Why You Should Time Block And Not Multitask
Do you often find yourself being pulled in different directions trying to meet the needs and expectations of people around you as well as those you impose on yourself? Do you feel bombarded by constant distractions and demands on your time. Perhaps you feel that you have no control over your time and feel like you are on a treadmill sorts.
Many people feel this way today. There truly are far too many things vying for our attention and sucking away the precious time we have. Is it no wonder that so many people are stressed and bogged down with the weight of everything they have to or think they need to do?
Multitasking has been around for a while now – the concept that more is better and faster is better. Multitasking gives the impression that we are productive even if we are just running around with no direction. What if the hype and image of multitasking was not living up to the promise of better and faster? What if quality and time were more important and produced better results?
Time blocking vs. Multitasking?
Time blocking is a time management technique that allocates blocks of time in our calendar for specific tasks or projects. It is the antithesis of multitasking.
Multitasking has become almost a badge of honour that we wear to show to the world how busy we are and how much we can get done all at once. Whether it is function of our work environment or simply something we choose to do, multitasking – switching from one task another on a dime or trying to accomplish several tasks at once has become the accepted standard. The question is, does multitasking make us more productive or are we simply too distracted?
Goeorgetown university professor Cal Newport has this to say about multitasking in his book Deepwork and Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (thank you to this site: Why You Should Time Block and Not Multitask):
“It’s the bouncing around from task to task, or multitasking that deteriorates the muscle allowing you to focus.”
Clearly we live in a distracted and unfocused world. We think we are getting more done, but, in fact, just the opposite is true. We are “bouncing” like tennis balls from one thing to another trying to get everything done and actually not accomplishing very much at all.
What we may be doing more than anything is wasting a whole lot of time and energy on things that don’t really matter and draining our physical and emotional energy as well. is it no wonder there is an epidemic of burnout and absenteism?
Professor Cal Newport makes a case for time blocking in order to be able to be fully present in the work we are doing. He states that both the quantity of time and the intensity of our focus are important to be able to reach our goal of accomplishing our tasks in a shorter amount of time.
“High quality work produced is a function of two things – the amount time you spend on the work and the intensity of your focus during this time. If you can increase your focus, you’ll get more done in less time.” – Cal Newport
Time blocking has several benefits over multitasking. As was just mentioned prior, time blocking allows us to be more intensely focused on one task for longer periods of time. That is definitely good for our brain which doesn’t have to switch gears and adjust many times a day. As a result, time blocking means fewer errors due to less mental fatigue and fewer distractions. Being able to spend more time on a task or project fosters creativity since we have more time to think about what we are doing and how to do it. We are no longer functioning on automatic pilot. all of this will definitely, as Cal Newport says, increase productivity.
Another benefit is the feeling that we are more in control of our time distribution. Feeling out of control produces mental stress, but the feeling of being in control brings mental well-being and satisfaction. Ultimately we feel more rested when we spend focused time on projects than when we bounce from one to another with no focus.
The Benefits of Time Blocking
- Better focus
- Fewer errors
- Increases productivity
- Increased creativity
- More control of our time
- Mental well-being
- Increased Satisfactio
How to Time Block
1. Write a Task List
Write everything you want to do, need to do or have to do in this list. Leave nothing out. Include your grocery shopping, family time as well as your work time. Include calls you need to make as well as movie time with family. Don’t forget your exercise time and your downtime.
Why is it important to include everything? Simply because all of these activities take up some piece of your time.
2. Identify the “Must Be Completed” Tasks
In this step, you need to do your first “triage”. Which tasks have a specific deadline? Which tasks must be completed within the week or are scheduled for the week? For example, you could put meetings, appointments or specific work-related projects into this list. These are your predetermined priorities for this timeline.
3. Determine the Priorities for the Week
This step is the second “triage” where the priority items are further narrowed to the top priority for the week. These are the ones you will get to first or are scheduled for a specific day.
To avoid overwhelm try to limit priority tasks or activities to maximum 2-3 per day.
4. Determine the Time Blocks
This step is the one where we put everything into its appropriate box of time. First, evaluate how much time you will need for each task or activity. Be realistic about the time needed – don’t cut yourself short. If you have longer projects, you can assign them them to 2 or more blocks of time in the week.
Remember that the time blocks are not just for work. Schedule in family time, exercise and fun time and well as downtime. Time blocking is all about setting boundaries and respecting them. If family time is important (which I hope it is), make sure that this is communicated to family members by how much time you give them. and let them and others knows that this time is reserved for family.
5. Plan for the Unexpected
No matter how well planned your calendar is the unexpected is to be expected. Life happens and plans need to be put aside. You will need to allow for flexibility and a “going with the flow” mindset as well. It us crucial not to become so tied down to a well planned time-blocked calendar that you are unable to adjust to life’s up and downs.
Once you have gone through the process of creating time blocking plan, it is time to communicate with others involved iin order for them to understand when you are available and for what. Communication of your plan will help others to respect your time and your limits and perhaps may even incite them to be equally protective of their own time.
Effective communication is at the base of healthy and well-oiled relationships. Miscommunication and misunderstandings are usually at the core of strained relationships. So having a time plan and communicating your plan to others is a helpful way to build trust and respect in any relationship, as well as protect precious time.