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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Using Timeboxing To Get Things Done

I recently learned that a technique I often use to get things done has an actual technical name, it’s called Timeboxing. With timeboxing you basically dedicate some time to work on something, do the best job you can within the time available. The key is that you have a finite amount of time therefore you will get as much as you can done within that amount of time.

Personal timeboxing also works to curb perfectionist tendencies by setting a firm time and not over committing to a task. What you do or do not do within a project are totally determined by the time frame. Slipping the schedule is simply not an option, so if you get behind, you must cut tasks. 

A way I use timeboxing is when I have a task or project that I wish to complete, but I don’t really know where to begin, or it seems like it’s going to be a long time before I can finish a meaningful chunk. Or maybe it’s something I find really tedious and would have a tendency to procrastinate on. Then I use timeboxing to simply commit to working on the task for a given period of time to make a dent in it. 

I normally use a period in the range of 30-120 minutes. I release any concern about reaching a particular milestone within that time — I simply commit to putting in the time, regardless of how far I get. 


An example where I use this approach would be when I’m writing a new article for this site. Finishing a complete article will usually take me 3-8 hours. Sometimes I can complete an article in a single stretch, but most of the time I’ll stretch it over multiple sessions. So I use timeboxing to just put a dent in the article and get started, committing myself to writing for 1-2 hours without worrying about how far I get. Then I just repeat the process until the work is complete. 

A side effect of this last method is that I’ll often end up working much longer than I originally intended. If I commit to working on a tedious task for just 30 minutes, it’s easy to get started because I’ve given myself permission to stop after only 30 minutes. But once I’ve overcome that inertia and am now focused on the task, 90 minutes may pass before I even feel the desire to stop. 

If you are one of the many out there that can’t find the time to work a full time job and also start a side business or invest in real estate or work on any of the other aspects of building wealth then implementing simple techniques like timeboxing can help get you started. 

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