Timeboxing

If you fail to manage your time properly as a business professional, it is almost certain that you will fall short of your goals. Managing time is an incredibly important skill, yet it is one that many owners and managers take for granted. In today’s world, it is increasingly easy to distract yourself with text messages, web browsing, and other non-productive activities. To stay on track throughout the work day, you need to put time management strategies into action.

In the content below, we are going to take a close look at the concept of timeboxing. This technique is exactly as it sounds – you break up your projects into time-limited segments, enabling yourself to focus on the task at hand for a prescribed period of time. If you are accountable to these ‘boxes’ of time throughout the day, you just might be amazed at what can be accomplished. You will never have unlimited time during the day in which to meet your goals, but you can make the most of the time available with the help of timeboxing.

The Basic Idea

The concept behind timeboxing is to switch your way of thinking from task-based to time-based. Think about it this way – when you sit down at your desk to work, you will no longer base your action on completing a certain job. Most people, when they start work for the day, pick up a given task and work on it until it is completed. That is not the way it will go with timeboxing. Rather, you are going to set an amount of time to focus on one job and work on that job until the time is out. This might seem like a minor change, but it can have a big impact on your productivity.

Timeboxing

For example, if you have a project which you know is going to take several days (or longer) to complete, you may have trouble finding the motivation to get started. After all, you aren’t going to finish the job anyway, so why not take your time? This way of thinking can lead to a major decline in productivity. When you employ timeboxing, you will give your brain a specific, short-term goal to focus on as you work. Whatever period of time to set as your ‘box’, you can tell yourself to focus in and work hard until the time has run out.

Finding the Right Time Frame

One of the keys to successful timeboxing is picking out an appropriate length of time to work on one task. If you set your timeframes too short, you will just be gaining steam on a given project when the timer runs out. On the other hand, if you give yourself too much time within a specific ‘box’, you might struggle to focus all the way to the end. The proper amount of time per work session is going to vary from person to person, so experiment with this idea until you settle on a time period that works for you.

It is important to note that you don’t have to use the same amount of time for each work session. If you are working on a particularly complicated project, for instance, you may wish to provide yourself with some additional time in order to get deep into the task. Or, if you are working on something that you would classify as ‘mindless’, you may only want to take it on for 10 minutes at a time. By varying your times, you can keep yourself focused appropriately based on the job at hand.

Timeboxing for Your Staff

The benefits of timeboxing can certainly extend beyond your desk. You can also teach this method to your employees in the hopes of improving their productivity. Even the best employees can wind up spending too much time on a relatively unimportant task, so using timeboxing can help them to stay on track as the week goes by. While you don’t want to dictate exactly how much time an employee is allowed to work on a certain part of their job, encouraging them to use timeboxing will at least make them more aware of how much time has passed while working on the same task.

Timeboxing

Benefits and Drawbacks

As with any tool, there are both benefits and drawbacks to be considered when you think about putting timeboxing to work in your day to day life. The list below highlights some of these points.

  • Benefit – Improved Focus. If you tend to let your mind wander throughout the work day, timeboxing is a great way to keep yourself on track from start to finish. With specific time goals to meet, it will find it easier to ‘keep your head down’ until the timer runs out.
  • Drawback – Rushing Work. Should you feel pressured to finish a task within a specific timebox, you might sacrifice the quality of your work in favor of simply getting the job done. Of course, this is a mistake. Do your best to balance the productivity of timeboxing with the importance of producing quality work.
  • Benefit – Avoid Multitasking. The ability to multitask is a myth, and it is one that costs millions of people productivity each and every day. Since the human brain can only focus on one task at a time, use timeboxing to make sure you aren’t attempting to do more at once than you can handle.
  • Drawback – Breaking Your Rhythm. If you are diligent about sticking to your timeboxes, you may find that stepping away from your work when the timer runs out could cause you to lose your train of thought. Depending on the type of work you do, it may be important to schedule long timeboxes to ensure the entire task is completed before you quit.

There is nothing complicated about timeboxing. You simply set a timer, begin your work, and stop when the timer is out. After taking a few minutes for a break, you can restart a new timer and get back to work. This basic time management plan is brilliant for its simplicity. Give it a try and you just might have some of the most productive days of your career.

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