As you all know, I am a dedicated reader of Cal Newport’s books and blog posts, and am a regular listener/superfan of his podcast (Deep Questions).
Longtime readers here know that I do not always agree with everything he says, but I find a lot of value in what he offers. Both Deep Work and Digital Minimalism resonated with me, especially the latter. Lately, he’s spent a lot of time on his podcast discussing productivity and organization, and I’ve really enjoyed hearing his ideas on these subjects. So when I heard he was releasing a planner, I was excited for two reasons: first, I was just excited to see what he would come up with. Second, I figured that perhaps I had a chance of getting him be a guest on BLP!
I do not have my usual pretend-filled-out pages for you yet. However, there are great images of the interior of the book here.
This planner is fairly minimal, as planners go. It has a soft cover and a fairly sizable introduction filled with information describing Cal’s time block methodology. The pages are the same repeating layout throughout: a space for “capture” (left side: space for daily metrics, tasks, and ideas; right side: blank grid with spreadsheet-style boxes — 4 columns in 22 rows). The idea is to create a time-specific schedule in column 1, and use the subsequent rows for adjusting it when things inevitably go awry. (If they don’t — well, it’s extra notes space). There are 13 weeks of this repeating pattern, so you would need 4 of these books to time block your way Newport-style through an entire year.
I definitely think his version of time block planning is worth trying — I do not use it daily, but when I do it is very effective. On the occasions where I have stuck to his methods during a less-structured workday, I have been very impressed with the amount I have been able to accomplished. I am not as convinced it is helpful with highly structured work schedules (outpatient care, for example) but he did point out that perhaps time blocking might be used to schedule those bits of time that you do have control over to maximize impact. I will definitely try it . . . maybe today!
The book sadly does not lay flat, though I wish it did. It also feels a bit more like a book than a planner to me — which some may care about more than others! I admit that given the level of obsession I tend to have about my paper products, I’m more apt to use elements of the system in my own book. But I am still happy this planner and concept exists. It is worth checking out for the ideas in it alone.
It was an honor to chat with Cal Newport and I will continue to read everything he puts out! (And his next book is coming out in March of 2021 too — definitely going on my reading list!).
Find his Time Block Planner wherever books are sold, and learn more about it here (a website entirely dedicated to his method + planner usage).
Have you had success with his time blocking methods?