Are you like me and sometimes struggle to be productive? Do you tend to put things off until tomorrow? If that sounds familiar you might be interested in the timeboxing technique.

What is the Timeboxing Technique?

Most people, when faced with a large number of tasks, tend to tackle them by writing a ‘to-do list’. They’ll then work their way through each one, either by starting at the top or cherry-picking the good jobs.

So what’s wrong with this method? Well, it’s all very well writing a ‘to do’ list but when are you actually going to do it? Furthermore, what if one of the tasks on your list is so big it puts you off starting any of the jobs in the first place? This is where the timeboxing technique is so effective.

Timeboxing takes the ordinary to-do list and allocates each task to a specific timeslot, or box, in your schedule. It’s easier to picture this if you think of the days on your calendar as boxes. Each box is a potential space for you to add a task.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s why to-do lists aren’t effective.

Why To-Do Lists are not Effective

  • If we have a lot of tasks they can be overwhelming and this leads to us procrastinating.
  • We have a tendency to start easier jobs first when the most difficult ones might be more urgent.
  • There’s no indication of how long these tasks are going to take.
  • It’s easy to forget to add important but not urgent tasks like study or family time.
  • You can’t put commitment on a to-do list.

My Experience of Using the Timeboxing Method

I’ve used timeboxing myself. I’m not the world’s best gardener. As a result, my small courtyard garden has become completely overrun with weeds. It’s been on my list of jobs to tackle but the sheer scale of the problem has been overwhelming.

It is the size the job that has stopped me in the past, but I realized that using the technique of timeboxing I could get control of the garden. So, I allocated 20 minutes every day at 5 pm to spend weeding. After about 4 weeks the garden was clear.

By giving myself a specific time each day and no more, I was working efficiently for those 20 minutes. If I had gone out into the garden with no schedule it’s unlikely I would have been so productive. Why? Because this is a psychological principle known as Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law states that ‘work will expand to fill the time available for its completion’. In other words, if you have a two-hour job but you allow someone a couple of weeks to complete it, they’ll take those two weeks instead of two hours.

Six Benefits of using the Timeboxing Technique

  • You can organize your tasks

By using the timeboxing method you are actively taking a task and organizing into space on your calendar, ready to be worked on. Not only that, but you can easily see which parts of your work or home schedule need prioritizing.

For example, if you have a presentation due on Friday and your team needs visuals and text by Thursday morning you have a clear picture of where to place your workload in your timebox. The beauty of this method is that you are allocating specific times to an actual task.

You are working on the right job at the right time that you need to.



  • You focus on one task at a time

When we have a list of things to do it can be easy to start one job, flit to another, get distracted, and end up finishing none of them. Timeboxing keeps you focused on one task at a time. As a result, you have an allocated time space that is reserved for that job and that job only.

The best thing is that you can choose when you do the job. So, if the task is particularly taxing you might want to do it in the morning when you are most alert. For simpler jobs, afternoons may be better. You pick the timebox that suits you.

  • Everyone can see your progress

Another benefit of using the timeboxing strategy is that it is visual, and as such, everyone can see when you’ve started and finished a job. Workplaces use shared calendars all the time, so why not employ it as a useful tool to get productivity rates increasing?

When new projects start you can have discussions regarding the best timeboxes for particular jobs and work in a much more efficient way.

  • It helps with overwhelming tasks

As you can see with my garden, bigger tasks can seem overwhelming. It’s easy to look at a large task and not know where to start, or to feel intimidated. But by tackling the job in small bite-sized timeslots it instantly becomes more manageable.

Just divide the job into smaller mini-tasks and not only will you be able to start the job but you’ll feel positive about finishing it.



  • You’ll be more productive

According to Parkinson’s Law, you’ll be working more productively because you’ll have a certain amount of time allocated to that task. When we have a designated time to work on a job it forces us to focus our energy and attention solely on that task alone.

This is a better way of working, without distractions, and with a time limit.

  • You cannot be a perfectionist

Perfectionists will work on a project forever and even then they won’t feel that it is good enough. Using the timeboxing method forces you to set a strict time limit on your work, whether you want to or not.

Using the timeboxing technique helps you control your workload and increases productivity. It’s free, easy to use and could improve lots of areas of your life. Just write down the task you want to be completed, estimate how long that will take and timebox it in your calendar. It really is that simple.

References:

  1. https://hbr.org/
  2. https://www.lifehack.org/

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