Time-Blocking Methods:
a Guide for HRs

Human Resources leaders wear multiple hats. Where other professions require expertise in a single focused area, HR leaders are required to be subject matter experts across various legs of a business. From managing the employee lifecycle to maintaining company policies, the job of HR is vast. As the folks who stand on the front line navigating the constant societal changes, it’s proving difficult to keep up.

Many HR leaders are finding it challenging to manage their current workload while maintaining the flexibility needed to respond to changes in the workforce, such as resignation waves and the shift to remote work. As a result, deadlines are missed, meetings get pushed, and tasks inevitably fall through the cracks.

It may feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to manage all the responsibilities HR teams are asked to look after. While that may prove to be true at times, introducing structure and implementing systems such as time blocking can help boost productivity, increase agility, and free up time so HR professionals can be ready to take on whatever challenges are thrown at them while ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. Time is a precious resource for people leaders, and finding ways to optimize it is imperative to be able to do a job well done.

 

What is time blocking?

Time blocking is a structured scheduling method that supports time and task management. Think of it as a focused version of a to-do list.

With this method, your to-do list is integrated into a daily calendar, dedicating a set portion of the workday to a specific task or group of tasks. This technique is used to boost productivity through personal time management, minimizing distractions or time spent deciding what to do next. Time blocking is a simple yet effective method that allows HR folks to take charge of their schedules and carve out time to tend to all the tasks they need to get through their workload.

 

What to consider when time blocking

The process of building a timeblocked schedule can help bring things to light that you may have previously overlooked. Reviewing your weekly tasks and considering how much effort and time they require is a great opportunity to de-clutter your workload.

You’ll begin to see what is taking up the majority of your time and, as you approach the process of building a time block schedule, you can consider which tasks can be delegated out. When you have a schedule as busy and demanding as HR, it’s all about working smarter, and that means discovering areas where you can benefit from automation and delegation to increase efficiency.

For HR pros, there are certain functions of the job that are repeat offenders when it comes to taking you off course throughout your workday. Navigating and answering employee benefits questions is a big one in this category. Benefits questions, especially around the open enrollment period, are a huge time sink for HR, as employee inquiries come from all angles, at all hours of the day, resulting in near-constant interruptions.

For such time-consuming tasks as employee benefits management and open enrollment support, utilizing automation tools to outsource some of the workload can be a major game changer. Healthee takes automation to the next level as a time-saving tool that can answer employee benefits questions for you, freeing up valuable real estate on your daily calendar for other pressing matters. To learn more, book a time with our team here. 

Time blocking is an effective management tool for all of the other tasks that can’t be delegated, automated, or outsourced.

 

Benefits of time blocking

Time blocking takes the guesswork out of the workday. By dedicating a set amount of time to each specific task, you can create a more proactive mindset and free up mental space for big picture thinking. This method can be particularly beneficial for HR professionals who often have an “open door” policy, leading to constant interruptions.

Benefits of time blocking include being able to

  • Step out of reactive mode and into a proactive mindset
  • Focus on one task at a time, increasing creativity and fresh perspective
  • Free up mental space for big-picture thinking

An example of how time blocking can be implemented in an HR setting is by setting aside a two-hour block where employees across the company can come by to discuss pressing matters. With this designated “open-door” block, you can clearly communicate your availability while also minimizing disruptions to your workflow. By incorporating this structured approach into your daily calendar, you’ll find it easier to manage both scheduled tasks and unexpected drop-ins from colleagues.

 

How to start time blocking

Now that you know the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of time blocking, you’re probably wondering about the ‘how.’ Building out a time block schedule is fairly simple, and can be achieved in three easy steps:

1.Take stock of your weekly tasks

Set aside at least an hour in your calendar at the beginning of every week (or better yet, at the end of the previous one!) to sit down and think about everything you get done in the workweek and write it all down in a list. No task is too small to add to this list, be sure to include things like your daily commute, lunch break, and exercise routine alongside your work-related to-dos.

2.Rank your tasks in order of importance

Now think about each of these tasks in order of most to least pressing. This may vary week to week, depending on deadlines and general workflow shifts. Consider time- dependent tasks as well, such as commutes or lunch breaks.

When everything on your to-do list feels crucial, prioritization can be tricky. A helpful approach to prioritizing your tasks is to create a matrix weighing task importance and urgency of each assignment. This helpful visual tool will help order the list for you, guiding you through sorting your tasks. At the top of your list will be your most pressing to-dos, these are tasks that you’ve deemed both important and urgent, working your way down to the tasks that are less urgent and less important. If the urgent/important categories don’t suit your workload, you can also sub them with other rankings such as effort versus impact, or value versus cost.

3.Create a template

With your tasks ranked, you can begin to map out your day. The most important part of this step is to be realistic about how much time you need for any given task. You may think you have a good grasp on the amount of time you require to tackle each item on your to-do list, but studies show we often underestimate our completion times. Due to factors like optimism bias, we tend to give ourselves less time to complete a task than we actually need, which can often cause issues like missing deadlines. To avoid this, consider adding a 20% time buffer to each given task, like adding 12 extra minutes to your schedule for answering emails that you predict will only take you an hour to get through.

For smaller tasks that only take five to 10 minutes to complete, consider clustering them with other small tasks to make one block. This can look like 45 minutes dedicated to general ‘admin’ tasks each afternoon.

Now map out your day, starting with your most important tasks at the beginning of your day, and making your way through to smaller to-dos. Another productive approach can be to start your day with a to-do you are most dreading, getting this out of the way first thing can help bring ease to the rest of your day. Be sure to leave some pockets of time between blocks for flexibility. Despite your best efforts to schedule your time, there should always be room for the unexpected.

Time blocking may take some trial and error. As you move through your tasks, you may find that you need more time in some areas and less in others, or that you work best tackling projects in a different order than you originally set for yourself. Flexibility and allowing yourself to go through this learning curve are essential. In time, you will find a rhythm that best suits your work style, and benefit from decluttering your day to make way for a more focused, productive week.

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