Are you looking for a study plan that not only acts as the ultimate To-Do list, but actually forces you to get all the tasks done?
In this short guide, I want to show you a method that is foolproof in making sure that you stick to your plans — and tick everything off your English study To-Do list.
It is called Time Blocking. And it is so easy and simple to set up that anyone can use it. And it gets all the things done.
Yes, it is that good.
Want to know what it is and how to do it?
What is Time Blocking?
A To-Do list just tells you what things you need to do.
If you block the time this tells you when you need to do it.
Basically, you block out every single hour of your day—even the time off, rest periods and watching TV times. Block everything and this will help you to do all the things you need to do.
There are two main proponents of time blocking that I have read in recent years.
Cal Newport, who talks at length about the benefits of time blocking in his book Deep Work.
And Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan who write about it in their book The One Thing.
Essentially, both of these books say similar things about the standard To-Do list.
They simply don’t work.
With a To-Do list, all we do is add things to a list of things that we want to get done. We try to combat some of the things and we might strike a couple of them off the list. But then more tasks arrive in our life and we add those to the list.
Eventually, we get drowned in things to do and keep trying to tackle them all but just can’t keep up.
What usually happens in the end, is that we give up as it just seems like an impossible task.
Because effectively it is. We have no chance of doing all the things on the list. It just keeps growing.
What you need to do is block time to get things done.
Instead of making a list — block a segment of time to do that ONE particular task.
Set a time when it gets done. And then you do it.
Why Does It Work?
The main reason why time blocking works is down to Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law states that whatever work we have to do will fill whatever time we allocated to is.
Put simply, that means that if you give yourself three days to read two articles you have to do for reading homework, then that is how long it will take.
And this is where things go wrong for many English students.
The teacher sets a deadline for homework or assignments — and they treat that as all the time they have to do the work.
What usually happens is that everything gets done at the last minute.
So you have to read two articles by Friday. The teacher told you two weeks ago. But you end up reading the two articles late on Thursday evening.
Or on the bus on Friday morning.
This is why you need to block the time.
Cal Newport talks about this in his book Deep Work. He says that a 40-hour week can become a 60-hour week if you block your time efficiently.
He never works past 5:00pm — and Cal Newport does a lot of work!
Time Blocking is Not Easy
Guessing the Time
The number one difficulty that time blocking is hard is that we just don’t know how long a task can take to complete.
We often underestimate how long a task will take. We might set aside two hours and it takes five.
Only by doing the tasks — and measuring the time they take — can we get a clearer idea of this.
No one can create a schedule and stick to it 100%. Life gets in the way and we have to do things that were not part of our original plan.
Too Many Distractions
This is something that is more in our control but many people fall for it.
How many times have you been studying and then say to yourself, I’ll just check Facebook very quickly.
You tell yourself you will only give yourself ten minutes but then two hours slip by.
This is very common — but something we have more control over than the other things above.
How to Do it
To book times and do any system of time blocking, you need a calendar.
And what better calendar than Google Calendar?
By all means, use any calendar you want. But in my opinion, Google Calendar is the best one available.
You can find it here — Google Calendar.
Block off all your rest and leisure time
The first thing to do is to block off all the time when you are resting or spending time with family or friends.
This may sound illogical but in the book The One Thing, the writers say that if you do this it is much more logical. You block off all your leisure activities and then you can clearly see what free time you have left over that is available.
So for example, maybe every Friday evening you have a big family dinner and get together. Let’s say between 7:00pm and 10:00pm.
If you block that time off then you know that you cannot use that time for anything else.
Do this with all your social activities and rest times. Once you have booked all those times then you know that any time outside of these times is time available for studying English.
The One Thing talks about this in great detail.
Big Tasks First
You need to time block all the big tasks first.
For the sake of studying English, you could separate these into the different skills of English.
You could also have blocks for Vocabulary and Grammar.
Think about when you like to do any of these activities. Many people like to read in the evening when it is quiet and the day is over. And many people prefer writing early in the morning.
But you really need to think about your preferences and what times suit you for each of these skills.
So you could have Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings blocked off for writing between 9:00am and 11:00am
You then book time off for reading. Let’s say it’s every evening of the week, between 7:00pm and 9:00pm.
You continue time blocking your calendar until you fill all your available free times with study times.
In the end, it might look like this:
Of course, this is just my rough plan. You should make your own for your own requirements and needs.
But you should be able to see that you can fill your entire calendar with all of your English study plans.
The next step is to put in each block exactly what you need to do.
So maybe on Tuesday evening, you need to read two essays for your reading homework.
Let’s say they are two articles:
Environmental issues in the Pacific Ocean
Now all you have to do is add these to your reading time blocks.
And then for writing, you have to write an essay. Let’s say:
A Day in the Life of Me and My Family
You could then block that for Wednesday morning.
Just continue to do this for all the assignments, exercises, homework or self-study plans you have to do.
You can colour code each time block so you can clearly see which one is which.
Then Do It!
The next step is to do it.
You look at your calendar and you can see which times are set for which activities.
You have all your free-time activities blocked off along with family time, leisure time and rest.
Then you have all your study plans time blocked. You can clearly see whatever you need to do any time of the day.
There is no excuse!
All you have to do is follow what you have set in your calendar.
It took me a very long time to realise just how great time blocking is. I read about it several times and I don’t know why I didn’t implement it into my life.
But I can tell you, now that I do this, I find I am much more productive and I get all my work and tasks done on time.
It is a great study plan method as it uses two things:
A To-Do list
And then you take all the tasks on your To-Do list and block a time on the calendar.
This really works!
Try this for just a month or so and see how much you can get done.
And leave a comment for me below!