How To

February 14, 2024

How to time block

What can you do to get uninterrupted time to get things done? Time blocking may be your saviour

“Time blocking is a time management tool that can be used for pretty much anything in your professional or personal life that needs your attention,” says Carl Martin, who founded group coaching platform Peerpod after heading up learning and development at deathtech Farewill and at venture capital fund Forward Partners. “I time block focused work, my lunch hour, exercise time, time to review emails and Slack and even time to walk the dog.”

Carl explains that time blocking is a way of being intentional with your time: “If you’re unstructured and passive with your time, other people and their priorities will dictate how you spend your days.”

To ensure you have time for the serious meaty work that needs your full attention and energy, Carl shared his top tips for time blocking in our Startup Life newsletter.


Set clear goals and intentions

What are you going to do with the time you’ve set aside? Do you just want time and space to think? Great. Whatever it is, once you’re crystal clear about what you’re using the time for, create a calendar invite with a title and description that match your goal and intention. Also, if it’s a desk task, write it down so it’s in front of you to remind you of your goal for that time. Knowing what and why you’re doing something will give you the motivation and drive to maximise your time.

Think about your energy levels

When are you most productive? Most creative? When is your energy depleted? Ask yourself, “At what time of day am I at my best to work on this?” For example, if you’re an early riser and  you’re most productive from 6-10am then block that time for deep work.

Treat it as a priority

Time blocking is a boundary-setting exercise — you are using your calendar to ensure you protect your time from others but it’s also to protect it from your own procrastination. For it to work, you need to accept that it’s okay to prioritise time for yourself. I like to call it “meetings with myself” to ensure I treat it with the same level of respect or consideration as any other external meeting. If someone came along and said, “Hey, can you cancel your other meeting to come to my meeting”, you’d probably say no.

Create the right environment

If you’re trying to write 20 pages for your company wiki, it’s probably not going to happen when you have 30 tabs open and notifications popping off left, right and centre. If you’re trying to brainstorm 100 ideas for a new product feature, a small white office cubicle is probably not going to inspire creativity. Ask yourself what environment — physically or on your machine — would support your goals. Add that to your calendar invite too.

Hold yourself accountable

When you attend a meeting, the other attendees are often the reason you show up. To hold yourself accountable and celebrate turning up for yourself, find a visual way to show you attended the meeting with yourself. This could be changing the colour of the diary invite if you show up, or creating a tally chart on a post-it note on your desk.

Extend the benefit to your team

Give your employees the option to time block a certain number of hours a week. This could be an hour every day that is protected from all other meetings — no matter the seniority requesting it — and is mandated at company policy level. It could also look like a meeting-free day — essentially, you’re blocking out time for the whole team to get deep work done — where meetings can only be booked if absolutely necessary.

Plan your week

Now you have the basics, you want to start planning a week ahead of time to understand when and where you have space for time blocking. I created a process called TIME that can help:

  • Top priorities. What are your top priorities for this week? When would be the best time for you to work on this? How much time do you need?
  • Immovables. What are your non-negotiable meetings? All Hands meetings and 1:1s, for example, sit under this. Are there things you can move? Can you delegate attendance or ask for summary notes from a meeting?
  • Management. What rituals will help you effectively manage yourself and others? What would be the best time for this in the diary? For example, are Monday afternoons 1:1s? Or are Fridays from 4-5pm for admin because that doesn’t need your best energy?
  • Empty time. How you use the remaining time is up to you. But if you don’t want someone to book that 30-minute slot in between two two-hour meetings, block it for yourself. If you don’t create intention for that time, someone else will.

On the subject of… Time blocking

🧱 The comprehensive guide to time blocking.

⏱️ Here’s how to use time theming.

🧘🏽‍♀️ The power of bursts and breaks. You need recovery time.

Anisah Osman Britton

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Startup Life , a weekly newsletter on what it takes to build a startup. Follow her on X and LinkedIn