Having a system to organize what you have to do is crucial to making the most of your time. But philosophies differ on the best strategy for organizing your work.

“Time Blocking” is currently a popular technique in time-management literature. The idea is to assign every task to a specific time on your calendar. The mantra is “what’s on your calendar gets done.”

What goes on your calendar?

My calendar tells me where I need to be. It’s reserved for things that need to happen on a certain day at a certain time. Limit your calendar to what is truly time-specific and your calendar stays clear enough to see where the day is flexible.

Put everything on the calendar, and what’s optional masks what’s critical. Does that routine phone call need to be made Friday at exactly 9:15? Or, is anytime Friday morning OK?  When a new opportunity arises, how quickly can you confirm whether or not you are free? You consult your calendar to see if you are available. Planning becomes harder when we mix the “fake appointments” with the real ones.

Another problem with “put it all on your calendar” has to do with rescheduling. Whatever tasks don’t get done have to be manually moved to another arbitrary day and time. Plus, there’s no way to “check off” what’s been completed.

What works instead

To make organization easy, we need a pair of tools. One is the calendar, the place to house that which is date and time-specific. The second is a to-do list. I am a big believer in using a digital task list and have written about it .

With a digital task list, we have the ability to assign a date to any task. From a planning standpoint, that feature offers the same advantage as putting a task on the calendar for a given date. At the end of the day, the tasks that didn’t get done automatically roll to the next day. No rewriting. No copy/paste. No dragging items from one day to the next.

But what if the list for the day is long? And what about tasks which can only be done at work and others that can only be done at home? Doesn’t it all get jumbled together?

“Time Blocking” with the digital task manager

Look for a digital task manager that allows you to assign both a date to each task as well as a priority. I use Remember The Milk, which offers both features.

I’m able to accomplish the benefits of time blocking using the digital task list and keep my calendar free for only those items that must occur at a specific time. Here’s how I do it.

Every task gets a due date. That date answers the question, “When do I want to see that task again?” I like to work ahead of deadlines.

Second, every task gets a “priority.” The priority answers the question, “At what point in the day do I want to see the task?”

I reserve the highest priority for my “Fab 5,” the 5 most important items for that day. Those tasks appear together at the top of list. The next priority is for the tasks I want to see during the morning. The next priority is for tasks I want to see in the afternoon. The final priority is for tasks I want to see in the evening.

If what you read here is appealing, watch the video in its entirety. It is the most detailed video I have done to this point on how my task list operates.