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By Scott Lutostanski

We are all looking for ways to be more productive. Time blocking is a great strategy to make this happen. We are more likely to get started and complete tasks when we set out detailed plans. If we plan the what, where, when, and how of what we need to work on, we are much more likely to activate and execute the task. 

So how does time blocking work? Time blocking involves planning out work in small, time-based increments. Think 5 or 10 minutes. So if a student decides they want to work from 6 to 7 PM on homework, they would map out this hour in 10 minute gaps. The key is to be as detailed as possible. It’d be easy to look at an evening’s worth of homework and say Math will be 20 minutes and the Spanish worksheet will take 30 minutes. 

Time blocking requires us to be very detailed. For instance, let’s say a student has to complete Math Section 3.1, problems 1-25 odd and read chapters 11 and 12 of the Great Gatsby with annotations. Their time blocking would be much more detailed than “Math” and “Read.” It may look like this:

Time Work
6:00- 6:10 Math- 3.1, problems 1-15odd
6:10-6:20 Math- 3.1, problems 17-21odd
6:20-6:30 Math- 3.1, problems 21-25odd
6:30-6:40 BREAK- 10 min timer, listen to music
6:40-6:50 Great Gatsby, Ch 11, Pages 211-219
6:50-7:00 Great Gatsby, Ch 11, Pages 219-228

As you can see, this plan is much more detailed than students are used to. The key components are the exactness with which the task is outlined, and the organic evaluation checkpoints that are included within this type of planning. During the planning process, a student will be forced to analyze their work and determine the difficulty and how long it will take. In this example, you can see that the first set of math problems took less time and became more time consuming as the assignment went on. And at the end of each 10-minute increment, a student will be forced to evaluate if they finished what they planned out. The student has a goal to work towards, and the system provides immediate feedback.

Often times, this technique takes a long time to become accurate with our time estimations. It is human nature to overestimate our abilities (and underestimate the time needed). By utilizing this technique, students can become very productive and improve their academic outcomes.