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Time blocking guide: Plan effectively and maximize productivity

10 min read

Effective time management is one of the secrets to success in business. Why? Because the better your employees are at managing their time, the more productive your workforce will be and the easier it will be for your organization to meet its objectives. That’s why it’s so important to use the right tools and strategies to manage employee time and oversee project progress. One such strategy is time blocking.

But what is time blocking and how does it work?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the definition and benefits of time blocking, and share a step-by-step guide to help you implement this powerful technique. We will also discuss how using a time blocking template and the right technology can help you plan more effectively and maximize employee productivity.

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What is time blocking?

When it comes to workforce planning, there are many time management challenges that you will probably encounter at one point or another. Perhaps the most common is when employees waste valuable time on low to no value tasks due to a lack of planning and prioritization.

Time blocking can be a good solution to this.

Employee time blocking is a productivity technique where employees schedule specific blocks of time for different tasks, activities, or projects throughout their workday. Each block is dedicated to a particular task or group of related tasks, allowing employees to focus their time and attention on those specific activities.

There are a few methods you can use for this, including timeboxing, task batching, day theming, and fixed or dynamic time blocking. We’ll explain more about these time-blocking methods later in the post.

Benefits of time blocking

Employee time blocking is an effective technique because it promotes focused work, improves time management, enhances task completion rates, facilitates prioritization, and reduces stress. Not only that, but it empowers employees to take control of their workday and optimize their productivity, leading to increased job satisfaction and better outcomes for both individuals and organizations.

Let’s explore some of these benefits in a bit more detail.

  • Enhanced focus and productivity. By dedicating specific time blocks to individual tasks, employees can reduce distractions and focus solely on the task at hand. This focused approach boosts productivity. In fact, according to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, timeboxing, a commonly used time-blocking method, was ranked as the most useful reported productivity hack.
  • Improved time management. Time blocking helps employees better manage their time by creating a structured schedule. They get a clear plan for their workday so that they can prioritize tasks and allocate sufficient time. This leads to a more organized and structured approach to work, reducing time wasted on unproductive activities.
  • Increased task completion. When employees allocate dedicated time blocks for tasks, they are more likely to complete them within the scheduled timeframe. This is because a fixed structure encourages a sense of urgency and accountability.
  • Reduced multitasking. Multitasking can decrease productivity and increase errors. Time blocking, in turn, promotes a single-tasking approach, allowing employees to focus on one task at a time.
  • Reduced stress and improved work-life balance. Finally, time blocking can help reduce stress levels by providing a clear plan and structure for the workday. By following this structured approach and using the right tools for project management time tracking, employees can achieve a better work-life balance and experience less burnout.

How to time block

Let’s take a look now at a few methods and strategies you can use to help your workforce harness the benefits of time blocking and maximize productivity.

Identify key objectives and priorities

One of the most crucial initial steps when it comes to time blocking is identifying key objectives and priorities. Encourage your employees to reflect on their short-term and long-term goals. They should consider how their tasks and activities align with these goals and contribute most significantly to the success of the organization.

Which tasks require immediate attention and which ones can be scheduled for later?

The aim here is to create a shortlist of realistic and manageable key objectives. If in doubt, organize one-to-one sessions to work with each employee on this. Or include it in your regular performance reviews. Then, once employees have identified their goals, they can allocate dedicated time blocks based on urgency, importance, and potential impact.

Analyze workload and time requirements

Secondly, once each employee has a defined list of objectives and priorities, the next step is to analyze their workload and time requirements. This involves assessing the tasks at hand and estimating the time it will take to complete each one.

Explain to your employees that they need to take a detailed look at their tasks and consider factors such as complexity, dependencies, and any potential obstacles or challenges. They then need to calculate how long they think each task would take, based on past experience and guidance from their managers. If they have a large project, they should break it down into smaller, more manageable subtasks. This makes it easier to realistically calculate how long each task will take.

Determine suitable time blocks

The next step, once each employee is clear on their list of tasks and they have time estimates for all work, is determining suitable time blocks for all tasks and activities.

Here are a few tips to help with this:

  • Consider the attention span and focus required for each task. Some activities may require shorter time blocks, such as 30 minutes or 1 hour, while others may need longer blocks, such as 2 hours. Experiment with different block lengths to find what works best.
  • The length of each block of time will also depend on other factors, such as the nature of the task and personal preferences.
  • Be mindful of energy levels throughout the day. Schedule tasks that require the most focus and creativity during peak productivity periods.
  • Flexibility is key when determining time blocks. Be open to adjusting and refining employee schedules as needed.

Plan breaks and downtime

An important element in the time-blocking process is planning breaks and downtime strategically. While it may seem counterintuitive to schedule breaks, downtime plays a vital role in maintaining productivity. Taking regular breaks also helps prevent burnout, enhances focus, and promotes mental clarity.

Make sure each employee schedule includes specific time blocks for short breaks throughout the workday. These breaks can range from a few minutes to longer intervals, depending on preferences and the nature of an employee’s work. You should also track employee hours to make sure employees are consistently taking their scheduled breaks.

Pick the right time blocking method

There are a number of methods you can use for time blocking, so it’s important to pick the right format for the specific needs of your business. It’s a good idea to experiment with a few different approaches to see what works best for you and your workforce.

Here are some popular time blocking methods that you might consider:

  • Fixed time blocks. This method involves allocating specific time blocks for different activities or categories, such as work tasks, meetings, breaks, personal time, and other commitments. The blocks remain consistent day-to-day, providing a structured schedule.
  • Dynamic time blocks. In this method, employees allocate time blocks based on their daily priorities and needs. Blocks can vary in duration and order, allowing for flexibility and adjusting to changing demands.
  • The Eisenhower matrix. Named after President Eisenhower, this method involves dividing tasks into four categories: Urgent and Important, Important but Not Urgent, Urgent but Not Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important. You then assign time blocks accordingly.
  • The 80/20 rule. This method focuses on identifying and prioritizing the most critical tasks that yield the highest impact. Time blocks are allocated primarily to the 20% of tasks that contribute to 80% of the results, ensuring a focus on the most meaningful work.
  • Day theming. This is where you assign specific categories to different days, such as dedicating Mondays to planning and strategy, Tuesdays to client meetings, Wednesdays to creative work, etc.
  • Timeboxing. With this time blocking method, you allocate specific “boxes” for individual tasks or activities to maintain focus and ensure completion within the allotted time.
  • Task batching. Finally, this is where you group similar tasks together and allocate dedicated time blocks for completing them in a consolidated manner. For example, designate specific blocks for email management, phone calls, or data analysis.

Schedule non-negotiable blocks for focused work

Although flexibility is important, it’s also a good idea to schedule non-negotiable time blocks. These are blocks of time that are dedicated to specific tasks that require focused work. Most importantly, these blocks cannot be rescheduled or altered.

For example, non-negotiable blocks might be reserved for important meetings, client appointments, or deadlines with fixed timelines. These blocks should be prioritized and scheduled as early as possible to avoid conflicts with other tasks.

Another important aspect is communicating these non-negotiable blocks to other team members. That way, everyone understands when specific employees cannot be interrupted, providing structure and clarity to your time-blocking schedules.

Share schedules and communicate expectations

Communication shouldn’t just be reserved for non-negotiable time blocks. In fact, ideally, employees should have full visibility over their colleagues’ time-blocking schedules as this helps to promote a culture of collaboration and minimize interruptions.

For example, employees can use shared calendar platforms or project management tools where they can view and share their time-blocking schedules with colleagues. This transparency allows team members to coordinate their availability for meetings, collaborative work, and discussions.

Additionally, having open channels of communication specifically dedicated to discussing scheduling expectations can further enhance the effectiveness of time blocking. For instance, employees can use team messaging apps, project management platforms, or dedicated communication channels to discuss their time-blocking schedules, make adjustments, and address any conflicts or overlapping commitments.

Use the right tools

Finally, using the right tools is crucial for effectively implementing a time blocking system. These tools can help streamline the process, enhance organization, and maximize the benefits of this productivity technique.

For example, you should consider using a scheduling app or time clocking template with specific features for time blocking. These time block planner tools enable your employees to easily create and visualize their time blocks, set reminders for upcoming tasks or transitions, and synchronize their schedules across devices.

Secondly, task management tools and project management software can also help your employees structure and track their time-blocked activities. They can use these tools to create task lists, set priorities, assign deadlines, and collaborate with team members.

It’s not just employees who need access to the right tools, either. As an HR professional or small business manager, you also need access to tools to manage employee time and oversee individual and team progress on specific projects. Investing in time tracking tools like these can help you monitor and analyze employee schedules and productivity, track time spent on different tasks, generate reports, and identify areas for improvement.

Time block schedule example

Ok, we’ve seen the theory and discussed what’s involved, but what does the technique look like in practice?

Here’s an example of an employee time block schedule for a typical workday:

  • 8:00 am – 9:00 am: Email and communication
  • 9:00 am – 10:30 am: Project A – research and planning
  • 10:30 am – 11:00 am: Break
  • 11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Client meeting
  • 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Lunch break and downtime
  • 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Project B – creative work
  • 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Team collaboration and updates
  • 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Break
  • 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm: Administrative tasks
  • 5:30 pm – 6:00 pm: Wrap-up and review

It’s important to note that the specific time blocks and activities will vary depending on the nature of the job, individual preferences, and company requirements. This example provides a general structure that can be customized to suit different work environments and roles.

Time blocking template

A time blocking template is a pre-designed document that helps employees organize and plan their time effectively. It provides a visual representation of time blocks allocated for different activities and tasks.

These templates typically consist of a grid or table format, where each row represents a specific time slot, and each column represents a category or activity. Employees can fill in the template with their identified tasks and allocate dedicated time blocks accordingly. This can save a great deal of time and help you create a consistent system for employee time blocking in your organization.

For example, Factorial’s project tracker template offers a range of features that streamline the time blocking process and enhance employee productivity. Employees can use the template to create and organize tasks based on projects or specific objectives. They then get a clear overview of their ongoing projects and deadlines. They can also allocate time blocks for each task, set priorities, and assign them to team members if applicable.

One of the most notable features of Factorial’s time block template is its flexibility. Each schedule can be customized based on individual preferences and work styles. Employees can adjust time block durations, add additional columns for notes or progress tracking, and personalize the layout to suit their needs.

The template also enables users to track progress and monitor project milestones. With visual indicators and progress bars, employees can easily assess task completion and identify areas that require attention or adjustment. All this helps your teams enhance collaboration, communication, and overall productivity.

Best time blocking apps and tools

The best employee time blocking apps and tools include features that help employees effectively manage their time and tasks.

Here are some common features that you should look out for before you invest in a solution:

  • Time tracking. Look for a platform that includes features for employee time tracking. Even better if it includes an electronic time clock and timesheet software. That way, you also get access to valuable remote employee time tracking data. You and your employees can then use this data to track how long they spend on specific tasks or projects, providing insights into productivity and helping with performance analysis.
  • Task management. Time blocking apps typically include task management features that allow users to create, organize, and prioritize tasks. They often provide options for adding descriptions, due dates, and reminders for each task.
  • Collaboration and sharing. These features allow employees to share their time block schedules and tasks with their team members. This fosters transparency and facilitates better coordination among colleagues, particularly when working on shared projects or tasks.
  • Calendar integration. Integration with calendars is a key feature in most time blocking tools. It enables employees to seamlessly view and sync their time blocks with their existing calendar events and appointments. This ensures a holistic view of their schedule and prevents potential scheduling conflicts.
  • Reporting and analytics. Advanced time blocking tools might also include reporting and analytics features. This enables you to analyze productivity, track time spent on different tasks or projects, and identify areas for improvement.

Make the most of your time with Factorial

Aside from offering a time blocking template, Factorial can help businesses optimize their employee time management strategies and maximize productivity in a number of other ways.

Most notably, Factorial offers time tracking and attendance management features. With these tools, businesses can accurately track the time employees spend on different tasks and projects thanks to an intuitive time clock, enabling better resource allocation and project planning. This data can also be used for analyzing productivity trends, identifying areas of improvement, and making informed decisions to enhance efficiency.

Moreover, Factorial’s schedule template and collaboration features allow teams to easily communicate and share information, fostering effective teamwork and reducing time wasted on unnecessary meetings or emails. With centralized communication channels and file-sharing capabilities, employees can collaborate seamlessly and stay updated on project progress.

The benefits don’t stop there, though.

Factorial’s solution also includes advanced performance management tools that enable businesses to set goals, track progress, and provide feedback to employees. By aligning individual goals with the organization’s objectives, employees can prioritize their time more effectively and work towards achieving tangible outcomes.

Finally, Factorial’s reporting and analytics features offer insights into employee productivity and time utilization. Businesses can generate customized reports, view attendance records, track overtime, and gain valuable data to optimize their workforce management strategies.

By combining all these features into one centralized platform, you can enhance your time blocking processes, optimize employee time management, enhance collaboration, and ultimately maximize overall productivity.

Cat Symonds is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Originally from Wales, she studied Spanish and French at the University of Swansea before moving to Barcelona where she lived and worked for 12 years. She has since relocated back to Wales where she continues to build her business, working with clients in Spain and the UK.  Cat is the founder of The Content CAT: Content And Translation, providing content development and translation services to her clients. She specializes in corporate blogs, articles of interest, ghostwriting, and translation (SP/FR/CA into EN), collaborating with a range of companies from a variety of business sectors. She also offers services to a number of NGOs including Oxfam Intermón, UNICEF, and Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership.  For more information or to contact Cat visit her website ( or send her a message through LinkedIn.

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