Time-Blocking: Get Time on Your Side

By Jonathan Moerbe, CEO and Master Coach, Rialto Academy

Time-blocking, Newton style
Time-blocking, Newton style

Time-blocking is exactly what it sounds like: The practice of dedicating blocks of time to complete individual tasks and boost productivity. Business experts swear by it, and there are many books and trainings on how to do it successfully (The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is our favorite!). But some still question the importance and value of time-blocking. Is it really worth all that wrestling with willpower, learning to say no, and confronting daily distractions? Well, even though the attention to detail might feel a little soulless at times, it’s important to remember that time-blocking is proven, it’s efficient and it WORKS. Here’s why:

Better Business

From a straight-up rationale perspective, maximizing our time makes a lot of sense. We’re all given the same number of hours in a day, and how we choose to use them is central to our success. But if we’re not focusing on time-blocking at work, we might wake up one day and realize we’re not accomplishing as much as we’d planned in one day—or maybe even in many days or months. Our productivity has dipped, so working longer hours is probably the best answer, right? According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, longer hours do not lead to more productivity—in fact, little productivity actually occurs after 50 hours. If you keep track of your own productivity hourly, you’ll notice that a tired, stressed you is not only less fun to be around but much less productive than a focused you. Committed time-blocking is the real answer to productivity management.

In addition, as a business leader utilizing realistic time-blocking, you’ll get more from your people, your retention rates will grow, and you’ll help promote a higher quality of life by setting a good example. Just ask David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Basecamp, who recently chided the “4 a.m. CEOs” out there who start their workdays in the wee hours of the morning and feed into the destructive “hustle culture” ethos that’s affecting so many current workers and companies. Hansson writes, “If you’re the CEO and you can’t get work done at work, you only have one person to blame for it: Yourself.”

This toxic extended-hours practice teaches the rest of the organization that they can’t accomplish what needs to get done in a standard workday, either. Time-blocking your workday is only beneficial when applied to reasonable work hours.

Then There’s Your Health

If you work too much, you’re not only setting a bad example, you’re putting your health at risk. Studies show that working more than 10 hours a day increases mental and physical stresses that can affect everything from your heart health, to your emotional stability, to your relationships and sleep patterns. Working too much undermines productivity, and steals time from regenerative, quality efforts like physical activity. Time-blocking helps you avoid overworking and can actually improve your health in the process.

Blocks of Freedom

There’s a reason that many brainstorms and forgotten song lyrics come to you in the shower, right before bed, or in the car. Quiet, meditative time leads to self-reflection, healing, and renewal, so it’s important to include this space in your daily time-blocking. It can be tough to do that in an open office or within earshot of a smart phone but including this time will help you feel more in control and make your time-blocking more successful.

The Most Important Time Spent

Finally, don’t forget to block time for family and friends. After all, are you living to work, or working to live? It’s cliché, yet too often family dinners are missed or vacations delayed, and the culprit is generally lack of organization. Don’t look up in 20 years and realize you’ve missed life just to pay for it. If you block time to be with the people who matter the most, you’ll end up with memories more than regret. There’s no greater reason to become a student of time protection and planned productivity than to live the life that actual matters to you.

Learning how to time-block is one of the many things Rialto Agent University (RAU) can teach you.  Check out our related courses on productivity, forming good habits and goal-setting below.