Where did the time go? Timeboxing — What, Why and How to make space for the important things
24 hours — that’s how much time we have per day. If you consider that we spend on average 8 hours a night sleeping, we are left with 16 hours to play with. Where does the time go? Why do the things that we want to achieve consistently get pushed back? How can we fit in the things that we know are good for our wellbeing, such as fresh air, exercise, learning and development or time with family and friends?
The Problem to Solve
It often feels like we are simply running out of time. Do any of these phrases seems familiar to you?
- I can’t decide what to do first, so I start at the top of the list and work my way down
- There isn’t enough time to fit it all in
- The pings, dings and rings distracted me
- I avoid the ‘necessary yet complex’ tasks and focus on the ‘easy to do’
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, Timeboxing could be the time management tool for you. I will state at the outset, Timeboxing is not a silver bullet, it won’t solve all your problems, you still have to put in the work to achieve your personal or professional goals.
What is Timeboxing
Timeboxing is a well-researched method for getting things done. Cal Newport and Nir Eyal are just a few people who use Timeboxing. Timeboxing is an agile task management technique where you pre-plan what you are going to work on and allocate a fixed amount of time for completing the activity. The activity is then transferred into a schedule or calendar. Timeboxing turns an impossible daily to-do list into a realistic daily schedule.
How to does it work
- Decide on the task/s to Timebox. Small tasks such as sending an email can be Timeboxed as well as larger activities, such as building a website.
- Set the goal for each Timeboxed activity — this will move you from ticking things off a list to edging closer towards your goals
- Allocate the time each task will take to complete and add them to your schedule
- Do the work at the allocated start time and stop at the finish time.
- Review progress and adjust Timeboxing schedule for the future
Timeboxing: What’s In it For Me
Parkinson’s Law tells us that work expands to fill the time allotted for it.
- Increased Control– Timeboxing enables you to feel in control over how you spend your time. You have the agency to set the pace. How refreshing is that!
- Increased Productivity — By replying to emails for 30 minutes at the end of the day as opposed to over 60 minutes throughout the day, the productivity level has doubled.
- Detailed record of your accomplishments –performance reviews are made easier as your calendar full of Timeboxed activities helps answer the question of ‘what did I achieve?’
- Perfectionism — the time constraint that Timeboxing provides means that less time is wasted striving for that elusive perfect score.
- You can prioritise the things that matter
- Break down larger tasks into sub-tasks to be Timeboxed
- Start small, you don’t have to timebox every day. Perhaps start with one day per week
- Track your time to improve your estimation. Planning Fallacy states that we humans are bad estimators. We tend to be over-optimistic when judging how long something will take. The best way to overcome this is to track your time.
- Take breaks in between Timeboxes. The Pomodoro time management method recommends 25-minute chunks followed by 5-minute breaks. Other recommendations suggest 45 minutes per Timebox followed by 15 minutes break. The important thing is to take breaks and find a what works for you.
- Celebrate successful Timebox sessions. On occasions where the goal was not met, show self-compassion. The trick is to put your scientist hat on and investigate why some sessions went well and why others did not
We know that time waits for no-one. Rather than letting time control us, why not give Timeboxing a try. It is free and may just be what you need to get the important stuff done in your life.
This blog contribution was made by Nikki St Paul.
Nikki is a life learner currently living out her passions as a D&l Lead striving to create a more inclusive workplace.
Her superpowers include
connecting people & themes to make things happen as well as realising and releasing potential in herself and others through reflection, mentoring & coaching.
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