Contributors from members of the Copper team
As a small business owner, you’re the master of wearing all the hats. But eventually, it becomes too much to juggle every little thing in your business — it’s inevitable that you’ll forget important to-dos.
Does it feel like your workday spirals out of control? Or that you’re spending all of your time on the wrong stuff?
Sure, you have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce, but we guarantee you that she’s got a fleet of employees backing her up. If it’s just you (and maybe a handful of employees), it pays to make the most of your time with time management techniques like time blocking.
Focus is in short demand, especially if you’re working remotely, so try time blocking to reclaim your time and keep your long-term goals on track. Time blocking is a productivity technique that allows for deep focus. It’s an amazing cure-all for tackling your huge to-do list or task list — without pulling out your hair.
Check out this guide to learn how time blocking (AKA calendar blocking) works, how to start time blocking, and how apps like Google Calendar make it a breeze.
What is calendar blocking?
As a biz owner, you know firsthand how overwhelming it can be when you’re running a company solo. Time blocking helps you manage your time and energy by pre-planning your day. You batch different tasks into groups and schedule blocked time on your calendar where you only focus on those tasks. It’s like having your very own personal task manager, inside your calendar app.
So, instead of hopping online and checking your email, taking a quick call, and running a report in the span of 15 minutes, you tackle similar tasks all at once in a specific block of time. It’s an incredibly effective form of time management, and basically a more structured form of unitasking.
Why is time blocking important?
If your business is running you ragged, it’s clearly time for a change. Time blocking with a calendar app like Google Calendar helps entrepreneurs:
- Do better work: If you’re always distracted by Slack messages and emails and reports, you can’t dig in and focus on your work. Time blocking is effective because it minimizes context-switching, so your brain is able to focus and do better work.
- Remove decision fatigue: The human brain makes an overwhelming amount of decisions every day. After a certain point, you’re going to hit a wall where everything feels overwhelming, no matter how small it is. Fortunately, calendar blocking helps eliminate decision fatigue. Instead of letting everything hit your brain at once, time blocking limits your focus so you can make thoughtful decisions.
- Save time: Did you know that it takes 23 minutes to refocus after a single distraction? Sure, a productivity app might help — but it could also just create another distraction. You can’t eliminate every distraction with time blocking, but you can certainly limit your focus to the individual tasks that need to get done. If you’re trying to log off at a reasonable time every day, calendar blocking is the answer.
- Goodbye, procrastination: On average, people spend over 2 hours a day procrastinating. If you need extra motivation to stay productive, time blocking gives you a built-in “deadline” to do each task, so you can master task management too.
How to time block your day
Whether you’re in it for the time savings or you just need a little sanity, time blocking is a huge win. But it can feel a little weird if you’ve never tried it before, so follow these 3 steps to start time blocking like a pro (you can do it, we promise!).
Step 1: Group your tasks
Do you have repetitive tasks that you do every day? Calendar blocking isn’t about making time for super-specific tasks, but different categories of tasks. Think of it as task batching.
For example, if you’re in sales, you might have time blocks for prospect research, client follow-ups, travel time or email.
Everyone is different, but some of the more common tasks include:
- Phone calls or meetings
- Deep work (AKA “do not disturb” time)
- Big-picture strategy work
- Personal time
Step 2: Schedule blocks based on your energy level
Once you’ve chosen your task categories, start prioritizing them. What do you need to do? When? How often?
Some people prefer to eat the elephant, where you tackle bigger, more difficult tasks first thing in the morning. Others prefer to do the easy stuff first, so you get a few wins under your belt before doing bigger tasks in a later time slot.
Once you’ve prioritized each task category, estimate how much time you’ll need to do the activity. Remember that not everything needs to be a full hour! For example, if you don’t get a lot of emails (lucky you), it doesn’t make sense to give yourself a one-hour block for email.
Your energy level matters a lot, too. If you’re an insufferable morning person, it makes sense to do high-energy tasks earlier in the morning. But if you’re a night owl who’s barely awake at 9 AM, please don’t schedule important recurring tasks or meetings first thing in the morning.
Time blocking will only work if you schedule tasks based on when you’re the most productive. For example, if you have a hard time focusing on reports after lunch, schedule all of your meetings after 12 PM. Once you understand your productive periods, scheduling blocked time based on your task list will be easy.
If you aren’t sure about your energy levels right now, that’s okay! If you’re building out time blocks in Google Calendar, you can easily click and drag time blocks to adjust your setup as you go.
Step 3: Schedule your day
At this point, you:
- Chose task categories
- Know how long each category will take
- Determined the time of day when you’ll do that time block
Now it’s time to plug everything into your calendar app!
Some people time block their entire day so their Google Calendar is as colorful as a Christmas tree. Others prefer to time block only certain parts of their workday. You do you.
Here’s a good example time-blocked day that we recommend if you’re just starting out:
- Orient yourself: Schedule a 30-minute block at the start of each day. This gives you time to log on, put out any immediate fires, and generally make a plan for your day. Take a few deep breaths and a sip of coffee.
- Hold meetings: Nobody loves meetings, but they’re necessary. Check your schedule for meetings today, making sure you give yourself a buffer time before and after each meeting. This gives you time to go to the bathroom, prep, and recharge in between calendar events.
- Account for flexible time: Always give yourself a time block in your calendar app for miscellaneous tasks. Random “side quests” will pop up during the day because life happens. Give yourself flexible time, like office hours, where you can tackle one-off requests or conversations.
- Lunch breaks: Don’t overlook your breaks! You need time away from your computer, which means at least taking a lunch break. Take this time to check on your family, scroll through social media, and put your laundry in the dryer (ahem, that is if you’re working from home!). Set your Gmail app and chat notifications to mute so you can enjoy a real break.
- Do deep work: Everybody needs 1-2 hours a day for deep work. This is good for solo work where you need to be seriously productive and focused. Make sure you mute Google Chat notifications and your phone. Better yet, put on headphones and lock your office door.
- End of the day wrap-up: It’s tempting to drop the mic as soon as you finish your deep work, but you need a time block for wrapping up the day, too. Close out projects and organize for tomorrow. This might mean checking your calendar app to plan for tomorrow’s meetings or prioritizing certain tasks on your task list.
- Personal stuff: Time blocking is great for work, but it’s good for tackling your personal to-dos also! Plenty of solopreneurs create blocked time for the gym, cooking, travel and family time. If you’re having a hard time making work–life balance a thing, try time blocking your personal tasks to stay accountable, especially recurring tasks like exercise.
How to use the Google Calendar app for time blocking
Time blocking is an awesome time management technique, but it’s even better when you marry it with an integrated system like Google Calendar. Try these five tips to do better time blocking in Google Calendar.
1. Add descriptions
While some tasks, like “email,” probably don’t need a lot of context, sometimes it’s helpful to add descriptions to each Google event.
For example, if you schedule social media posts every Wednesday, add everything you need to do that specific task into the Google Calendar time block, like:
- The login details for your social tool
- A link to your content calendar
- A bulleted list of social media ideas
To add details to a time block, click on the event and click Edit Event. The Add Description box allows you to drop in more context, as well as a link to Google Docs, Slides or Sheets.
2. Recurring events versus one-time events
Most time blocks are recurring events, but you do you. Google Calendar allows you to choose between scheduling repeat events or one-offs.
For example, if you need to prep for a big sales presentation, you can create a time block just for that one-time task. But if you check your email every day, you’ll want to set up a repeat task.
Just open your time block in the Google Calendar app and click “Does not repeat” to see your options. Choose to repeat the event weekly, annually, on weekdays or on a custom schedule of your choosing.
3. Use very specific event names
Other people in your organization can see your Google Calendar. It’s a good idea to clearly label each time block so your employees or colleagues know if you’re available:
4. Indicate when you’re busy
Are employees bugging you while you’re doing deep work? Make sure you set your status as “Do not disturb” so your team knows you aren’t available right now.
This will mute your notifications and also tell your team you’re busy. If you don’t want to mute notifications, you can always “Add a status” to customize what your employees see when they try to get in touch with you.
5. Use color coding
Are all of your blocked times running together? Jazz things up with Google Calendar’s color-coding option. Just go to the time block and choose from several colors:
You can choose a different color for each time block so it’s clear what you need to work on. You can even create an internal color-coding system to help with your task management: make your Deep Work sessions red so team members know you aren’t available.
Make the most of time blocking in Google Calendar
Look, everyone’s feeling harried and overworked these days. If you need to add a jolt of sanity into your business, try time blocking with a calendar app. It will help you get focused, save time, and run a business you love. Try these five tips to marry time blocking with Google Calendar to squeeze even more productivity out of your day, without downloading yet another productivity app you’ll never use.
Of course, having the right tools will save you a lot of time, too. Copper is the Google-recommended CRM that works from within your Gmail and Google Calendar. Try Copper free for 14 days.