Forget To-Do List? Use Timeboxing Technique: A Simple & Powerful Way to Improve Your Productivity

What is timeboxing?

Planning your time is a great way to ensure you give everything you’re working on the attention it deserves, and you’re less likely to waste your time. It makes sense if you think about how most people tend to work – we pack as much into our day as possible, leaving very little time for breaks; we constantly run out the door early or stay late at night. Not only does this lead to burnout, but it also means that many important tasks fall by the wayside.

According to Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” – for example, if you allocate 4 weeks to a task, no matter whether you can realistically finish it faster, you’ll subconsciously aim to expand your work so that you don’t finish earlier than the selected 4 weeks. One solution is to block specific blocks of time within your calendar for certain projects or goals. This way, you’re not giving each task multiple hours of attention without allowing yourself any kind of break from it, and instead, you’re splitting up your day into chunks of work that require focus and dedicated effort. So, unless you want to spend a full month writing a 5-page paper just because that’s the deadline you set for yourself, you should try a timeboxing technique.

Timeboxing is a very simple and popular time management technique that can help you take better control over your schedule. It’s also a very helpful technique for practicing self-discipline and organizing your schedule in a way that your most important tasks come first. With the timeboxing technique, you can also be more attentive to how much time you spent on a certain task, to not overdo it. Here’s everything you need to know about this goal-oriented time management technique.

Timeboxing Technique
Timeboxing Technique

What Is Timeboxing?

Timeboxing simply means that you open your calendar and enter a block of time that you’ll spend on a certain task in the future. Instead of working on the task until it’s done, you proactively decide how much time you’ll spend on it and when (and even where). It’s like scheduling a meeting in your calendar. You select the day, start and finish hours, define the desired outcome, and reserve time in your calendar. And once you reserve a box of time, you should treat it like a scheduled meeting – no rapid rescheduling, no distractions when you work on the timeboxed task, etc. For bigger tasks, you can reserve several blocks of time in advance. With such an approach, you have complete control over your schedule and priorities.

What are the benefits of Timeboxing Technique?

Getting the right thing done at the right time. Timeboxing into a calendar enables the relative positioning of work. If you know that a promotional video has to go live on a Monday and that the production team needs 48 hours to work on your copy edits, then you know when to place the timebox.

The practice enables you to communicate and collaborate more effectively. If all of your critical work is in your calendar, colleagues or coworkers can see it. So not only are you more likely to plan your work to accommodate others’ schedules, others can check that your work schedule works for them. Shared calendars are the norm in the corporate world now, with Microsoft and Google leading the way. 

Your calendar is like a record of everything you’ve done. For example, you’ll know what happened last week when you have time to look back at it. Or maybe your boss or your team needs to know a certain detail about your week or month that is specifically relevant to a subject! None of this would be possible if it weren’t for the existence of your calendar which is a document recording every little thing you did during any given period in time. Full control. You will feel more in control. This is especially important because control may be the biggest driver of happiness at work. Constant interruptions make us less happy and less productive. Timeboxing is the proper antidote to this. You decide what to do and when to do it, block out all distractions for that timeboxed period, and get it done. Consistent control and demonstrable accomplishment are hugely satisfying, even addictive.

How to timebox?

The timeboxing technique involves 4 steps: Find suitable tasks. Define your goals. Set the timeWork and assess your results. When you first start with time blocking the best approach is to record everything that you do during the day rather than assigning tasks. Do that for a week or two, and you get to know your general schedule and how much time each thing takes. If you just start scheduling then you find that you may assign an hour for a particular task only to find out that in reality, it takes an hour and a half. That’s why you record everything you do and then you can sort through it and get a better idea of how much time to assign to each thing. You should also record other things besides just work. For instance, you may get up at 6 am, take half an hour to wake up, and get a cup of coffee. Then you hop in the shower for half an hour, get ready for half an hour (shave, do your hair, get dressed), and then maybe get breakfast. Block all of that time out.

Which apps can help you with timeboxing?

You don’t need any special tools to use the timeboxing time management technique. All you need is a tool like Google Calendar or any other. In a calendar, you simply reserve a specific amount of time for a task, like you would schedule a meeting. All you have to make sure is that you start working on a task when the time comes and stop working on a task when the time runs out. Timeboxing technique doesn’t guarantee that you’ll finish the work in the allotted time. However, it can help with focus. With a timeboxing approach, you can avoid late delivery, low quality, and over-doing and over-processing tasks. Once you start to manage your time properly you will also notice that you have more time. This allows you to spend time on the things you want to do more of and opens your world up to a whole load of new opportunities.