Outlook Tip – Time Blocker

Here’s a secret: I’m not great at planning my time.
Good news: A strategy I’ve found for dealing with this that has proven very successful.

Jesse J Anderson introduced me to a method he calls the Tactical Time Blocker, based on techniques in the book Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Everyday by Jake Napp and John Zeratsky.

Essentially, plan out your important tasks and schedule them at the start of your day. Then, track what you actually do during the day. At mid-day, revise your schedule based on what you still need to accomplish, new tasks that have come up, and revised priorities.

Jesse explains this better than me, as well as how he manages it on a sheet here:

I liked this format, but the sheet wasn’t working for me, so I recreated the experience in Outlook.

I created three new calendars, naming them Planned, Actual, and Revised.

In the Folder tab of the Outlook Calendar form, you can create a New Blank Calendar

I grouped them together to make them easier to manage

Right click on the calendars area, and they can be organized in a New Calendar Group

I made a Day view in the calendar section aligning my Work calendar with my Planned, Actual, and Revised calendars.

I also pinned my tasks in the todo bar on the right.

My Tactical Time Blocker workspace in Outlook

I like this approach for a few reasons:

  • At the start of each day, I fill my planned calendar for the day – transferring my work meeting first, and then figuring where I will insert time for the work tasks that I need to accomplish.
  • Outlook’s “current time” bar sliding down the calendar is a great reminder for me to keep my Actual calendar updated during the workday.
  • Having multiple calendars allows me to block out my day, while still giving colleagues visibility to actual availability in my work calendar (which is shared with them).
  • I can view and add to these multiple calendars from the Outlook mobile app (which works great with Siri for appointment scheduling, btw)
  • Maintaining my actual calendar facilitates easy time entry at the end of the day.

Do you have any good time management strategies that work for you? Do you think this will be helpful to you? Let me now in the comments.

Also, if you prefer the paper version of this technique, Jesse’s printable version is available for download on Gumroad.