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The 5 Best Time Blocking Apps

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9 min read

The 5 Best Time Blocking Apps

By Jessica Greene · June 11, 2019
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Time blocking is a simple productivity method: Instead of completing your tasks whenever you find time to work on them, you schedule time on your calendar in advance to focus on specific tasks. The value of time blocking is that it helps you build your day around your priorities—and by scheduling your time in advance, you're able to say no to non-priorities.

Of course, your tasks are everywhere: Your inbox, your to-do list app, your team's project management tool, the notepad beside your desk. You need somewhere to pull them together and schedule them in order of priority. That somewhere: a time blocking app.

Here, we'll present the five best time blocking apps that make it easy to gather all of your tasks and start scheduling them on your calendar.

What Is Time Blocking?

Time blocking is a time management technique where you schedule how you'll spend your time during every minute of every day. Each task you need to complete gets time scheduled on your calendar, so you can make sure you have the bandwidth for every to-do list item.

Instead of having a calendar that looks like this:

Google Calendar screenshot where only meetings are scheduled

Your calendar is completely booked, like this:

Example of a time blocked calendar, where both meetings and tasks are scheduled

Time blocking as a time management technique was popularized by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work. Newport says he dedicates 10-20 minutes every evening to time blocking his schedule for the next day, but when you choose to block your time and create your schedule depends on what works best for you. You might create your schedule every day when you get to work, at the end of every work day for the next day, or at the beginning of each week for the rest of the week.

Additionally, you can approach time blocking in a couple of different ways. You might schedule time for specific tasks around your meetings and other commitments, or you might choose to schedule time specifically for meetings and other commitments.

For example, instead of accepting meeting invites for whenever people send them, you may block off Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for working on tasks and leave Tuesday and Thursday open for people to schedule meetings. Then, you can break those big sections for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday down into specific tasks—daily or weekly, based on your priorities.

example of time blocking in chunks

What Makes a Great Time Blocking App?

One of the best explanations I've run across for why time blocking is important comes from Eric Barker, author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, who writes in an article for Observer:

Most of us use our calendars all wrong: we don't schedule work; we schedule interruptions. Meetings get scheduled. Phone calls get scheduled. Doctor appointments get scheduled. You know what often doesn't get scheduled? Real work. All those other things are distractions. Often, they're other people's work. But they get dedicated blocks of time, and your real work becomes an orphan.

If you don't schedule time for important work, then it increases the risk that your important work won't get done. Instead of having time to focus on high-priority tasks, you're pulled in other directions: invited to meetings, asked to pick up side projects, distracted by long Slack discussions. You end up spending too much time on low-value tasks without realizing it.

Additionally, scheduling time for tasks forces you to think about how long each task is going to take you to complete, which, over time, can help you form more realistic estimates.

When it comes down to it, effective time blocking requires two things:

  1. A consolidated to-do list: It's impossible to prioritize your to-dos if they're documented in various places. So the first step of time blocking is getting all of your to-dos into a single inbox.

  2. A schedule: You can use a calendar app, daily planner, or even a piece of paper—whatever works best for you to create a daily schedule for blocking your time.

There are a lot of task management and scheduling tools out there—but very few tools that combine both of those functions. So in our search for the best time blocking apps, we wanted to find tools that offered both features (either natively or via an integration with another app) to maximize efficiency for time blocking.

Additionally, we looked for tools that offer a way to view your existing calendar events inside of the app, either through a native integration or third-party extension.

And finally, we looked for apps that were simple to use and intuitive. Since the point of time blocking is to focus on your most important tasks, we wanted to find tools that didn't go overboard with bells and whistles or complicated interfaces.

The 5 Best Time Blocking Apps

  • Plan for quickly scheduling time blocks on your existing calendar

  • HourStack for comparing estimates to actual time spent on tasks

  • Planyway for people who use Trello to collect their tasks

  • TickTick Premium for people who use the Pomodoro Technique

  • SkedPal for automatic scheduling based on your priorities

Plan (Web, iOS, macOS)

Best time blocking app for quickly scheduling time blocks on your existing calendar

Plan drag-and-drop time blocking

Plan offers a simple way to schedule time for your tasks on your calendar. It's part to-do list, part calendar—and all business. It integrates directly with your Google or Outlook calendar, pulling in all of your existing meetings and events, and allowing you to quickly block time for tasks and projects alongside those commitments.

To-do lists in Plan can be a simple list of all of your tasks, or you can group to-dos into specific projects to create multiple to-do lists. After you've added tasks, drag and drop them within the list to prioritize, then drag and drop them onto your calendar to block time for each to-do.

The only downside to Plan is that it only supports a few integrations with other tools: Google Calendar, Outlook, Box, Github, Google Drive, Gmail, and Jira (and they're working on adding a Zendesk integration). So if you already have your to-dos logged in another to-do app, you'll likely have to move them over to Plan manually.

Plan Pricing: The Free plan includes 1-2 integrations; from $5/month for the Personal plan that includes unlimited integrations.

HourStack (Web, iOS, Android)

Best time blocking app for comparing estimates to actual time spent on tasks

HourStack screenshot

HourStack will help you monitor how the time you actually spend on tasks compares to your initial estimates.

You start by blocking time for the day/week. Then, when you're ready to start on each task, click the task, and select Start to initiate a timer. When you're finished working on the task, you can complete it if it's finished, or if you run out of time, you can roll the task over to work on it again later. In the Reports section, you'll see detailed metrics for the time estimated and spent on each task.

HourStack will pull events from Google Calendar (on the Personal plan) and Outlook 365 (on the Professional plan), but it doesn't add those events directly onto your HourStack calendar. Instead, you'll see them in a sidebar on the right side of the screen and can drag and drop them onto your HourStack calendar.

But you can use HourStack's Zapier integrations to automatically add new calendar events to your HourStack calendar—and vice versa:

The main downside to HourStack is that it doesn't have a place to keep a to-do list. Instead, you're mostly using your calendar to capture your to-dos. But it does have native integrations with apps like Trello and Todoist on the Personal plan—and Asana on the Professional plan—so you can see your to-dos from another app within HourStack to plan and schedule in one place.

HourStack Pricing: From $7/month for the Personal plan that includes integrations with Google Calendar, Trello, and Todoist; from $15/month for the Professional plan that includes integrations with Office 365, GitHub, and Asana.

Planyway (Chrome, Safari, Opera)

Best time blocking app for people who use Trello to collect their tasks

time blocking in Trello with Planyway

If you use Trello as your project management tool or to-do list, Planyway lets you block time on your calendar without ever leaving Trello. Create all of your tasks in Trello just like you normally would, install the Planyway extension, and then drag and drop your Trello cards onto Planyway's calendar to block time to work on those tasks.

Planyway also gives you the option to connect it to your Google, Outlook, or Apple calendar. On its Free and Basic plans, Planyway supports one-way syncing: You can see your calendar events in Planyway but cannot add events to your calendar from Planyway. Two-way syncing that keeps both calendars in sync is available on the Pro plan.

Planyway Pricing: The Free plan includes one-way calendar syncing; from $4.99/month for the Pro plan that includes two-way calendar syncing.

TickTick Premium (Web, Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Chrome, Firefox, watchOS)

Best time blocking app for people who use the Pomodoro Technique

TickTick Premium calendar view

TickTick Premium lets you compile your tasks in a to-do list and then block time for those tasks on your calendar. But TickTick offers a feature that the others don't: a Pomodoro timer. So if you want to combine time blocking with the Pomodoro Technique, TickTick Premium may be the best option for you.

Adding tasks to your calendar in TickTick isn't as simple as it is in some of the other apps. Instead of dragging and dropping tasks onto your calendar, you have to take a few steps. After you add a task, open its editing menu, select a due date for the task, and then set a duration. It will then show up on your calendar—but tasks can't be edited in the calendar view.

TickTick will pull events from your existing calendar and display them on your TickTick calendar; you can also set it up to push TickTick events to your main calendar. Both of these features work through RSS, so while you may be able to see events within both apps, you can only edit the events in the app where they were created.

TickTick Pricing: The free TickTick product doesn't include a calendar view; from $2.79/month for TickTick Premium that includes the calendar view and RSS feeds to and from third-party calendars.

SkedPal (Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android)

Best time blocking app for automatic scheduling based on your priorities

SkedPal time maps

SkedPal helps you engage in time blocking even if you don't have time to schedule everything on your calendar. First, it integrates with your existing Google, Outlook, iCloud, or Exchange calendar, pulling in your existing commitments. Then, you add your tasks to its to-do list, specifying how long you think each task will take and approximately when you need it to be completed (today, tomorrow, next week, etc.).

Once you've connected your calendar and added all of your tasks, click the Update Schedule button, and SkedPal will schedule everything on your calendar for you. It uses AI that considers your preferred time frames, the duration of each task, and your availability to determine how to slot tasks onto your schedule. If you don't like any of the placements, just drag and drop to rearrange them.

SkedPal also offers a feature called time maps that lets you set time during the day/week specifically for certain types of tasks. For example, if you only want to work on a long-term project between 9 a.m. and noon, you can create a project time map, select 9 a.m. to noon for each working day, and then select that category when creating your tasks to keep it from scheduling those tasks outside of those hours.

If you want to add email to-dos directly to SkedPal, you can send emails to a custom email address to do so. Or if you already have a to-do list app and want to move to SkedPal, you can use one of SkedPal's Zapier integrations to automatically move tasks from Trello, Google Tasks, and more to SkedPad.

SkedPal Pricing: From $14.95/month for the Monthly Plan that includes all of SkedPad's features.

Choosing the Right Tool for Time Blocking

In the end, the best tool for time blocking is whatever makes the process easiest for you. Cal Newport uses a simple sheet of paper. A hardcopy daily planner works just as well as a calendar app if writing things down is the simplest way for you to block your time.

And if you already have a great to-do list app, the calendar app you use can work just as well as any of the tools on this list. In fact, a lot of to-do and project management apps—like Todoist, Wunderlist, Google Tasks, and Jira—have Zapier integrations that let you automatically add tasks and to-dos to calendar apps like Google Calendar and Outlook.

But if you want everything in one app, one of the tools in this list should do the trick. Each app offers a free plan or free trial, so you can try them all and pick the one that works best for you.

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Jessica Greene picture

Jessica Greene

Jessica Greene is a freelance marketing and business writer. A former writing instructor and corporate marketer, she uses her subject-matter expertise and passion for educating others to develop actionable, in-depth, user-focused content.


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