach is to plan ahead and integrate scheduling into our daily and weekly routine.

As we plan our days and weeks, it’s important to be mindful of our inherent biases by applying Daniel Kahneman's wisdom from his seminal book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

We should be wary of putting too much trust in our impulsive system-1 thinking to dictate our decision-making. This intuitive mode of thinking is susceptible to our whims and short-term desires, which may lead us astray from our goals.

Instead, we should try to adopt a more analytical and precise system-2 thinking as we plan ahead and make decisions that are aligned with our long-term wellbeing.

By forecasting with forethought, we can spend more of our time making progress towards important goals.

System-1 vs System-2 Cognition

System-2 cognition allows us to see a future target, develop a plan to get there, and harness the discipline to execute according to plan.

Todo List + Calendar > Todo List

Is a to-do list enough to get us to our goals?

The addition of a calendar or schedule is more useful than relying solely on a task list. Calendars necessarily include the dimension and location of time which allows us to partition goals into smaller portions or time blocks.

“Scheduling,” writes Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, “forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take.”

Even if you have a prioritized to-do list, you still need to find the time to do the to-do's.

For this reason, we recommend incorporating substantial tasks (tasks that take more than 10 minutes) into your calendar. You are far more likely to complete a task that occupies a specific time in your calendar than one that simply exists in a list.

The Power of Time Blocking

Time blocking (sometimes referred to as time boxing) is one of the most highly recommended time management techniques by experts including Cal Newport and Nir Eyal.

The time blocking method (in one form or another) has been practiced throughout history by many reputable people, from Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates, and has risen in popularity in recent years―for good reason.

Time blocking systems help optimize your schedule and keep you focused on what matters most.

Psychological studies have shown that humans are poor multitaskers and that we expend energy and cognitive resources every time we are forced to context-switch our attention from one task to another.

Time blocking encourages us to focus our energy on a single activity or task-at-hand in sequence which is essential for minimizing distractions and maximizing desirable outcomes including flow states and deep work.

Time-blocked Calendar

Marc Andreessen, famous tech founder and venture capitalist, is notorious for scheduling just about every minute of every day. He has discovered the power of time blocking and uses it not only to improve productivity, but also to improve his ability to disconnect from work.

While it is clear that time block scheduling is useful in the context of productivity at work, we also believe that time-blocking can be used to plan and improve your entire day.

For instance, if making new friends or spending more time with your grandmother is a priority to you, it makes sense to block time for these activities to ensure you don't overlook them amidst daily distractions.

Is Time Blocking for Me?

Aren't time blocks too rigid?

What if my day is constantly changing?

While calendar time blocking may be too structured for some, for most of us it brings a healthy dose of organization into our daily plan which helps us allocate more time to important activities. Time blocks are valuable for communicating your intentions to yourself and protecting your time from others that may want to capture your attention.

And if done correctly, your schedule can be flexible enough to update throughout the day.

Additionally, time blocking forces you to think more intentionally about how and why your schedule is changing.

You might question whether you misallocated your time this week.

Are you beholden to someone else’s time?

Is the time you spend at your job still aligned with your priorities and professional goals?

These are important questions worth asking and seeking answers to.

Prioritize and Categorize

How can we use time blocks to plan and achieve important life goals?

How can we link our values, priorities, and goals with our time allocation?

We believe a core part of the solution is Categorization.

According to Nir Eyal, “Whatever your values may be, it's helpful to categorize them in various life domains, a concept that is thousands of years old.”

Categorizing your time can be as simple as partitioning it into a few life domains.

You, relationships, and work. These three domains outline where we spend our time. They give us a way to think about how we plan our day so that we can become an authentic reflection of the people we want to be. In order to live our values in each of these domains, we must reserve time in our schedule to do so. Only by setting aside specific time in our schedules for traction, the actions that draw us towards what we want in life, can we turn our backs on distraction.
― Nir Eyal, indistractable

Once you have considered your priorities and defined your goals, you can associate these goals with specific activities and color-categorize each time block in your calendar.

Values -> Priorities -> Goals -> Tasks & Time blocks

Categorizing and time blocking will help you optimize your daily plans to hit goals in various domains of your life and maintain healthy balance in your life.

Next we will discuss how we apply time blocking and categorization in the TimeAlign system to help you align your time with your priorities.

The TimeAlign System

TimeAlign is our solution to the Time Management Problem, the challenge of aligning your time with your priorities.

The TimeAlign app makes it easy to create, combine, and update calendars populated with categorized time blocks.

The system will send helpful reminders and timely push notifications to your mobile and wearable devices for efficient context switching to keep you on track and on schedule no matter where you are or what you're doing. 

Each week, month, and year, you will receive delightful and useful data insights that help you visualize and understand where you spend your time and how to move towards a more balanced life.

Visualizing Life Domains

TimeAlign is designed to help you craft optimized plans, develop positive weekly habits, and set realistic goals to align your time with your priorities and pursue long-term ambitions.

If you want to learn more, we encourage you to read our whitepaper and leave us a message with your thoughts!

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