Time Blocking vs To-Do Lists: Which One Should You Use?

Setting out on a journey to create a more productive day is always advisable for anyone who feels overwhelmed. Otherwise, you might slip and will not be able to keep up with your daily tasks. It can happen to the best of us, and it is not a fun place to find oneself. If this sounds like a struggle that you are going through, then you need to know that there are options available to you. I have been there myself, and I know it for sure that it is not too late to take advantage of time management techniques such as time blocking or to-do lists. Let’s explore these options.

What Is The Time Blocking Method?

Time-blocking is a productivity strategy used by people who want to capitalize on every moment of their day to get themselves to a better place as far as their productivity is concerned. In other words, it is something that people can use to squeeze more out of the hours that they already put into their work. If they are particularly diligent with it, time-blocking can free up additional hours that they didn’t even know they had.

To practice this strategy successfully, one must:

  • Think about what they plan to do with each part of their day
  • Schedule their day ahead of time
  • Set aside certain blocks of the day where they only focus on one thing

Using this strategy helps put yourself in a better frame of mind about how to attack whatever it is that you need to accomplish. Humans are ill-equipped for multi-tasking, and that is why it is best to dedicate certain times of the day to knocking out the most important tasks before moving on.

A year from now, you will wish you started today – Author, Karen Lamb

Pros And Cons Of Time-Blocking

Just like anything else, there are pros and cons to time-blocking. Knowing what these are can help you decide between time blocking vs to do lists and other options that are open to you when it comes to your planning strategy for the day.



The biggest upside of the time-blocking method is that it allows you to focus on one task at a time. Your brain is not built to do more than that, and you should not push it to try to when you know for a fact that the human mind has certain limitations that exist for very good reasons. If you try to push your mind to do things that it is not built to do, you will notice that the results are less than you had hoped for as well.

Another nice thing about time-blocking is that it forces you to schedule your day ahead of time. Get into this habit, and you will find that you have more time than you realized.



One of the main complaints that people have about time-blocking is that it makes being spontaneous a lot more challenging. They have to try to stick to their blocks of time as designed, and that can be a big drawback for those who like to pick up everything and take on a new adventure from time to time. Unfortunately for those people, it may be necessary to simply wait.


What is the time management to do list method?

Many people have at least attempted to use a to-do list method for time management in their life. It is the practice of writing down all that you need to get done for the day in an easy-to-access list.  You can tick the boxes off one by one as you go down the line and start to take out the things that you most need to take care of.

to do list on a board and a hand pointing to it

People like to use this method because it is relatively simple and straightforward. They appreciate the ability to look at their list of things that they need to knock out and see the progress that they make with every step that they take in the right direction. It is encouraging to them, and they see concrete evidence that they are advancing on their goals when they do this. However, it is best to think about the pros and cons of this strategy before implementing it.


Pros and cons of to-do lists



To-do lists can help you easily visualize your day which may prove helpful in structuring what you need to get done for that day. Also, you will gain a sense of satisfaction as you mark off each item from your list. Finally, it will give you the motivation to stay on task and accomplish what you need to accomplish for that day.



All that being said, some people say they form a sense of guilt if they are unable to finish their entire list for the day, and it is just too simplistic for what they are trying to accomplish.


Time blocking vs to-do lists: which one should you use?

This is what you really want to know about, isn’t it? You would like to get to the core of the question and see which type of strategy is actually best for those who want to get things done. Most people start with the to-do list method, but that is not necessarily the best choice for their needs. Time blocking is starting to gain a lot of steam with people from all walks of life because they are seeing more success with it than they ever did with a simple to-do list.

clock on purple background

When using time blocking you don’t necessarily have to know what you are doing literally every second of the day, but it does help to at least have some idea of how you want things to go. You can always work on creating a combination of the two by using time blocking to take care of the things that are on your to-do list. Choosing to do it this way is essentially treating time blocking as a means of accomplishing your to-do list, and there is nothing wrong with that.

In fact, many people suggest that this is the way to go about things. You can’t go wrong if you follow the path that makes the most sense for you and gets you to a place where you have an outcome that you can stand by.

Time blocking is particularly effective for:

  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Busy parents
  • Businesspeople with a lot of meetings

To-do lists are NOT an inferior method of organizing your day, they are just a simpler one that may not work in every situation. However, if you have very little time on your hands right now to even bother with creating a productivity schedule, you may want to lean on using a to-do list to get started for the simple fact that it is a lot easier to throw one of these together than it is to create a time blocking schedule. You know what tasks you need to get done, and it is not so challenging to write them all down and have them ready to go for the next day. If you need to make sure you get the productivity train rolling on this one, you may want to start with a to-do list that will work for you.

At the end of the day, as long as you are making some progress towards your goals and striving to accomplish the tasks that you set out for yourself on a given day, you really can’t go wrong. Many people have high hopes and ambitions for themselves when they first start the process of managing the mess that is their day, but they only really make legitimate progress towards those goals when they use a time management method consistently for accomplishing tasks.

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