How To

Time Blocking for Bullet Journalists

Let’s be honest, some days it’s hard to maintain focus. To combat this, people have created a myriad of different productivity methods, like time blocking. Time blocking, in its simplest form, is the scheduling out of everything. Everything. This includes meal times, project times, personal time, and more.

I tried out this method of time blocking in August. Below I’ll go over the basics, as well as share what worked (and didn’t work) for me.

Time Blocking: The Basics

Image of empty Time-Blocking Spread

What is Time Blocking?

Time blocking is just scheduling your to-do list against your calendar. Essentially, you block off chunks of your day to which you devote to specific tasks. That’s the key here: you spend that blocked time focusing on the task at hand. That’s it.

How to Do I Start?

The first thing you need to do is block off work time. Whether you work a 9-5 or work retail hours, marking off your work time will give you a good idea of when you’ll be able to fit in projects, whether for work or home.

Once your time for work is blocked off, begin filling in your workday. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. You can go through your week and designate times towards specific tasks, like emails, calls, meetings, and creative work. If you can, schedule these at the same time every day. For example, make Mondays from 9-12 your meeting days, and use Thursdays as your follow up day. If you spend a lot of time on the phone or in your emails, designate a block of time each day just for that and don’t let yourself check emails or take calls at any other time.

Alternatively, you can take 15 minutes each morning to time block your full day. This is a great option if your days vary a lot (like it did after I switched from an office job). Since each day varied and I started a lot of personal projects at home, I needed to spend time each morning to prioritize my tasks.

I found that a combination of blocking off weekly task time (for emails, for errands, etc) and checking in each day for 15 minutes yielded the best results. 

What Other Tips For Time Blocking Do You Have?

If you have big projects you need to tackle, try to break up your project into a list of to-dos. Then match your time blocks to each to do. This will allow you to spread out your tasks throughout the week, preventing burn out on projects and allowing you to make progress on all your projects throughout the week.

Another important tip here is to not let anything else interrupt your work during that time block, which was one of the challenges I faced when time blocking. This may mean letting your clients and co-workers know about your new time-blocking schedule. The issue I found here was that it takes a while for clients and co-workers to get used to your schedule. 

How I Used My Bullet Journal For Time Blocking

Animal crossing seemed like the perfect fit for my time blocking spread since it’s a game where the time you log on matters. But also I was pretty pumped about the upcoming game that was announced.

Animal crossing design aside, you can see that I used a lot of color-coding to denote specific tasks. This helped me see at a glance what was on the schedule for the day. You can see it once I switch jobs.

I separated my time blocks down to the half-hour, but you could do it to 15-minute intervals if you wanted. I find that it often takes 10 minutes to mentally prep and get the materials together that you need for your task. Using 15-minute intervals really wouldn’t have helped me.

What Worked:

  • Color-Coding: I could see how my day was split at a glance (especially with color-coding markers)
  • Easily Make Progress Towards Multiple Goals: I often have a lot of projects going on. With time-blocking I was able to make progress towards each of my goals and see that it was being made. I don’t recommend devoting an entire day to a task if you use this method. Instead, split your tasks up. This was key in my progress across the board, not just in one project at a time.
  • Morning Planning Habits: I developed a habit of checking my schedule every morning and doling out the tasks for the day. This is something that helped me prioritize my tasks as well as put into perspective exactly how much I could accomplish each day.

What Didn’t:

  • Too Much Color-Coding: Though I loved how easy it was to see what time I devoted to projects throughout the day, too many colors meant toting around a lot of different highlighters. This got to be a pain for me since I like things to be quick and easy. So I recommend sticking to 2-4 colors if you go the color-coding route. 
  • Hard to Focus in A Busy Environment: I chose to try this method so that I could try to be the most productive I could be at work. Unfortunately, at my office, we had a very open environment which was great for cooperating on projects, but not great when you wanted to focus on specific tasks. Therefore, there were constant interruptions and random meetings that didn’t allow my time blocking methods to work. This might be a different story if you have your own office or cubicle to work from. 
  • Not Scheduling Relaxation Time: I time-blocked so well, I forgot the most important thing! Time for rest and relaxation. Be sure to schedule evenings for friends and family but also just for yourself. Self-care is often a thing we neglect in our busy lives and contributes heavily to burn out. You can’t be productive if you burn yourself out.
  • Not Giving It Enough Time To Work: I was only able to use this method for a month and during that month I switched careers and went on vacation. I didn’t feel the need to continue to try this method beyond that but only giving it a month to work may have contributed to why it didn’t work.

My Verdict On Time Blocking: Didn’t Work for me, but could work for someone more devoted.

Though I found some of this method to help me focus, the environment in my workplace prevented me from staying on track. This should not be discouragement from attempting this method as your work environment may be very different than mine was and I could still see some of the benefits of time blocking.

Try It For Yourself!

Let me know if you try time blocking here. Let me know what worked for you. I’d love to know!

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