Time Blocking for Student Productivity and Health

Owaves Team Day Planner, Time Blocking, Time Management

Whether you’ve heard of time blocking before or this is your first time coming across this term, read on to learn more about it and its benefits!

Are you a student currently attending Zoom university? Are you struggling with finding the motivation to attend your online classes or organize your time? Or perhaps you are a student who wants to live healthier, but are finding it difficult due to the lack of structure that has been created by this pandemic. We all want to keep being the best versions of ourselves possible, especially during this time. For instance, on top of keeping up with classes, we may want to exercise more or cook more to eat healthier. However, we fail to do so because we can’t seem to find the time for these extra activities.  

The truth is, we all have time; it’s just a matter of organizing our time in ways that better reflect our goals. There are many solutions out there that can help us with this. One solution to try out is time blocking, a planning method in which you break up your day into intervals of time and assign one specific task or one group of related tasks to each interval (Rampton, 2019). Another similar planning method is time-boxing, in which you assign a time interval to a task to limit the amount of time you spend on that task (Clockify, n.d.). You could also try out bullet-journaling, where you write down your schedule, to-do lists, and goals in a notebook (Garrity & Schumer, 2019). By organizing our days in advance, we become more mindful of how we spend our time. We no longer mindlessly scroll our Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat feed for hours but instead spend our free time doing more valuable activities. 

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Productivity Benefits of Timeblocking

One of the benefits of time blocking is that it increases productivity by promoting deep work. Contrary to the myth that we can multitask, our brains are actually only capable of doing one task at a time effectively. Multitasking prevents deep work as our brains are constantly trying to switch from one task to another. According to Cal Newport (2016), professor and author of the book Deep Work, time blocking facilitates deep work by allowing you to focus all your attention on one task. This reduces any attention-switching costs from multitasking as well as any time spent on deciding what to do next. 

Time blocking also increases the chances of getting work done. As any perfectionist may know, it is sometimes hard to stop working on a paper if it isn’t of flawless quality. Limiting the time we allow ourselves to complete an assignment helps us accept what we have and move on to the next task (Rampton, 2019).

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Health Benefits of Timeblocking

By organizing our time based on our goals and priorities, we also spend our time more intentionally in ways that support our health. Behavioral science research has shown that planning improves follow-through behavior on wellness-related goals (Rogers et al., 2015). Because many wellness goals are long-term and do not provide instant gratification, we either forget to do them or procrastinate on doing them. With time blocking, we can better visualize our goals and unpack the logistics behind executing them, increasing our chances of actually following through. 

In addition, planning in advance creates a conscious commitment that may make us feel uncomfortable if we do not follow through. Research has shown that reporting one’s commitment to another person increases the likelihood of following through due to added social pressure (Rogers et al. 2015). So if you want to get something done but are feeling unmotivated, planning that activity with a friend might be the way to go! For instance, having a workout buddy might motivate you to exercise more because he or she can hold you accountable. Check out Owaves’ new My Moai feature, in which you can see your friends’ daily schedules and sync with them when you both have a free time slot in your schedule!

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How To Time Block

So how do we properly time block? Here are some steps for time blocking, courtesy of John Rampton (2019), Leadership Network VIP at Entrepreneur, and Cal Newport (2016), author of Deep Work

  1. Make a to-do list of tasks you need to accomplish the following day.
  2. Arrange each task according to their order of importance. 
  3. Place the most crucial task in the block of time that corresponds to the first part of your day -OR- perhaps even better, the part of your day when you’re most focused!
  4. Take the second most important task and place it in the second time block, the third in the third time block, etc. Don’t worry if you don’t get to less important tasks that aren’t as much of a priority! 
  5. Adjust your schedule as needed throughout the day. It is okay to deviate from the original plan, especially if you are in deep work. Simply take a moment to reorganize your schedule afterwards!
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Time Blocking Tips

The first time blocking tip is to assign task-related themes to different days of the week (Rampton, 2019). For instance, if you’re a college student taking classes at home due to the pandemic, you can devote certain days of the week to certain subjects (e.g., Mondays for math, Tuesdays for chemistry, etc.). Designating task-related themes to different days of the week can help boost your focus and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. 

The second time blocking tip is to block in regular breaks into your schedule (Rampton, 2019). You can do this in the Owaves app by incorporating multiple “Relaxation,” “Play,” or “Flow” activities into your day. Breaks provide you with some “wiggle room” in case life happens and allow you to replenish your mental health, which ultimately boosts your productivity (Rampton, 2019). Make sure you assign breaks their own blocks of time, so you don’t keep driving the “productivity train” the whole day, only to crash due to lack of fuel. Be sure to regularly disembark and then reembark on the productivity train throughout the day! Next stop, “Self-Care Station!”    

Speaking of self-care, the third and final tip relates to the second one. In addition to blocking consistent breaks into your schedule, be sure to block in basic self-care activities that recharge your batteries (Rampton, 2019). It’s tempting to focus your time blocking solely on assigning blocks of time to work. However, a well-balanced life calls for much more than just work; make sure to block in time for eating, exercising, sleeping, and any other activities you enjoy that boost your spirits.          

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References

Clockify. (n.d.). Timeboxing. https://clockify.me/timeboxing

Garrity, A. & Schumer, L. (2019, December 27). What is a bullet journal? Everything you need to know before you BuJo. Good Housekeeping. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/a25940356/what-is-a-bullet-journal/

Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. Grand Central Publishing. 

Rampton, J. (2019, April 16). Time blocking tips top experts and scientists use to increase productivity. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/332290

Rogers, T., Milkman, K. L., John, L. K., & Norton, M. I. (2015). Beyond good intentions: Prompting people to make plans improves followthrough on important tasks. Behavioral Science & Policy, 1(2).    

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