Time Blocking For Students: What is it, How To Use it and 3 Bonus Tips

If you’re a student who believes there’s never enough time in the day to accomplish anything, I want to challenge your assumption. Is it possible that how you’re managing your time is what’s limiting you?

We readily give our time and attention to shiny distractions like social media, video games, or boredom. Then we complain that there’s not enough time to do anything.

So, let’s level up our productivity and find more free time by taking control of the hours in our day through an effective time management technique called time blocking.

What’s Time Blocking?

Time blocking is a time management technique that turns your daily schedule into individual blocks of time called time-blocks. Each block represents a task to complete in a specified time period. For example, I will reserve one block of time on Monday between 9 am and 10 am for writing emails. Here is an example in action:

calendar scheduled using time blocking technique

Time increments for focusing on any given task may begin at 5 minutes. This practice helps you become better at sustaining your focus for longer periods. Gradually, you may lengthen the block of time to 30 minutes if the task calls for it. Time blocking for students is particularly helpful for managing activities between life and academia.

Time blocking means deliberately tracking the hours of your day and splitting the day into meaningful blocks– three hours of work, thirty minutes for lunch, sixteen minutes of quiet meditation. Time blocking helps minimize stretches of unproductive time procrastinating.

Why Should Students Use the Time Blocking Method?

Meaningful activities are prioritized

By strategically planning where you’ll direct your attention, your time suddenly becomes intentional, meaningful, purposeful. Time blocking doesn’t limit what you can do in a day or in a week. Rather, time blocking safeguards your time from becoming vulnerable to distractions.

You gain extra time

Time blocking isn’t just goal setting and doing tasks like a robot. It’s what you can accomplish as a result of sticking to your plan for better productivity through working in short bursts. Ultimately, you’ll have more free time as you’ll be more productive doing your important tasks.

The more disciplined you are with structuring and managing your time, the easier it’s to find free time. After all, have you noticed how different it feels to spend a day being lazy vs. doing nothing on purpose?

Usually, inspiration and creativity can’t flow properly when you’re burdened by everything you still need to do without an end in sight. 

Time blocking gives you peace of mind

The urgent things you must accomplish are to get designated time slots when you manage your time by time blocking. The mind tends to wander when it doesn’t know what to focus on and you’ll notice your thoughts mulling over the same stale ideas.

orange clock on wall

Time blocking gives obligations weighing heavily on your mind a designated block of time. In other words, you no longer have to remember not to forget that thing you need to do when you get time because you have a plan.

How Can Students Start Using the Time Blocking Method?

Follow some strategic steps to begin time-blocking. You can start by making a list of things you feel are important to prioritize. Then you’ll want to create a visual, the block template, where you assign time blocks to daily tasks. Now you can begin the process of time blocking while ensuring you don’t forget to allow some time for unexpected interruptions, downtime, and focus-heavy work.

List your top priorities

Create a list of daily tasks, activities, and long term or short term goals. Think about how to prioritize your daily activities in a way that promotes productivity and supports your values.  Maybe you want more downtime or fewer distractions.

Spend enough time thinking about what’s important to you to get a better sense of which activities should be placed at the top of your priority list. List activities that take up the most of your time and attention, then remove the ones that hinder productivity.  

Add activities as blocks of time to your block template

Create a template by drawing it or printing out a weekly calendar with dates at the top and blank spaces underneath. There is more than one way to section off your blocks of time but, essentially, you want to have enough space to plug in daily activities–use a pencil so you can erase them.

Start by plugging in personal activities, ensuring you allow time blocks for breaks and unexpected interruptions. You probably want to avoid burnout, so keep this in mind as you create your blocks and include enough downtime to balance out your work time.

Create separate blocks for focused work

Designing, writing, and coding are examples of activities requiring uninterrupted focus. You’ll add them to the template next. Try not to be too conservative with the amount of time you designate for these types of tasks. Many students and professionals have a hard time sustaining undivided attention for a long stretch of time. So, we tend not to spend enough time on concentration-heavy tasks. Although we may overestimate our productivity. 

Add time block cushions

Time blocking doesn’t make life stop. Friends will still drop-in unannounced and unexpected phone calls will steal your focus. A good rule of thumb is to overestimate your time blocks by 5 or 10 minutes. Then create separate blocks to add between activities. Block cushions are stand-alone blocks that replace the time stolen by life’s surprises.

time blocking schedule with time cushions

If you need social proof, look to Elon musk. His success is due to a number of variables, but strategic planning and intentional steps towards his vision were likely a part of that. According to Musk, “People work better when they know what the goal is and why,” which is precisely the idea behind working with intention.

Tips For Students Starting the Time Blocking Method

Apply time blocking to various long or short term goals

You can use time blocking to plan the goals you want to accomplish today or by the end of the year. And you don’t have to stick to professional goals. Time blocking breaks up time. And goals are bound by a length of variable time. So, you can use time blocking to achieve any goal you have in mind, like saving money or preparing for a mid-semester exam.

Time block action-driven tasks

Action-driven time blocks help you move easily from one task to the next. For instance, if your time blocks include abstract tasks like conference calls and meetings, you can specify the logistics of where you’ll be as the best place to avoid interruptions. Additionally, you can add brief talking points or any other action to make the task go smoothly.

Make time blocking a habit

Incorporate time blocking into your routine until it feels integral to how you manage your time. To see how time blocking impacts your long-term goals, you’ve got to use it enough to experience a change like sustained focus and better productivity.  

Time blocking allows you to customize your tasks from the smallest to the most time-consuming. When you can see your goals in front of you, envisioning your future becomes more real and attainable.

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