Do you ever get that feeling that there are days when tasks and duties crush you in your battle against time while you’re trying to maintain a focus as it fades away with the kick of a morning coffee? We have a solution for that called Timeboxing. And no, don’t worry, you won’t have to battle with the big hand of a clock, well, not literally. All it takes it’s this short article, so if you feel in need of advice on time management and are willing to learn a technique called timeboxing, seek no more.

Timeboxing – table of contents:

  1. What is timeboxing?
  2. How does timeboxing work?
  3. Concentration is the key
  4. It’s not worth wasting your time
  5. Take back control
  6. Self-discipline – it can be learned
  7. When is the best time to use this method?

What is timeboxing?

Timeboxing is a technique developed by the IT industry to enhance time management and increase efficiency at work. If this is where you struggle, you’ll find this way handy. The idea is to get as much done as possible in a predefined timeframe, and yet, as little as possible -as to keep your productivity high.

How does timeboxing work?

First and foremost, it is about setting a specific date for the termination of a project and executing it within that range. If you fail to finish, drop the task and move on to the next one. Get back to it on a different day or at later, setting another realistic deadline you can meet.

For example, if we have three tasks to do at work, we estimate how much time we need to complete them and on this basis we set time frames. If we don’t manage to complete task A in a given period, we don’t extend our work on it, but we move on to task B according to the assumption. Task A is put in the ‘to do’ box and we return to it after the cycle is over.

Timeboxing infographic

Concentration is the key

How does it make work more efficient? The crucial skill to master is not to get distracted by the tasks at hand. When we have a predetermined amount of time, we don’t use it for small things like checking email, writing a reply to a colleague in the next room or taking a peek at what’s going on in social media. Each little detail can distract from the main task while creating time boxes helps us to avoid these pitfalls and get on with our job.

It’s not worth wasting your time

Another advantage is not wasting too much time on a given task. There are days when we are not in top shape, less creative than usual or just having a bad day. We often spend, for example, an hour on something that would normally take us 15 minutes. This is inefficient and rarely fruit of such actions satisfy us. Then timeboxing comes to the rescue.

You didn’t complete your task in the 40 minutes you set? No problem, the same amount of time (or less if you started the project) can be devoted to it the next day – you’ll probably be in better shape then and the problem you were struggling with today will be a piece of cake tomorrow.

Take back control

With the timeboxing method, you are better equipped to control larger projects. You probably know the feeling when you are working on a large assignment and you start focusing on details, possibly even too much. By going so deep into a project you simultaneously distance yourself too much to still see the bigger picture of the project, losing the overall view of your task.

There is no difficulty with this if you are doing something you planned yourself – you have the right to change yours and deviate from the original plan. Concerns arise when, for example, you prepare something on commission for a client who has a specific idea of a given project. Then there is a probability that you will create something that your client will reject.

Why waste time doing something twice when you can avoid it? By working according to the timeboxing technique, we implement each stage of the project from the beginning, which makes us stick to the initial assumptions and still maintain an overall view of the task at hand.

Self-discipline – it can be learned

This technique, in addition to the previously mentioned advantages, has a bonus one practical in everyday life. This is because it not only improves our efficiency but also teaches self-discipline and proper time management making us not waste it on unnecessary or irrelevant things if we don’t want to.

When is the best time to use this method?

Timeboxing works best in multistage projects or tasks that take little time and you can fit them in the same time slot. It is also worth implementing in case of duties that have foreseeable time-frames of completion.

However, one should remember that knowledge of technology alone is not everything. From the experience I gained for this article, I can write that without proper focus you will not be able to keep the time box. You need to take care of the right level of focus and not let yourself be distracted by external factors, such as a notification on your phone, a coffee invitation from a co-worker or a quick check of your email. Pleasures and other small things can be done after completing the time box – satisfaction guaranteed (and confirmed empirically by the author of this text)!

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Author: Caroline Becker

As a Project Manager, Caroline is an expert in finding new methods to design the best workflows and optimize processes. Her organizational skills and ability to work under time pressure make her the best person to turn complicated projects into reality.