Time-Blocking is a Wellness Routine with Quantime
Every human struggles with time management at some point in their life or career. As the working lives of many have changed dramatically over the last two years, professionals are increasingly overwhelmed by too many meetings and ballooning inboxes that make it feel impossible to cross off everything on their to-do lists. Time-tracking apps and digital solutions abound (as do distractions and digital temptations), but Suchit Tuli, co-founder and CEO of Quantime, believes the solution lies in a simple practice humans have been doing for thousands of years: time-blocking.
Inspired by helping people find more time for the things that matter to them, Suchit built Quantime as a smart calendar that intelligently finds and reserves time for all of your tasks. By blocking time for every to-do, Quantime helps you organize your weeks more effectively and gain awareness of how you spend most of your time. This practice not only supports productivity at work, but enhances overall well-being.
We recently sat down with Suchit to talk about the most prevalent time management pain points, the philosophy behind time-blocking, and his favorite productivity hacks.
What inspired you to start Quantime?
My dad passed away when he was about my age now. So from a very early age, I realized how little time all of us have. Because of this, I’ve always felt anxious around how I’m spending my time.
Over the years, as I looked around me, whether it was college, my first few jobs, or business school, I saw other people suffering from this anxiety around time and guilt around productivity too.
This is what inspired me to build something that finds time for things that matter and supports people in doing exactly what they want to with their days.
Who is Quantime built for?
Our vision is that, one day, Quantime will help every single professional in the world.
Today, we’re focused on the super busy professionals — recent grads, managers at corporations, startup employees, SMB executives, or even working parents, living in cities like New York, LA, and San Francisco. Our customers are in their 20s–30s and struggling to make time for the things that really matter to them.
These things could be as simple as calling your mom, grabbing dinner with friends, or even just eating lunch during the day. We’re building for people who are trying to start new habits, or get back to old hobbies and interests. And people who want to do more at their jobs but don’t have enough time to focus on that one project that will move them forward.
What have you found are the most prevalent time-management pain points?
We hear from customers that they deal with a lot of noise at work — coworkers, emails and Slack messages, social media, personal devices, meetings, even lower priority tasks.
If you dig deeper, all these time-management hurdles boil down to two things. Firstly, we are all trying to do too much — our to-do lists are way too long and so our attention is scattered. Secondly, there is no plan of attack for the things that actually matter on your to-do list. Because there is no plan of attack, the constant stream of disruptions are able to do exactly that: distract and take focus away from the most important task at hand.
One of the things we asked our users is “how do you know you’ve had a successful week?” The most common answer they gave was when they’ve crossed off everything on their to-do list — but 41% of things on a list never get done, and so a lot of us don’t feel fulfilled and accomplished at the end of the week. But this has more to do with the fact that a to-do list is never-ending than with us.
40% of people get less than 30 minutes of uninterrupted time at work. If you don’t have time to focus, of course that to-do list is never getting done.
And to compound this issue, nobody teaches you the best practices of time-management in school. While you’re learning things like accounting, science, or math, you’re not directly learning the most essential life skill, which is just managing your time.
How has the pandemic impacted the way people manage their time?
One of the things we noticed early on in the pandemic is that people had meetings starting earlier in the day and ending later. The workday expanded and folks had more meetings because we replaced serendipitous interactions at the office with meetings on the calendar. A lot of managers started to rely on Zoom to ensure teams were communicating, collaborating, and making progress.
Another key change was that commute time was eradicated. As much as people complained about their commutes prior to Covid, commute time is really important because it establishes a geographic and mental boundary between work and home. Without it, time management has gotten even harder because people are taking care of both personal and professional stuff all within the same space and all within the same time. Ultimately, this impacts not only on how much we effectively accomplish in a given day, but also our mental health and self-worth.
What’s the philosophy behind time-blocking? What are your tips for making it work most effectively?
The calendar was invented even before the wheel. We’ve been using the calendar to manage our time for thousands of years. In some ways, we as human beings are evolutionarily programmed to follow our calendars.
That’s why when you see something on your calendar, you have an impulse to actually do it. When you come out of a meeting, though, what you often see is empty space. When you see a blank slot on your calendar, your brain doesn’t know what it needs to do next, so it picks out random things from a mental list. You can go get coffee, go to the bathroom, respond to texts on your phone, answer emails, check Instagram. You may start on something related to work, but it may not be the most important thing you need to get done in that time.
Time blocking is recording your to-do list on your calendar and carving out the amount of time you need to get each thing done. We already do this — we mentally block off time to be with family over the holidays, we mentally block off weekends for personal things — but we’re not doing it for every single activity yet. We need to go one step further and block time for tasks that are both professional and personal so that we actually save time for them.
This is how the most successful people in the world — Marc Andreessen, Jack Dorsey, Bill Gates, Elon Musk — manage their time. It’s a well-researched practice, and we’ve compiled the best tips on it here.
How does time-blocking enhance well-being at work?
One, feeling better about yourself and your work. One of the best things about time blocking is not just proactively planning your week but also retroactively feeling accomplished because you can see exactly how much you accomplished against your plans.
Two, carving out personal time for yourself. Time-blocking isn’t just about reserving time on your calendar for work. It’s about finding time on your calendar for what matters to you personally: spending time with loved ones, working out, focusing on hobbies, or just getting rest.
Time-blocking has the benefit of visualizing your time as a graph against your calendar — like a bar chart, you can assign colors to different activities and see that you’re spending more time at work than you might want to, or too little time against certain projects or activities.
How do we make space for the inevitable — whether it’s getting pulled into a last minute meeting or snoozing the alarm?
This is a super interesting question because there are two conflicting ideas in there that folks often don’t realize. Things can’t be both last minute and inevitable. If you feel that you’re predictably doing things last minute often, it’s probably time to reflect and increase your awareness of your time expenditure to get proactive about it.
Jack Dorsey famously ran two public companies at the same time. Obviously, he has to be a master of time management. One thing he’s done very successfully is theme different days — on Monday he works on management, Tuesdays are focused on product, and so on. You can imagine that the rest of the week is baked out as well, but an important thing to notice on his Sunday is that he takes time to reflect.
It’s super important to plan out your week on Sunday evenings, and look back on the prior week(s) to gain awareness of how much time is in your control. It’s helpful to know if you are in a proactive environment or a reactive environment, where you are constantly juggling last-minute priorities and emails. You can know that realistically you may only have 3 hours that are actually in your control, and time-block accordingly.
What is your favorite productivity hack?
Blocking time on your calendar for emails. This way you are not inclined to answer everything as it comes in. Instead you can triage. If something is truly urgent, respond to it, but otherwise you can snooze it until later in the day when you have time to clear out your inbox.
Again, the problem is that we’re trying to do too much. If you don’t account for the fact that you will have emails to respond to, you’re setting yourself up for failure. People are often surprised that they block off an hour for something, but it actually takes them longer — and email can take up 2–3 hours of your day. It’s important to notice when you go over your timeblocks and adjust for that in the future.
Who inspires you?
Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. I’m sure those are common answers when you ask entrepreneurs, but the reason those two come to mind for me is because they never think about building products incrementally. I’ve never wanted to build something that is 10% better — I’m largely motivated by disrupting an industry or schools of thought. That’s what both Jobs and Musk have done — it’s not just a single product and it’s not just 10% improvements; rather it’s going back to first principles to build something new, it’s about flipping entire industries — personal computing, telecommunications, music, aerospace, financial services, automobiles — on their heads.
I don’t think time management is solved through a 10% improvement, because it’s a universal problem that has been around for millennia. It’s solved by something that allows people to completely change their mindset around how they view time.
Interested in trying Quantime? Get started here.