Of all the different time management and productivity techniques, time blocking is fast becoming one of the most popular.
It’s not hard to see why – used by some of the most successful people in the world, including Elon Musk and Bill Gates, time blocking (also known as monotasking or time chunking) allows you to be intentional with the energy you spend on different tasks and protect space for your most important work.
The beauty of time blocking is its adaptability. You can make the blocks of time as long or short as you like, apply it in your personal life as well as professionally, and use it just as well as an individual as in part of a team. If you're thinking about testing out a few productivity hacks, then time blocking is definitely worth your time.
Timely tip: Time blocking might seem like a fairly simple strategy, but it’s not quite as easy to stick to as you might think. For advice about how to use time blocking to reclaim your working day and get a better sense of where your time actually goes, check out our in-depth time-blocking guide.
Choosing the best time-blocking app for you
Right now, you’re reading the Timely blog. Timely is a time-tracking tool with some pretty nifty inbuilt time-blocking capabilities. If we do say so ourselves, we think it’s one of the best all-in-one time and task management tools on the market. But we’re clearly biased, so we won’t create a list of the “best” time-blocking apps with us right at the top.
Instead, we’ll cover the different types of tools that can be used to help you with scheduling blocks of work into your day, starting with some common productivity and work organization apps you likely already have and use.
Types of time-blocking software
There are so many different tools at your disposal when it comes to trying out time blocking. More broadly, your options can be split into these four types:
- Digital calendars
- Task management/to-do list apps
- Dedicated time-blocking software
- All-in-one time tracking tools
How much do time-blocking apps cost?
Some of the apps we’ve listed below are free, while others charge on a monthly or yearly basis. However, the decision to choose the right time-blocking app for you shouldn’t be just about cost. Time blocking can save you huge amounts of time and stress so, in the long run, it might be worth paying for a dedicated tool that makes solving your schedule a breeze.
Not all of these options will be right for everyone, but hopefully one of them is right for you. Let’s get stuck in.
1. Google Calendar (or Outlook!)
Best for time-blocking newbies
We’re kicking off our list with a bit of an obvious one. While many of the below apps vary in terms of simplicity and feature sets, they are fully-fledged time blocking apps designed to help you get actively better at managing your time and objectives. If you want to try out time blocking to see if it’s for you, though, first you might want to consider a basic calendar tool like Google Calendar or Outlook.
It’s pretty easy to get started – instead of using the one calendar, you create a new calendar for each of the broader categories of work on your plate. For example, a software developer might set up the following color-coded calendars to reflect some of their common priorities and commitments:
- Writing code
- Responding to emails and Slack messages
- Life admin
These can then be used to schedule out pretty much every part of your day – from scheduling blocks of focus time for deep work, to setting reminders for recurring tasks (like organizing and planning time blocks for the next day), as well as when to move onto the next time block.
Bear in mind that controls, logic and features might not be as fluid or effortless as those of a dedicated time-blocking app. If that’s the case, then the good news is that most of the dedicated time-blocking apps on this list offer free trials. Cost: Free
Best for leveling up from pen and paper time blocking
Notion has, well, notions about being many things. But, as it turns out, Notion does offer a really simple way to get started with time blocking your work day. Using their database table template, you simply divide your working day or week into hourly blocks of time. Then, you add your add in tasks for each time slot, like so:
Cost: Free for individual users, team plans available for $8 per user/month
Best for to-do list lovers
Like pretty much every time management method you can think of, the key to effective time blocking is to identify what exactly your most important tasks are for the days or weeks ahead. That’s where a to-do list app like Todoist comes in.
While not specifically designed for time blocking, it can be used alongside Google calendar to help you figure out what it is you need to work on, and when. Like always with time blocking, you’ll need to start off with planning out your day or week with what you need to focus on. In Todoist, you’ll then generate tasks for each of these, complete with due dates and times and the appropriate work category label assigned to each:
Next, you need to set up a two-way integration with Todoist and Google calendar and create a calendar in Google dedicated to your Todoist tasks. Last step is to pull in any tasks with a due date and time already assigned. And there you have it – your tasks all neatly displayed as individual time blocks in your calendar!
Cost: Basic plan available for free. Pro and Business annual plans range from $3 - $5 per user.
Best for staying organized on the go
Looking for a time-blocking app for both life and work that combines both the features of a traditional to-do list and a calendar? Then we recommend giving Any.do a try.
Using their Lists feature, you can quickly group similar activities together, whether it’s email catchup, breaks, meetings, deep work, social events or compiling your grocery list. With Any.do, you can even convert voice commands into to-do list items with just a click – and instantly access these across all of your devices.
Much like Todoist, Any.do lets you organize your tasks using color tags so you know exactly what’s what at a glance. Once you’re done, you can then block off specific time chunks in your Any.do calendar for working on these activities over the coming week. The end result will look a little something like this:
If you’re someone who tends to lose time and energy to multitasking and procrastination, then their Daily Planner tool will also come in handy. It summarizes your events and tasks for the day ahead as soon as you sit down at your desk – a really simple, but effective, way to maintain control over your time at work.
Cost: $2.99/month for an annual plan
Best for Pomodoro enthusiasts
Like other apps on our list, TickTick helps you block out chunks of time dedicated to certain tasks in your calendar. What’s different is that it also comes with an inbuilt Pomodoro timer, so you can work on your tasks in 25-minute increments. If reactive work tends to make up the bulk of your working day, this feature can really help you stay productive. Of course, if you’re someone who prefers to schedule in longer blocks of time for meaningful work, then TickTick might not be right for you.
These days, shared work schedules are the norm. TickTick lets you sync your calendar with others, so team members can quickly determine which time slots work best for collaborative work, while being accommodating of each others’ schedules.
You can also set a Tag and Priority for each task, which will help you group similar tasks together and determine the order you need to tackle the different to-dos on your plate (note: this feature is only available to Premium subscribers).
All of your blocks of time come automatically color-coded, so you can quickly determine how you’re spending your day. Another helpful feature is their “Plan Your Day” List, which pulls in your day’s tasks, along with anything that’s overdue, so you can quickly work on building your time-blocked schedule in a matter of minutes.
Cost: You can sign up for a free Basic TickTick account, or upgrade to Premium for $27.99/year
Best for teams using Trello
With Planyway, you can easily schedule dedicated focus time for the tasks you’re working on in Trello or Jira. To get started, you’ll simply create your tasks or issues within Trello or Jira as normal. Next, you’ll need to install the Planyway extension on your device. From here, all you have to do is drag and drop your daily to-dos into your Planyway calendar and block out the necessary time for each task.
You can even set reminders about upcoming events and tasks and set recurring tasks to repeat so nothing slips through the cracks. There’s also the option to sync your Planyway calendar to Google Calendar or Outlook so you can see upcoming events and appointments alongside your work tasks.
Cost: Free for individual users, team plan available for £5.00 per user/month
Best for balancing work with personal life
If you feel like your to-do list is getting longer and longer, you might want to try out Sunsama. This brilliantly-designed app is super simple to use: there’s a list of tasks, organized by date, and a calendar in the sidebar. Just drag and drop your tasks into your calendar – and because Google and Outlook calendars are both supported, it’s easy to use it in both your personal and professional life. It also integrates directly with several project management tools, like Asana, Trello and Jira.
So far, this is all pretty routine for time blocking, but what makes Sunsuma special is how much easier it makes organizing your day. When you log in in the morning, you’ll be asked what you want to achieve that day, how long you think each activity will take and when you want to work on each item. It’ll also automatically move any tasks you didn’t get to that day to the following day.
By making the process of blocking your day so effortless, Sunsuma removes the stress around time blocking, allowing you to focus on getting things done.
Cost: $16/month for individuals, team pricing available on request
Best for teams
If you work in a team, Timely might just be your ideal time-blocking tool. This is an all-in-one tool for building, actioning and analyzing your to-do list – and it returns powerful insights that other time blocking tools can’t provide. Aside from its drag-and-drop calendar interface that makes time blocking easy, Timely also automatically tracks how long you spend on different pieces of work, allowing you to see how you actually perform against your estimates.
Timely is also intuitive enough to actively protect the space you’ve set aside for different tasks. Once you’ve blocked out time for a piece of work, it updates your weekly capacity, allowing other people on your team to see when you’re available, and when they can and can’t book you for work. Plus, by tracking everything you work on, you can identify hidden time drains and inefficient workflows, so you can continually refine and improve your time-blocking processes.
Cost: From $9/month per user on an annual subscription
Best for Google power users
If you’re a regular user of Google and looking for a time blocking calendar app, check out Plan.
Equal parts to-do list, calendar and project manager, Plan has an easy-to-use user interface and focuses on straightforward planning, with the main objective being to help you save time. Once you’ve added in your tasks, you can drag and drop them in order of priority, and it’s up to you whether you create a single list or break it up into multiple projects.
Plan’s only real downfall is that it doesn’t support many integrations with other tools. That said, it does integrate seamlessly with Google and Outlook calendars. It gathers all meetings and events and automatically puts them in your Plan calendar, making it easy for you to block time around your existing commitments.
Although it's a simple tool, it’s effective and, according to Plan, can save you an average of 15 hours a week.
Best for Microsoft lovers
If you’re a Microsoft user, you might want to try out Weekly. Combining the standard Office 365 calendar with a flexible task list, Weekly is a simple and lightweight time-blocking app that’s incredibly easy to use – though it does still have an intuitive user interface. The only real downside is that it only integrates with your Office 365 calendar.
When you use Weekly you’ll have three different views: by day, by week and by task. To every block of time that you allot, you can add your own description of the tasks as well as its deadline, category, and the amount of time you think you’ll need to complete it. Then, you can prioritize each task by importance. With Weekly, it’s easy to adjust and reschedule work, cross off tasks once they’re done and generally stay on top of your schedule.
Best for mobile time blocking
For those of us who prefer to use our phones for scheduling, there’s TimeBloc, a simple time blocking app that integrates just as well for Android as it does for iOS. There are four main elements to TimeBloc:
- Timelines – where you can drag and drop blocks of time and break your day into hours and minutes.
- Routines – for repetitive tasks.
- Statistics – where you can visualize your progress.
- Calendar integration – where you can add events from different calendar apps.
You can use colors and tags to customize and organize your events and tasks, set reminders, and create daily routines and schedules for every day and week – all in just a few clicks.
The statistics feature is only available in the Premium version, but it provides you with the insights needed to improve the ways you work; once you know how much time you spend on different tasks, you’ll be able to review and change the way you plan your day.
Cost: $19.99 for TimeBloc Premium (available on iOS and Android only)
Finding the right productivity tools can be a daunting task. We hope that this list will make your decision easier so you can reap the benefits of time blocking that little bit faster.