Calendar blocking is something that I have been doing for a long time, but maybe not to the same extent as you might see online. When I was in university I used what I call a TimeBar or a Chronodex and for really busy weeks I would literally block out time for various projects and study sessions. To the point where the people in my life would cheekily laugh at me for planning everything I do including scheduling naps and meals. But when it came down to it, when giving myself a block of time completely devoted to whatever it was that I needed to do and nothing else, I was at my most productive state.
Now that I’m noticing a rise in the popularity of calendar blocking, I decided I would try it for a month and report back to you as to how it went.
One of the challenges for me when I started this was deciding what app I would use as my calendar. It was a tough decision between Google Calendar and iCal. I use an iPhone and have an iPad, but my personal laptop is a PC and so is my work desktop. I knew I couldn’t rely entirely on the Apple Suite, so Google Calendar it is.
One of the biggest reasons calendar blocking is so conducive to productivity is because it forces you to give your tasks as much weight as an appointment or event. By mapping out exactly when you are going to do something and making sure to give yourself enough time to do it, you are making a commitment, similarly to booking an appointment.
So, I started calendar blocking on August 1st. I used Google Calendar as the platform because it’s available on all devices. For now, I have 6 categories; work, personal, get things done, fitness and wellness, routines, and a calendar for my partner’s work schedule.
I keep the default tasks and reminders calendars turned off because they function differently than the standard calendar and they don’t really fit into this system.
The work calendar is just to separate that time out from the rest, as I found early on in the process that I do not like calendar blocking for work. For me, it just can’t work because of the nature of my work. But more on that later. I also use this calendar to book time for my casual freelance work, and I differentiate those time blocks by changing the event colour to green.
My personal calendar holds any personal events or certain tasks that are not quite hobby or work-related. For example, I will book a slot to wash my hair using this calendar. Errands also are blocked within this calendar. At the moment, I also schedule meals under this calendar, though I am often tempted to switch them over to my fitness and wellness calendar.
The ‘get things done’ calendar is where all of the meat and potatoes of this system are. Any time that I need to spend in a ‘productive’ work flow (usually in front of a computer or notebook) needs to be scheduled in this calendar. I will keep things pretty vague in the calendar, sometimes adding descriptions in the notes, but usually the details about what I am doing during that time slot are in my planner. For example, I have a languages session scheduled for today. I blocked time for it and have specified in the notes (in this case) what I will be doing during that time.
My fitness and wellness calendar includes any time slots for workouts and I book time for grocery shopping and meal prepping in this calendar as well.
The routines calendar is a bit of a work in progress, at the moment I just book a morning routine slot and a sleep slot, which indicates what time i plan to end my day. I hope to one day have a guideline as to what i am doing during these routines in the descriptions of the events, but for now I am just winging it, based on my current habits.
Every Sunday (or Monday if it is a long weekend) I sit down with my laptop and plan the bare-bones structure of my week. This is basically entering anything that is unmovable. For a ‘productive time’ block, occasionally I will book a ‘productive time’ slot and either freestyle what I spend time doing during that slot. Sometimes, I would change the slot to what I really plan to do closer to the day, as things tend to change depending on what I get done in the days before.
For daily recurring items that are at different times, schedule them as a recurring event for the same time every day. Otherwise, it will be overwhelming to add them on a week-to-week basis. Even if the time of that activity changes from day to day, I schedule a recurring slot or task, for the amount of time that it usually takes and change it on Sunday’s when I am planning out my week.
For example, I like to keep track of my partner’s work schedule so I can plan my time around it. I know I won’t be productive when he’s around because my priority is to spend time with him, so I plan most of my productive time slots around his schedule.
I also always schedule travel time. I do this for work by setting two recurring daily events within my work calendar and then I chnage the colour of this specific event to grey. That way, I know this is travel time related to a work event as opposed to a personal event. For personal event-related travel time, I book these on an event by event basis, and I use pink to match my personal calendar.
- Set the events up as a daily repeating event and delete it or reschedule it as needed. This is so easy with Google Calendar because you can drag events around your calendar.
- Always book time for your travel time.
- Keep your work calendar and personal calendars separate.
I knew I couldn’t rely on calendar blocking alone, I am the type of person who needs a place to brain dump, set goals, and plan ahead. For that, I use the CleverFox Pro Planner.
I still keep things flexible by moving things around as I go, this way I am not bound to anything I can’t do but I won’t lose track of it either. Instead of deleting slots, I tend to move them to ensure there is no lost time dedicated to whatever that thing is. This is similar to the concept of migration in bullet journaling. Doing this is especially good for things that require more dedicated time to being successful, such as learning or studying.
I tried adding unmovable events to my work calendar but I just didn’t see a purpose of it. It didn’t have any value to me in terms of keeping me productive or on track and I rarely used it as a reference, so I quickly stopped doing that.
I also tried using Outlook for work-related tasks, to see if it would help to keep me focused and on the task at hand.
- I found out quickly that it truly doesn’t work, at least for me. The only thing it helps with is making sure that people don’t book meetings with you during the time that you have allotted for something else. Similar to what I found during my Bullet Journal journey, I learned that I need two separate planning systems, for work-life and personal life, that are well-integrated or I can’t function.
Did it work?
Yes, definitely. I found that going back to calendar blocking and doing it systemically everyday (or at least every day that I had large gaps of free time) helped with my productivity immensely. Even on days where I didn’t follow my schedule to the tee, I found that I was still more productive because that time was blocked for something, even if I replaced the block with a new one. Ultimately, I was still doing work that needed to get done. I will absolutely continue to calendar block going forward. Considering the fact that this is a productivity system that is also completely free, given you use something like iCal or Google Calendar, it is at least worth a try.
If you’re looking for a productivity system that will facilitate maintaining a work-life balance, this is a good option, but if you’re anything like me or if your work is anything like mine, you may need to find a unique system for that. But overall, calendar blocking gives you a great opportunity to visualize how much time you’re spending on work and on your personal events, chores, and hobbies.
So my recommendation is definitely to try it out and see if it works for you. I know a lot of people who can’t work with a rigid schedule, so it might not work for everyone but it is worth a shot. Especially if you remember that whatever you book for yourself is not set in stone.
I hope this post was helpful to some of you. I know I’ve been absent for a little while, but I am back now and hoping to get back to a consistent schedule. Until then folks, keep on keeping on!