See how you can use a time blocking template to schedule an effective and productive day! This post includes ideas for structuring your calendar (whether your work from home or outside the home), free weekly and daily blocking planner pdf printables, and the best tools/apps to use for organizing your tasks.
As a work from home mom, I would absolutely not be able to organize my day without time blocking.
I'm naturally a pretty scatterbrained person. It's a flaw that I've really had to work at combating. That's why time blocking has become one of my favorite secret weapons in making sure I spend my time as efficiently as possible.
Without a solid plan for my day, I am really bad about wandering from one task to another without focusing whole-heartedly on any particular area. Ever heard the saying "jack of all trades, master of none?" That's pretty descriptive of my day without a segmented plan...I do lots of little things without really mastering any of them.
Whether you work from home or not, if this sounds like your typical day, read on: you just might find the secret to time management success!
What is time blocking?
Time blocking is an incredibly effective time management technique. It's a powerful way to ward off distractions and keep you focused on the tasks that matter the most. If you need to take back control of your day, this is the ticket!
The idea behind this practice is pretty basic and, surprisingly, kind of flexible. Simply put, you divide your day into measurable chunks. Each chunk is dedicated to a particular area of your life.
Some popular time blocks include...
You can really dedicate as much (or as little) to each block of time as you need. I prefer to divide my day into 1 or 2 hour intervals and really dedicate my thoughts and efforts to one particular task at a time.
Time Blocking Example
Let's look at my time blocking schedule as an example of this method.
- 6:30-8am: morning routine: wake up, feed kids breakfast and get to school
- 8-9am: workout time, shower
- 9-11am: work hours block #1
- 11am-noon: cleaning/errands time
- 12-12:30pm: lunch
- 12:30-2pm: work hours block #2
- 2-3pm: pick up my kids
- 3-4pm: cleaning time (Journey to Clean tasks)
- 4-5pm: cook dinner, homework, spend time with kids
- 5-7pm: dinner, family time, kids get ready for bed
- 7-9pm: work hours block #3, free time with Noah after we're both done
- 9-10pm: get ready for bed
Basically every day without an appointment/out-of-the-house commitment looks pretty similar to this. That's completely on purpose. This way, for example, I know that I am expected to work from 9-11 each morning. I don't get distracted by chores or other things I need to do around the house because I know there are times later on in the day for that.
If my mind starts to wander, I work really hard to remember that this is the time of the day that is dedicated to work. I try to stay focused on that during this block.
This is also a really effective method for making sure you're spending intentional time with your family. I know that 5-7 every night is time for my family; that's our time to play games, talk about our day, eat dinner, and really have special moments together.
Alternate Blocking Methods
With blocking, you're not limited to just using blocks in your day! You can also use...
- Task Batching: Instead of confining your tasks to specific blocks of time, set out a specific amount of a task you will accomplish. For example, instead of saying you're going to clean for an hour, say you're going to dust all of the baseboards and walls in your home.
- Day Theming: Exactly how it sounds; each day of the week has a theme. For example, let's take my job as a blogger. I could write the content of the posts on Monday, test recipes on Tuesday, take pictures on Wednesday, edit images and finish posts on Thursday, and schedule social media on Friday. This is especially helpful if you have a job that has a set of predictable tasks each week.
- Time Boxing: This is kind of a hybrid of time blocking and task blocking. Instead of giving yourself an hour for a category and just finishing as much as you can, set a specific task to accomplish in that hour. For example, with my job, I would aim to edit 20 pictures in an hour.
How can you figure out your own time blocking schedule?
This is best done by looking at your priorities.
- Sit down and write out 5-10 things you generally want to get accomplished each day, with the most important tasks at the top of the list. The items at the top of your list might need more time (usually no more than a 2-3 hour chunk); the items towards the bottom might need less time.
- Start grouping together similar tasks that could be combined in one time block. Once they're grouped, write out a list of blocks you'll need.
- Make a rough estimate of how much time you need for each block per day; write it beside the block.
- From there, schedule blocks at times that make sense for you. For example, many people like to get their workout done first thing in the morning. If that's you, it naturally makes sense to put a workout block in the earlier part of the day.
- Don't forget breaks and meals! It helps to put a couple of 30-minute intervals throughout the day to give you a break and give your schedule some wiggle room. You can also implement the pomodoro technique to help work in some break times.
Obviously, if you work outside the home, larger chunks of your time are going to be dedicated to your work day. With time blocking, I'm talking about deciding what to do with the time that you have a say over.
If you're lucky enough to choose your own schedule, don't feel like you have to dedicate more than 2-3 hours at a time to a task. You'll notice above that I work 5-ish hours a day; however, no more than 2 hours at a time are consecutive. That's just how I've had to plan out my day in this season of life.
It also lets me step away from a task for awhile to let me process what I've done and clear my mind from it. I've found that I'm so much more productive with bigger projects if I limit the amount of consecutive time I work on them. It's a great way to prevent burnout.
What tools do I need to block my day?
Really? Nothing is required! But there are a few things that might help you in planning your day.
First up: nail down a solid scheduling tool.
If you like using printables, I've got three different time-blocking templates that are totally free for you today! You can choose from one of the three time blocking methods in the section below.
If you're more of a digital person, there are tons of apps that can help you time block your day. I personally use Toggl. It lets me "clock in" to a particular time block, tracking what I'm doing throughout the day.
It's a great way to truly measure how much time you commit to each block per day. Then, once a week or so, I can look at the bigger picture to see how much time each block is realistically taking me. Then, I modify the schedule as needed to accommodate those needs.
Of course, the basic calendar on your phone or Google Calendar are great tools as well! You can see my time block in my calendar above. This rough guide lets you know what you need to be doing at any particular time.
You can even use a spreadsheet program like Excel or Google Sheets to map out your time blocking schedule. Give each hour a row, mapping out your day with color-coded cells.
To Do List
Besides a good schedule, I also highly recommend a to-do list (whether digital or printable to-do list). I'm a digital girl, so I use the Todoist app. It's a free, incredibly effective list tool that has a really each to use interface.
I'm a big fan of color-coding my to-do list to show what items need to be done in each time block. Check out that time block I've got above; see how work is blue, chores are green? You'll see that the work tasks are blue and chores are green on my to do list as well. It's such an easy way to visually match your tasks to the time block.
3 Free Printable Weekly & Daily Time Blocking Planner Templates
Click the buttons below to download your printable time blocking templates!
Weekly Time Blocking Template (divided into daily segments)
Daily Time Blocking Template (divided into 2-hour chunks)
Weekly Time Blocking Printable (choose-your-own-blocks)
You might want to go with one of the first two time blocking printables above if you're new to time blocking. These have definite segments that will let you visualize your day easily. Once you figure out what segments work for you, you can move to the third one, letting you decide how long each segment is.
What happens if you remember an item that has to be done during the wrong time block?
That's what my to-do list is for! If I remember that something needs to be done from another block, I simply note it in Todoist and come back to it later.
I also use my notes app (just the regular one on my phone) to jot down any ideas I have about other segments of my schedule. I have lots of different notes; one for each of the kids, products I see and want to try, ideas I get for work, even gift ideas.
Learn to write it down and let it go until its block; this way of thinking is essential for time blocking.
One final note about time blocking schedules...
Alright, rule followers, let me put this note in as a fellow rule follower: it's not going to always go as planned. As a matter of fact, it often doesn't go as planned.
Your kid's school calls to let you know you forgot a lunchbox.
You realize you forgot about that doctor's appointment.
You get stuck in traffic.
There are a million different things that can go wrong in any given day, completely throwing your schedule off.
And I'm hear to tell you that it's ok! It happens to me at least once or twice a week. Just roll with the punches and get back on track as much as you can. That's one thing I love about the Todoist app: if you don't finish your list in any given day, you can simply move those tasks to the next day. No harm, no foul.
No go forth and block that day! Once you start using this method, you'll never look back.