How to Time Block with Todoist and Google Calendar

If you’re looking for a good way to organize your time, “time blocking” can be in incredibly helpful approach.1 As the name suggests, it normally involves visual “blocks” that show how you’ve decided to budget your time.

And if you use Google Calendar, you can start time blocking right there with Todoist and a little initial setup.

1. What Parts of Your Schedule to Time Block

For parts of your schedule that need to be highly variable, time blocking won’t prove as helpful. If you try to create a stack of time blocks that highly variable time, it’ll just get knocked over.

That said, even in highly variable parts of your schedule, you still need to budget your time. You just need to do it using a different method besides time blocking.

Where you do have a known amount of time to budget, though, time blocking can prove hugely valuable. For instance, you might have part of a day that you know you can regularly devote to professional pursuits. If so, that part of your schedule a good candidate for time blocking.

Time blocking can help you get the most out of the time you have. It can also help you see when you might be planning too much activity for too little time.

Time blocking isn’t tied to a specific tool. You can time block quite well on paper. Or if you use a digital calendar, you might want to time block there. At a basic level, that’s as simple as creating an appointment with yourself.

2. Why Not to Time Block with Google Calendar Alone

That’s what I did in Google Calendar for a good while. But I found two downsides to having time blocks in Google Calendar while keeping my tasks for those blocks in Todoist:

  1. I had time blocks on my Google Calendar that didn’t reflect well what was in my Todoist task list. Often, that meant I had too much to do for the time I’d allotted.
  2. I found myself doing duplicate work to show on Google Calendar what I already had in Todoist. That helped with the over commitment. But it also required time managing the system that could have been spent doing what needed to get done.

For me, a great solution turned out to be having Todoist put tasks on my Google Calendar. Then, I could see on my calendar the impact of setting a certain task for a given day. And I only had to manage tasks (and their blocks) in one place.

(If you don’t already use Todoist, you can try the premium version for 2 months for free.)

3. How to Start Time Blocking on Google Calendar with Todoist

Todoist’s Google Calendar integration allows for different preferences in how you want to use the two together. To start, I’ve found it helpful is create a new calendar inside your Google Calendar account (e.g., “Todoist (Active)”).

Then, in Todoist’s guide for setting up a Google Calendar integration,

  1. Follow steps 1–8.1.
  2. When you get to step 8.2, choose to sync tasks from “All projects.” This way, no matter where you file a task in Todoist, it can still show up on your Google Calendar.
  3. For step 8.3, choose to have tasks you create on Google Calendar go to your Todoist Inbox. Google Calendar won’t know what projects you have in Todoist. So, it’s easiest just to send tasks created in Google Calendar to the Todoist Inbox and sort them into projects from there. That said, you can ignore this feature and add your tasks in Todoist only. If you do so, you get the added benefit that, whenever a Todoist task appears in Google Calendar, it will have a link back to that task in Todoist (on the words “View source” at the bottom of the calendar event). That link makes it even easier to reference, modify, or complete the task from your Google Calendar.
  4. For steps 8.4–8.7, I find the following settings a good place to start.

Of course, you can choose different preferences or come back later to tweak them.

Once you have an initial setup for the integration, though, click “Connect” in Todoist (step 8) to complete the process.

4. What You’ll Get after Integrating Todoist and Google Calendar

With these settings,

  • Any time you add a due time to a task in Todoist, you’ll also see that task on your Google Calendar. The due time in Todoist will be the event’s start time in Google Calendar.
  • You won’t sync to your Google Calendar any tasks without a due time (which they’ll all have, by definition, if you’re using them to time block).
  • You can easily change a task’s duration in Google Calendar. That will give you a visual representation of the block of time that task should take to complete.
  • Completed tasks will automatically leave your Google Calendar.

This will leave you with a Todoist task layer that you can then show or hide in your Google Calendar to help what you want to do when. And just as important, it can help you plan what not to do in order to devote more adequate time to higher priority activities.

The settings I’ve recommended above are great if you want to budget the current day or some day(s) in the future. You can still look at your completed tasks in Todoist if you want to see how you’ve been spending your time.

But you might find it helpful to have that record on your calendar. That way, you can more easily look back to see whether any particular project or kind of activity is consuming more of your time than it should.

5. How to Preserve Past Tasks on Your Calendar

If you want to preserve historical time blocks on your calendar, you have a couple options.

  1. You can change the Todoist-Google Calendar integration so that “Completed Todoist tasks” shows that they will “Stay on Google Calendar.” When you complete a task, you can then move that task’s event to a different Google Calendar (e.g., “Todoist (Complete)”) or change its color to distinguish it from the active Todoist tasks on your calendar.
  2. Still have Todoist remove events from Google Calendar when those tasks are completed. And instead, you can use another integration with an automation service like IFTTT or Zapier. These services can watch for when new Todoist events start on your Google Calendar and then automatically copy that event to a different Google Calendar (e.g., “Todoist (Complete)”). Then, when you complete the active task, it will fall off your calendar, leaving just the copied record of your completed task.

I’ve generally found the second method to be the easiest to work with once it’s set up. But the first could work just fine, especially if you do use a separate calendar for your completed tasks and not just a different color on your Todoist Google Calendar.

The issue with using a different event color only is that I’ve found that the integration between Todoist and Google Calendar very occasionally breaks. If you have all your tasks—active and completed—on a single calendar, it can prove harder to set the integration back up without importing numerous tasks into Todoist that already exist on Google Calendar. So, keeping things on separate calendars just helps give you some insurance against further problems in the event you do need to reset the integration at some point.

Conclusion

To reap the benefits of time blocking, you don’t have to use a specific calendar tool or list manager. But Google Calendar and Todoist are both really good at what they do. And using them together can be a great way to time block so that you can take control of your schedule while expending as little effort as possible manipulating your tools.


  1. Header image provided by Android Community