Time Blocking: How Entrepreneurs Can Win Back Their Day?

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Peter Shallard
CEO | Commit Action |

You jump into your car, already running ten minutes late for an important investor meeting that could change the course of your business. 

As you speed out of the driveway, your phone pings loudly with a calendar invite for an emergency all-hands your partner scheduled.

You RSVP yes while balancing a mug of lukewarm coffee in one hand, and steering with the other. Then bam - you hit a red light. 

You're stuck...with the clock ticking loudly, knowing crucial opportunities await if only you could get past this standstill. 

Your business partner texts urgent questions about the product roadmap you still need to refine. The tension mounts as you try to reply while inching through congestion.

This scenario mirrors the chaotic state of overload and distraction that countless entrepreneurs battle every day. Too many critical priorities collide at once while time fades away. 

Crucial goals that need deep strategic thinking often get lost in the frenzy of daily crises.

You feel like you're speeding towards an important destination but external circumstances seem to steer your journey, leaving you feeling powerless and off-course. 

But what if there was a system allowing you to map out the most efficient route to your destination amidst the surging traffic? 

Cueing in: time blocking – a method that provides a sense of purpose and direction to break out of the loop of frustration, creating progress towards your most ambitious goals.

This guide shares how to leverage time blocking to arrive consistently at your most courageous priorities - aligned with your biggest entrepreneurial goals.

What Is Time Blocking?  

time blocking examples.webpTime blocking simply means intentionally organizing your day. You proactively schedule work sessions for key priorities in set time slots, or "blocks" on your calendar. 

It works like a museum carefully curating exhibits in one dedicated wing rather than randomly scattering them.

You purposefully plan your days and weeks in chunks of focused time around specific themes, focusing on tasks that match your energy levels, instead of just reacting hour by hour.

You set aside specific times for your three most important tasks, fiercely protecting those blocks from interference, distraction, or ad hoc meetings. 

This ensures you make consistent progress on meaningful objectives, avoiding the all-too-common scenario of reaching the end of an unstructured day at 6 pm with little to show for it. 

In summary, time blocking provides a structure ensuring your limited resource - time - gets allocated to the highest leverage activities or as we call it at Commit Action - high leverage work.

Why is Time Blocking Important For Entrepreneurial Productivity?

what is time blocking method.webpBeyond providing a structure, time blocking offers the following productivity benefits for entrepreneurs:

1. Enables Sustained Momentum on Key Initiatives 

Without thoughtfully blocking time for your best opportunities, it’s incredibly easy to get distracted by urgent tasks, meetings, and requests - never finding the flow to advance the key initiatives aligned with your biggest business goals. 

Time blocking provides the infrastructure to stay focused, working consistently on courageous priorities rather than getting lost in whatever screams the loudest each day. It lays down train tracks so you reach intended destinations faster by minimizing diversion. 

The accountability coaches at Commit Action conclude each of their weekly planning sessions by time blocking out dedicated space for working on the three highest-leverage tasks of the week. They follow up, checking in via text message throughout the week to ensure those time blocks on the calendar get fully executed, just as intended. 

2. Minimizes Task Switching  

Frequent context switching between different types of work and modes of thinking slows entrepreneurs down by overloading their cognitive bandwidth. It’s incredibly taxing to toggle your mind between writing creative copy, number-crunching data, managing teams, and visualizing future strategy in rapid-fire succession.

Time blocking is about setting intentions for deep work: It lets you focus, uninterrupted, to power through your single biggest growth opportunity. This avoids wasting mental energy switching between very different tasks.

It creates efficiency and quality of work product, by letting you go into deep workflow states rather than hampering productivity by constantly starting and stopping new things.

3. Carves Out Space for Reflective Work 

what is timeboxing.webpThe turbulent reality of entrepreneurship involves far more than just putting out fires. 

Capitalizing on opportunities requires carving out thinking space for assessing challenges, analyzing options, strategizing solutions, and designing innovative products.

Yet, without time blocking, days fill up rapidly with demanding interactions, leaving no space for strategic thinking. You end up in a Catch-22 situation where the urgent tasks repeatedly displace the important ones. 

Time blocking ensures you escape this reactive mode.

4. Prevents Exhaustion By Preserving Energy Peak Times

Time blocking also ensures collaborative meetings don’t consume your precious blocks of peak mental energy required for intense creative work. By getting intentional about when you mindfully do your best work, you ensure your productivity is aligned with your natural energy phases or cycles. 

Time blocking is taking control of your schedule. Instead of letting your most important work get done in the gaps between other people’s demands on your time, time blocking makes your work (and opportunities) the priority. 

5. Helps Seize Unexpected Opportunities

How ready and open is your schedule to pivot for a big opportunity when it comes knocking? 

As an entrepreneur, opportunities can arise suddenly and you need to be ready to pivot swiftly to take advantage of them in short timeframes and with limited resources. Partnerships, joint promotion ventures, investor interest and more can all arrive spontaneously as the product of serendipitous networking.

Time blocking is about controlling your schedule, getting more done on your terms, and conditioning yourself to work on what’s important versus what is merely urgent. Having a conscious, mindful grasp of your week’s schedule allows you to make informed tradeoffs, swapping out time blocks for other opportunities if and when they arise.  

Ultimately, time blocking offers support for entrepreneurs to realize their boldest visions instead of remaining stuck in reactionary mode. It clears space for creativity, innovation, and growth.

How To Master Time Blocking

how to do time blocking.webp
The path to time-blocking mastery starts with a ritual of thinking through your week before you dive into it. It’s helpful to imagine becoming your manager yourself, as though the person who works through your coming week is an employee you’re mentoring. 

How would you direct that person’s focus, and priorities, and—ultimately—how would you schedule out their time? 

1. Audit Your Current Workload and Commitments  

Start by fully mapping out your recurring meetings and deadlines over the next week.

This is your first opportunity to inject mindfulness (and effectiveness!) into your plans for the week. Start by asking yourself: 

  • Is there anything scheduled you would be better served by saying no to? 

  • Are there meetings that could be emails? 

  • Do you have big blocks of space available for deep work focus? 

  • If not, what can you do now to create some? 

The bitter pill to swallow for some who want to time block is that their current slate of commitments actually won’t allow it. If you’re over-scheduled, your first step has to be reclaiming space to be commandeered for real work. 

You must walk away from this audit with defined, committed dates and times that will fit focus sessions. The goal is to find pockets to add focus time to your schedule.

2. Pick Up To 3 Committed Tasks

Once you have some designated time blocks for devoting to meaningful work, choose your top one to three critical tasks that are directly tied to your big goals. Resist the urge to time block too many tasks or this becomes counterproductive. 

The results your time blocking creates will ultimately come down to how you set your priorities. At Commit Action, our coaches guide our clients through a methodology to identify their “highest leverage” tasks. These are the work projects that are simultaneously:

  • Important not urgent — Because urgent tasks tend to get done anyway, so proactive time-blocked work should focus on the strategic but non-urgent!

  • On your business, not IN your business — If you’re a business owner, you’re always going to create the most value when you’re working to improve the machine you’re building versus merely being a cog within it. 

  • Requiring Courage — the biggest opportunities aren’t about working harder or even merely smarter. Look for the ideas where boldness is needed to succeed.

  • Big Reward but Manageable Risk — seek out those asymmetric opportunities where the risk of failure is low or tolerable, but the opportunity for upside is huge. 

  • Lacking Accountability — use your time blocks to move forward with the ideas no one else is expecting (or demanding) of you. The stuff that’s expected tends to get done due to the natural accountability present, but the best ideas that live in your head gather dust if you don’t carve out time for them. 

3. Block Out 60-90 Minute Daily Calendar Sessions 

Dedicate uninterrupted 60-90 minute daily time blocks for those one to three prioritized and high leverage tasks on your calendar, first before scheduling other activities. Treat this time as a precious, non-negotiable appointment just like you would for a major client meeting. 

60-minute blocks enable flow while significantly longer sessions risk mental fatigue. 

It’s important not to set over-the-top expectations—like several 5-hour deep work sessions in a week—that ultimately set you up to fail and mentally write off this entire exercise. 

Instead, start small with a manageable time block that you know will be easy to follow through with. Build a streak of successfully using your time blocks and work to expand them from a positive mindset of doubling down on a winning strategy. 

4. Live by the calendar, protect your time blocks as sacred

You want to use every tool you can—both inner and external—to produce your time blocks. 

Leverage built-in calendar settings like focus time, out-of-office alerts, or busy indicators to shield your sessions from interruptions or scheduling conflicts. If you have a team, communicate your time-blocking strategy and expectations to them: Let them know these times are sacred and not to be scheduled over. This signals to colleagues and external contacts that you are fully unavailable during these windows, enhancing your productivity.

You may want to use white noise, focus-enhancing music, or other novel strategies to align focus. The science of these approaches doesn’t necessarily have to be validated, what matters more is creating a ritual around time blocks—taking specific behavioral actions to condition yourself to shift into a focused, deeper state of work.

One of the most powerful tools for creating an aura of true sacred commitment around time blocks is to change your environment to suit the type of work. 

Commit Action client Julie Conway is both an artist and entrepreneur and intentionally moves to new inspiring environments to cue her mindset into the deep work time blocks she needs. She uses visits to Seattle’s oceanfront to do strategic thinking, the public library to dive into administrative sprints, and her studio to do creative thinking. Where can you go to unleash your best, most focused work?

As a member of Commit Action, you’ll finish each week’s planning ritual by having your coach time-block out your tasks onto your literal calendar. They’ll also follow up with you with text messages throughout the week to ensure you stay on track.

5. Never delete a block, only move it

Let’s be realistic: Every well-laid plan sometimes goes awry.

You won’t always hit all your time blocks. Stuff comes up, sometimes urgency wins.

There’s just one secret you need to know that makes time blocking work over the long term, even when it’s not working in the moment: Never delete a block from your calendar and never leave a time block in your calendar’s past if you didn’t complete it.

What you must do, instead, is keep rescheduling the time block into your future. If you really can’t spend an hour today working on your big idea, then push it to tomorrow. But FORCE yourself to find time for it. If not tomorrow, then the next day. If not the next day… next week. 

This process forces you to be conscious of what you’re doing: Deferring your growth opportunities in favor of urgency.

By never deleting—and continuing to reschedule into the future—any non-completed time block you never abandon it as a priority and intention altogether. And you have to keep choosing to prioritize it, by finding time for it tomorrow for example. 

Or, in the case where you’re repeatedly deferring and rescheduling the time block, you have to mindfully do so while being conscious of the choice you’re making to prioritize other things. 

Once you time block something, you should only ever delete it if a change in your life or business means you will now never want to do that task.

The psychological core of time blocking is really about becoming mindful, strategic, and intentional with the decisions you make about how you spend your time. Instead of life merely “happening to you”, time blocking—and specifically, not deleting non-complete time blocks—forces you to choose how you take action in life!

Time-Blocking Mistakes to Avoid

how to use time blocking.webpWhile time-blocking drives incredible productivity when done right, it’s easy to slip up and fall out of the habit. Some common pitfalls include:

1. No Flexibility Between Back-to-Back Blocks   

Are you ambitiously scheduling back-to-back intense focus sessions with no breaks? That's a recipe for burnout. 

Reality never perfectly aligns with your best-laid plans. 

Two simple principles will help make the habit of time-blocking successful and sustainable: 

  • Leaving room for error 

  • aiming to exceed expectations. 

To do this, ensure there is downtime or wiggle room every day for urgency and randomness to have its place. A blocked-out calendar is a fragile, brittle calendar liable to break. Exceeding expectations is the key to happiness and sustainability: Start by aiming low with a time block commitment that feels easy and build on the habit from there. 

Allow for buffer time and adaptability between your blocks to account for transitions that may run over.

2. Trying to Designate Entire Days to Specific Goals

While dedicating each day to specific goal areas can work occasionally, attempting to time block all working hours often needs to be revised amidst the dynamic needs of entrepreneurship in the long term.

Remember, time blocking is about committing to something and saying NO to everything else. Realistically, there will be a few days in a year when you can effectively “say no” to all but one project. Especially if you’re at the helm of an established business with many moving parts.

Have a reasonable strategy - block 2-3 key tasks weekly rather than 12-hour days of dedicated focus.  

3. Not Considering Energy Fluctuations  

Our peak mental productivity times change throughout days and weeks based on our moods, circadian rhythms, sleep, environment, etc.

Hence, you must block time for the deepest strategic thinking and intensive creative work for when you’re naturally inclined to be motivated and focused - it could be mornings or evenings. 

Be aware—and realistic—about the waves, cadences, and even seasons of your personal energy and motivational flow. Smart time blocking should capitalize on your natural tendencies and habits. 

4. Too Rigid About Single Missed Blocks

A missed block or shortened session due to unexpected obligations should not completely derail all your momentum. Build flexibility so you can bounce right back into your schedule in the next available window. 

Making sure you reschedule a missed time block means having enough space in your future to reschedule it. Always leave room for error. 

Perfection is impossible - focus on consistency.

5. Forgetting to Leave Room for Over-Delivering 

If your tasks sometimes get done faster than planned, use the bonus time to start other priorities. This lets you take advantage of suddenly having high productivity.

Be ready to switch to top priorities when something finishes early freeing up your time. This flexibility helps make the most of such rare bursts of flow states and peak productivity.

Creating an optimal schedule is a delicate balancing act between structure and fluidity. Stick to blocking 2-3 essentials daily while leaving room to adapt. And have grace for yourself when life happens!

Examples of High-Impact Time Blocking Sessions

how does time blocking work.webpTime blocking can produce a big ROI for the time and energy invested in a surprising number of different spaces. Time blocking proves invaluable for ensuring progress on goals both in the day-to-day workflow and strategic thinking. Here are some practical examples for you:

1. Daily Planning Time to Align on Priorities

Rather than just defaulting into reactive mode, start days proactively by blocking some time to align priorities, review statuses, and set the plan. Planning sessions fuel productivity by directing the ideal course rather than drifting away from your goals.  

Check off completed tasks, handle quick items, schedule longer tasks into focus blocks, write down stray ideas and challenges, and plan the next steps so the day launches intentionally. 

This isn’t necessarily a time block that needs to be large. Think instead about the minimum effective dose of planning: The least amount of time you can spend getting intentional and prioritized for the day… for the most effect! 

2. Creative Project Sprints  (No Distractions!)

Schedule 2-3 hour blocks focused only on making progress on innovation or new products. This deep strategic work needs long stretches, not 15 minutes between other commitments.

Remove all potential digital distractions to harness your best creative problem-solving abilities during these sessions. Utilize the environment to bring out your best, potentially relocating to a space that inspires creative thinking.

3. Monthly Strategic Analysis to Assess What’s Working & What’s Not

Schedule 60-90 minutes every month to look back at key statistics in your business. Get the big picture of what's working and what’s not.

Review the data to see what activities move the metrics versus stall, course correct your priorities if needed, and double down on what works.

You must document takeaways so you can make strategic changes while still early, instead of waiting until year-end.

As an accountability partner, Commit Action helps its members see the forest for the trees in this way. We regularly go deeper beyond our weekly planning ritual to reassess major long-term milestones in light of new data and developments. 

4. Sales Sales AND MORE SALES! 

What’s the single best thing you can do to bring revenue into your business, right now?

The easiest wins that Commit Action coaches often create for their clients are reminding them of the tremendous ability they have, as entrepreneurs, to bring money in the door. 

A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up playing “big company” and can slip doing the unsexy stuff that just drives incremental growth. 

Do you maintain the discipline to hit the phones, knock on doors, or write the ad copy… whatever the thing is in your business that keeps the lights on? 

The best time block is often the one that drives the revenue that makes everything else possible. 

The time-blocking options are endless. Ultimately it comes down to deliberately structuring time across days, weeks, and months to act on your most important entrepreneurial goals rather than remaining stuck in reactive mode.

Maintaining Consistency Through Accountability Coaching  

timeboxing example.webpTime blocking provides immense benefits - accelerating the rate at which you execute big goals. 

But knowing time blocking works isn’t the same as making it work for you. Consistent application is everything. 

That's why Commit Action’s accountability coaches perform time blocking as a “done-for-you” service, where you simply have to show up to your weekly planning call and let them build out your calendar for you.

Through our science-backed productivity ritual and the accountability that comes from working with a dedicated pro coach, our members achieve incremental business growth that compounds massively over time.

We help entrepreneurs plan their weeks with tasks that move the needle. We then provide the external discipline needed to stick to the ritual despite the inevitable interruptions and distractions that may arise.

If you’re struggling with follow-through on productivity systems alone, consider our 1-on-1 coaching. 

Sign up today to start working with a coach – it’s risk-free to try.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Does day theming work?

Yes, day theming builds on time blocking by dedicating each day to specific goal areas, creating even more structure and focus to optimize your productivity.

2. What is the blocking method by Elon Musk?

Elon Musk spends 80-90% of his day in large multi-hour calendar blocks focused on engineering and design to minimize context switching and distractions.

3. What is the difference between time blocking and to do?

A to-do list is just an inventory of tasks while time blocking sets aside specific calendar slots to accomplish the most important to-dos consistently.

4. What is the difference between timeboxing and time blocking?

These are very similar concepts, but timeboxing is a fixed period for task completion while time blocking is scheduling blocks for high-priority tasks without a rigid completion expectation.

5. What famous people use time blocking?

Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah, and Mark Zuckerberg have all touted time blocking to accomplish ambitious goals.

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