Have you heard the phrase that goes something like this, “We have time for what we choose to have time for”? This is where I think the idea for time blocking came from.
You have a lot of plates you’re spinning, but at the end of the day, you generally get everything that NEEDS to be done, well… done. But there is still a to do list (physical or mental) that feels like it’s a mile long. Strategically using your time to the rescue… Enter time blocking.
What is the time blocking method?
Time blocking is a time management technique to strategically use time. The idea is to block or chunk up your day to allocate to certain activities.
This can be done to block your day to optimize deep work to match with your work energy, but it can also just be a framework to help you accomplish what you’d like to accomplish
This is the short & sweet version, but you can always meander over here for details on what it is, pros & cons of using it, and how to approach starting.
Time blocking is not about setting aside specific time slots for everything, it’s more about allocating your time in chunks. It doesn’t matter if they are 15 minutes, 1 hour, or 3 hours. The point is to give the blocks a purpose.
How Google Calendar Helps with Time Blocking
There are many benefits to time blocking, but using Google Calendar with this time management method is one way to make sure you don’t miss anything important. You can integrate your existing meetings or reminders if you use a Gmail account already.
You can also set reminders to yourself when you need to start a block if you need that cue to mentally switch tasks.
Google Calendar is a good tool for time blocking (digitally) because it is free, already in sync with your Gmail account, and is very flexible to the method of time blocking you choose.
From daily themes to 15 hour incremental chunks of time. Google Calendar can work with it.
I personally LOVE it mainly because it allows me to have separate calendars. I have a separate calendar all for time blocking that I’ve named ‘Does It Fit?’ I can activate and deactivate the calendar very easily. Productivity and overwhelm managed!
Using my calendar this way literally helps me see WHERE in the day I can do the things I set out to do instead of pie-in-the-sky mentally overcommitting myself. This method of organizing my calendar helps me know when I can take on new work or projects – personally & professionally.
The time blocks I’ve set up in ‘Does it Fit’ give me a framework to keep me from scrolling on TikTok for 35 minutes instead of getting my workout in. Or how about the fact that I’m writing this article at 6 am. On days I don’t go to my boot camp, you’ll find me writing before work.
I’ve built this almost habit through my Google Calendar exercise with time blocking.
When I’m picking up my son from band practice, the console tells me that next up is cooking/eating/family time. I know that seems basic, but this ADHD brain of mine might have listened to a podcast on the way and now has a fresh set of tasks to tackle. Now. Well, no. It’s time to nourish myself & my family and connecting with them after our days at school and work.
I check in with my method every so often. Watch the video below where I show you how I use it and end with tweaking my time chunks as the family calendar shifts.
I also want to add that you do NOT have to set up a separate calendar. Time blocking in Google Calendar on your primary calendar sets aside that time and (unless you set it up otherwise), that time looks unavailable to anyone else.
Whether you use 1 calendar or layer them is a personal decision in how you choose to use the time blocking methodology in conjunction with your calendar.
How to Set up Time Blocks in Google Calendar
You can set up the time chunks in your calendar, or you can add a separate calendar.
I started with the time blocks on 1 calendar, but I switched it up and use it as a gentle reminder that also leaves my calendar less cluttered. I felt overcommitted even though I had mental buffers built in.
This whole building a time management system that fits YOUR needs is all a process, so I STRONGLY encourage you to adjust and flex to what your needs are as time goes on.
I tend to prefer action over strategy, so even if you haven’t worked through the task batching categories you’ll use for the type of task you have, you can still get started in setting up your calendar. If you’d like to work through different category examples, you can read more about that on the blog here.
Time Blocking Set up Using ONE Calendar
The short & sweet idea is that you need a Google account. Assuming you’re one of the bajillion people with one of those, you just need to go to https://calendar.google.com/
Then you simply add in your time blocks to build out a daily schedule or even a weekly that works in the flow of your day. Recurring or just for today. Whatever you want.
They key is to focus on priority tasks. I have a brain dump list to help me get rid of the things floating in my brain that should or need to get done. I literally have an item for closing a bank account. I’d like to do that, but it is not a high priority to close this inactive checking account at a local credit union. When I do decide I need to get this handled, I’ll allocate dedicated time slot for it during an Errand time block.
If it isn’t that short & sweet reading it this way, head over to the video on how I do that here. I am not leaving you hanging!
Time Blocking Set Up – Adding a Calendar
Check out this video for adding in a calendar to layer in the time blocks.
I also found an interesting set up where each calendar you create is a chunk of time. Meetings is one calendar, content creation get it’s own, etc. Check out the post here on the Om and the City Blog to see what that looks like – and again, when you use this method with different calendars, you can turn them off & on. Not going to work on this time blocking project this week? Turn that calendar off. You don’t literally have to delete the time chunks. But you can!
Here’s an example of my calendar at this point in time. It’s a work in progress!
Helpful Tips for Using Google Calendar for Time Blocking
You are not stuck with the standard Google Calendar colors. Check out this post for how to change the colors (and not cringe every time you open your calendar).
Don’t overschedule or overcommit yourself (literally or mentally). It’s easy to throw in the towel if you are overwhelmed & your calendar adds to that overwhelm. I recommend starting small with the level of planning & increase it as you find it working. Cushion time to give you some white space in your day or act as a buffer between tasks will help here.
Be flexible. Keep tweaking the process until you find something that works. Your life changes, so even if it works for you today, you’re likely to change it all up tomorrow!
Don’t think of time blocking as a task list. I prefer to think of it as a time batching list. If I’m writing at 6 am, I’m going to the next article from my content management system. If I don’t finish, that’s fine. I pick it back up during my next block of time intended for content creation.
You can set up as many time blocks or as few as needed. There was a time in my content creation journey on YouTube where I set up day themes. My content creation time was at 6 am, during my lunch break and 2 hour windows in the mornings of the weekends. If Monday’s are for titles & thumbnails, then I’m behind if I don’t do that first in my content time on Monday.
Alternatives to Google Calendar for Time Blocking
Google Calendar is by no means the only tool you can use for organizing blocks of time. You have many options!
Paper & pen are free. Here’s a Google Sheet you can print out if you’d like a little more structure to choose from.
Physical planners – Amazon has a ton of time blocking specific, beautiful planners to choose from.
Apps – I haven’t personally tried these out, but they are recommendations from a couple of friends that do. Google Calendar isn’t the only calendar app either. I have an Apple iPhone that I use, but it integrates my Google Calendar quite well.
Digital planning – There are many free options which is a surprise for awesomely functional the options are out there. There are paid components in them, too, but most have a really generous free aspects that you can use like Todoist (guide from todoist here). You may notice in the photo above that I was using Notion at the time. The free version.