December 2, 2015

Time Boxing to get things done


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Time boxing is a fabulous time management technique to help you focus on your priorities and work towards your goals and visions. It can also help you get a handle on procrastination, therefore makes you more productive. But first, what is time boxing?


Time Boxing:

instead of working on a task until it’s done, you commit

to work on it for a specific amount of time.


J.D. Meier writes 2007 in his blog “How to use Time Boxing for getting results”: Time boxing is a way to chunk up time and get results. If you continously miss windows of opportunity or spend all of your time in one area of your life at the expense of others, time boxing can be one of your best tools. A time box is simply a limited set of time to accomplish a result.



Time Boxing Methods

The two methods that pop into my mind when I think of Time Boxing are Fly Lady and the Pomodoro Technique. Although when I typed in “Time Boxing” into my search bar Google came up with 222,000 hits… WOW.



Many years ago I found the FlyLady a.k.a. Marla Cilley on the internet. She has a wonderful website full of tips on how to smoothly run your household and get things done even if your are not a BO = born organized.


You can sign up for her daily emails and will be introduced to a whole system on manging your housework, laundry, meal plans, Christmas and other holiday preparations etc.


Marla says you will be surprised how much you can do in 15 minutes and she is so right.


I use her 15-minute system, meaning, every day I do at least 15 minutes of housework no matter what else is going on. As Marla suggests, I have divided my home into Zones and have dedicated these zones to a day of the week. Monday is 15 minutes in the bedroom, Tuesday 15 minutes in the bathroom, Wednesday 15 minutes in the kitchen, Thursdays 15 minutes in the living room, Fridays 15 minutes in the office, Saturday 15 minutes in the mudroom/entry way and Sundays I do 15 minutes where ever it needs it most.


I could never understand why people are willing to give up their well-earned weekend to clean their house for hours. I rather spend 15 minutes every day during the week than sacrifice a few hours of my free time.


The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique might be the time boxing method YOU are most familiar with. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, he also wrote a book about his method.

You work for 25 minutes followed by a short break of 3-5 minutes. One 25 minute work interval is called ‘pomodoro’, and after 4 pomodoros Francesco suggests you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.


Read and learn more here on the official Pomodoro Technique Website


Procrastination hack: ‘(10+2)*5’

I found this method today through Google. What looks like a mathematical equation is a time box method based on 10-minute of dedicated work followed by a 2-minute break. Then you repeat this process 4 more times for a total of one-hour working / breaking.


Merlin Mann who wrote this article back in 2005 says: the trick is to snap your mind out of the inert state that’s allowing procrastination to take over. You’re breaking down whatever resistance has made you not do what your brain knows needs to be done. He predicts, that you eventually will skip the breaks, that’s why it’s called hack.

Use time boxing to work on your goals and achieve your visions faster. It can also help you get daunting tasks taken care of that clog up your to-do list. #grafetized

Which Time boxing method works for you?

What makes time boxing so unique is that you

  • work with the time and not against it
  • reduce or eliminate burnout
  • reduce distractions
  • create a better work/life balance


No matter which method you choose they help you to focus on the task at hand and then also make sure you look after yourself by ‘forcing’ you to take a break. The main difference between them seems to be the length of your working periods before you take a break and the length of your break.


Here are my thoughts and experiences on it:


To beat Procrastination on a daunting task

You can use Flylady’s technique (or the Procrastination Hack) in your business for tasks you don’t particularly enjoy, like creating a budget, tracking your numbers, cleaning up your desk or filing paperwork.


By giving you permission to only work on it for 15 minutes and then switch to something more pleasant, will increase your willingness to actually do it. Once you started you might get into the flow and do a second set of 15 minutes after a short break.


But even if not, just 15 minutes a day is better than no minutes at all and it will get you (slowly but surely) to reach your goal over a period of time.


I would actually not be surprised if it even got you to reach your goal faster than if you waited (forever) for a time in your busy schedule where you can muster up your will and dedicate a whole day to do the (daunting) task.


To work on your Priorities every day

Knowing your top priorities is the way out of  feeling overwhelmed because by keeping your Vision in front of you and focussing on your strategies and goals you know what to say yes to and what to say no to.

By doing every day at least one task that supports your vision you will continuously get closer to your goal and the time boxing method can help you with that.


I would choose the Pomodoro Technique for these tasks as I find it easier to work in 25-minute or even 45-minute increments to not loose focus and flow. But I highly suggest you take a break after a maximum of 45 minutes otherwise you will get burned out. I am guilty of this, and if you are like me you know what I mean. You are all engulfed in your task, you will forget to eat and drink or maybe even to breathe (properly).



Time Boxing Side effects

My husband actually uses the Flylady 15 minute method but with a twist. He uses it to mark down how long he works on a certain project, for example, a repair. When he starts working on the project, he starts the timer for 15 minutes, when the alarm goes off he makes a mark on a piece of paper and starts the timer fresh. He repeats this process until the repair job is done. Then he can count the marks on his paper and knows how long it took him to repair the item and therefore how much to charge for it. This method is also helpful when he gets interrupted by a phone call. Before picking up the phone, he pauses the timer and when the call is over he resumes the timer.


On the website for the Pomodoro Technique it states: “Once you’ve gotten the hang of the technique, you’ll be able to accurately predict how many Pomodoros it will take to accomplish tomorrow’s — or next month’s — tasks.” And by being able to do this, you can use this method for time management, planning, budgeting, pricing your products etc.


If you haven’t used time boxing yet, give it a try and let me know in the comments below how it’s going for you.


Take care

#grafetized From Chaos to Peace

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