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If you’re a business owner or in leadership, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Every day is jam-packed, and you barely have time to get lunch, let alone accomplish all the tasks on your calendar. Yet there are lots of days where you feel like you’re running in place, with far too few tasks crossed off your calendar that then roll to the next day. If the work is piling up and you’re hopelessly behind, time blocking is a time management system that may help.

What is Time Blocking, and Why Should You Care?

Time blocking is a schedule and task management tool that divides your workday into increments. Each time block is devoted to one specific task. The idea is that you focus on that task and ignore everything else, clamoring for your attention. In the same way, you’d block out time for a meeting on your calendar, you block out time for completing a task. This allows you to prioritize the things you need to do that day to ensure you complete them.

What Are the Different Types of Time Blocking?

Time blocking leverages a few different techniques to prioritize your work:

  • Task batching takes similar small tasks and groups them together within the time block. It suggests these small tasks should be similar in some way so that you’re not switching between processes during that time. For example, try time blocking for email returns or IMs.
    Tip: Let others know that you’ll respond during that time frame and that you’re trying a new method of focused work.
  • Day theming is an excellent technique if you’re a leader with several areas of responsibility. This technique allows you to set aside a day or an afternoon, or other big increments of time to focus just on that area of responsibility. For example, Tuesdays could be budget and finance days, and Wednesdays could be held for supply chain.
    Tip: If you have an assistant for scheduling, clue them into this method and see if your meetings can coincide with the theme of the day.
  • Timeboxing is nothing like kickboxing, although you’ll be shocked at how many tasks you can knock down. Timeboxing blocks increments of time to help limit how much energy you’re spending on a given task. This is a great tool if you’re doing “heads down” work, such as writing a speech, where time can easily run away from you.
    Tip: Set an audible alarm at the end of the timebox to snap you out of whatever you’re working on.

Why Do I Need Time Blocking?

Human beings stink at multitasking. You may think you’re great at it—we interview candidates and ask them about their ability to multitask, and we add it to our resumes. But there’s plenty of research out there showing that humans can’t pull off multitasking effectively. In fact, only 2% of the population can effectively multitask. The human brain, according to science, can only handle one task at a time. One doctor says, “When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession or task-switching.” Studies show this back-and-forth ping-ponging between tasks actually makes us less effective and can even burn a person out.

These are all reasons why task blocking should be on your radar and your calendar.

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