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Maximize Your Day: Time Blocking with Thunderbird

This might be unexpected coming from an email app developer, but hear us out: we want you to spend the least amount of time possible in your inbox.

The Thunderbird Team wants to help you manage your most precious, nonrenewable resource: your time. This post kicks off a series of Thunderbird tips and tricks focusing on our favorite time management and productivity advice.

When we asked Director of Product, Ryan Sipes, what time management strategy he wanted to share first, he said time blocking. Time blocking is a favorite of author and productivity guru Cal Newport. This technique schedules your entire day to minimize focus-stealing activities and maximize deep work that requires your full attention.

This sounds daunting, but we’re on this productivity journey with you! All you need to start is your calendar or planner, whether it’s in Thunderbird, another app, or using pen and paper. Personally, we’re fans of having our notebook and laptop on hand when we schedule our day ahead.

Don’t worry that an all-day schedule won’t leave time for fun or impromptu plans. You’ll be more present when you’re off work, whether it’s cherished time with loved ones or working on that novel you always wanted to write. And since you’re adjusting your schedule as you go, you’ll be able to add plans without overwhelming yourself.

With that, let’s get started time blocking with Thunderbird!

Get Your Calendars in One Place

First, have all your calendars (work, personal, school, etc.) in one place. Thunderbird can combine online calendars from different accounts for you (and let you customize their colors)! This SUMO article explains — with screenshots — how to add your calendars and create new ones.

Suggestions for Getting Started

Example of a time-blocked Thunderbird Calendar. For other examples, see Todoist.

It’s hard to change some fixed blocks of time, like team meetings or scheduled personal obligations. But the spaces in between are a blank canvas waiting to be filled with everything you need and want to do. How you fill them is up to you, but here are some suggestions for time blocking with Thunderbird:

  1. Know when you do your best work. If you can focus more in the morning, or after a 30-minute walk, schedule blocks of deep work around that. If you don’t know when you do your best work, observe how you work for a week or two! Take notes on your energy and focus levels during the day.
  2. Use your professional and personal priorities to fill out your time blocks. Whether your planning exists in project management software or handwritten notes, identify your urgent and important tasks that need your focus and time.
  3. Use breaks between longer blocks for less urgent and potentially distracting tasks like checking your email or catching up on chats. If you limit the amount of time you spend on these tasks (a technique known as time boxing), and minimize or turn off their notifications, your day becomes a lot more productive.
  4. Adjust your schedule whenever you need it, not just at the end of the day or week. Move blocks, shorten or lengthen them, etc. As you learn to be more aware of how you use your time, you’ll become better at estimating how long you need for tasks, and the best time of day to do them.

Time Blocking and Beyond

Thanks for joining us for this first productivity newsletter. We hope this post and the ones to come help you reclaim the time for things you need and want to do. Next month we’ll share more advice, and techniques you can use in Thunderbird to maximize your valuable time.

We’re on this journey with you, learning new skills and working them into our lives until they become habits. Making changes, even for the better, is hard. If a day or two or seven go by and you’re losing track of your time again, it’s okay. Make this the cue to start your productivity training montage, and let us be the awesome 80s rock soundtrack to support you.

Until next time, stay productive!

2 responses

gb wrote on

Thanks. How to prevent Thunderbird calendar reminders to always stay on top of the Thunderbird window in Ubuntu? Even though I hide them, they come back after a few minutes and always steal the focus, which is very annoying.

Jim March wrote on

I have the same problem. I don’t mind the window popping up when a notification is set. But why can’t I move the window back? I end up moving the window around to see the hidden parts of my screen.

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