For most, we're significantly familiar with what calendar blocking is, especially as it's been around for quite a while and most if not all productivity experts encourage it.
Although its' popularity, for it to be an effective time management strategy a lot has to be taken into consideration. If not done correctly, you might actually find yourself being less productive and motivated than before.
Don't get us wrong, we too believe that it can work out for most people but it depends on your responsibilities and how you choose to manage your time.
That's why we chose to share how and why calendar blocking can actually hurt your productivity and reduce your work performance.
What is calendar blocking?
Calendar blocking or more often known as time blocking is a simple time management strategy where you “block” a specific amount of time on your calendar to complete a task.
This technique involves planning your day in advance and reserving the duration necessary to complete important tasks on your schedule. For example, you can block 30 minutes each day to answer emails. Or you can dedicate a couple of hours to a more extended task like writing a blog article.
How much time you give each task is up to you, however, it’s important that you stay true about how much time each task actually takes. Be careful to not fall into the tendency of underestimating just so you can get more done. The consequences can be quite dire.
This technique is so beneficial that top leaders in the world have adopted it. This includes Elon Musk who has to manage his time between three different enterprises. However, there is a lot of information that he blocks only 5 minutes per task, which he himself has stated is not true. As he mentions “you need to have long uninterrupted times to think. Can’t be creative otherwise.”
Why is calendar blocking so popular?
The main reason why calendar or time blocking is so popular is that it provides space to work without any interruptions. It allows you to focus on tasks with reduced procrastination as you’ve given yourself a limit on when to get things done.
How often have you experienced the stress of knowing that something needs to be completed but you don’t seem to find the time to do it? This is where time-blocking comes into play.
As you plan your days or weeks ahead of time and dedicate blocks for your important tasks, there is no need to be switching between them or get distracted with emails and meetings.
Also, if we don’t organize our time appropriately we run the risk of focusing most of our time on one task and not getting anything else done. Meaning that even though that one task will meet its deadline all your other responsibilities would be delayed.
This technique is based on what's known as Parkinson’s law. Which essentially states that the work we have to complete expands to fit the time we give it. So, if you have 4 hours to complete a task, it will take you 4 hours to finish it. When maybe it could have only taken you 2 or 3 hours. Leaving you with the extra time to get other important things done.
Some of the popular benefits of calendar blocking:
- It promotes deep work
- Helps organise your team for important responsibilities
- Reduces procrastination and distractions
- Helps keep track of what needs to be done
How can it tamper with your productivity?
It can take up a lot of your precious time
Time blocking involves a lot of planning which can take time out of our busy schedules. Not only, for time blocking to be effective, it has to be planned correctly. You need to take all your responsibilities into consideration, which for many is hard enough.
It might seem counterintuitive, but basically, you would have to block time to block time! It’s not easy to plan your day in detail, especially when you have to dedicate specific times for each task.
When you look at an empty calendar and find yourself needing to organize your tasks in regards to your working hours, where do you even start? It might become quite overwhelming. You have to prioritize your work in regards to urgency and importance. Then, which one would you start with? The most important ones or should you get the easy mundane ones done first?
Also, you have to take into consideration that not all days are the same, nor are all weeks. There is no one template that fits all. So, the way you blocked your calendar last week might be completely different from how you’re doing it this current week. Specific events might be happening or you might have personal errands that you have to also include in your schedule.
As you can imagine taking all this into consideration and blocking time effectively is not an easy task. For it to be done right, you need to dedicate time on a weekly or even daily basis for planning. You might end up asking yourself if it’s even worthwhile.
Doesn’t give space for thinking and creativity
Not all tasks are easy to put a set time for. For example, how do you set how much time you have to brainstorm, or reflect on what or how to do something? Most tasks are easy to set a time to start and a time to end. But when it comes to creative projects it’s not so easy.
You can’t just feel motivated to come up with ideas, as it normally just comes to you naturally. Your creative peaks don’t happen at the same time every day so how do you find the space to let it flourish if you have a jammed packed schedule?
This is not only a problem for creative tasks but also for those that might involve a lot of brainpower. More challenging responsibilities might first need some prep time, like doing research or planning what is necessary for completion. These types of activities are not easy to “block” into your calendar.
At times, thinking and coming up with ideas for future strategies involves the help of other team members. If you both use time blocking to the last minute of your schedule how will you find a mutual time to work together? Even if you do, would you want to stop your flow state just because your calendar says so?
Doesn’t give space for unexpected changes
You might think that the most effective way of being productive is by managing every minute of your day. Meaning that you have your whole day planned out, from the moment you wake up to the moment you lay in bed. Sure, you’re most definitely taking full advantage of the time you have, but this is not always a good thing.
We all know that life enjoys throwing us curve balls and we have to always be ready to receive them. However, how can you be prepared if you literally don’t have time in your schedule to deal with them?
When working on projects, there are many aspects that are completely out of your and your teams' control. For example, your client might request extra details or for the project to be handed in sooner than expected. If your schedule is already so tightly booked you wouldn’t have space to deal with any unexpected changes that come your way.
Sometimes it could be as simple as a team member taking a sick leave. Then, who is in charge of taking control of their responsibilities? If you assume that your whole team works with time blocking the same way you do, then there would be no space to deal with this extra work.
We suffer from the planning fallacy
As humans, we have many limitations with one of them being our tendency to deviate from rational thinking. This tendency is considered to be a cognitive bias and we suffer from many of them.
One of them is called the planning fallacy. This phenomenon is defined as the tendency to underestimate the amount of time that is needed to complete a future task. The main reason for this is our reliance on overly optimistic performance scenarios. To cut it short, we find ourselves to be better at doing things than what we actually are.
When planning for a task, we all have the best intentions to get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Unforutnently, we don’t take many variables into consideration when deciding how long and how much effort the task actually entails.
What this means is when using the calendar blocking technique, the likelihood of allocating less time than what’s needed to complete a task successfully is quite high. If this is the case, then from the get-go you’re set for failure.
If the first task of the day runs over the time limit, then all the other responsibilities you had for that day will also be delayed. When looking at the picture, as delays accumulate, you'll most likely not be able to achieve your monthly or even quarterly targets.
So when does time blocking work?
The best way for time-blocking to work is by using a work management tool that does it for you. As we have previously mentioned, humans have their limitations, which at the end of the day stops us from being accurate with our plans. If we're already so busy with how work is currently scheduled it might be hard for many to find the time to efficiently use calendar blocking.
With Planless, all the hassle is removed. All you have to do is state what has to be done, and its' AI-algorithms will fit in each task depending on your availability and their deadlines. Did something change? Just tell Planless and it will reschedule your calendar to ensure that you still meet all expectations. Find your calendar booked for 100% of your capacity, to ensure steady but impactful progress through your workload.