Timeboxing – The Most Amazing Tool Ever

On Monday morning at 10am I had a meeting at which I was asked to write this blog post.

Me: When do you need it by?

Them: By the end of the week.

Me: Great, I will have it to you by the end of the week.


It is now Friday at 2:30pm, and I am beginning to write this blog post which is due in a couple hours. Did I have all week to do it? Yes. Did I think about doing it all week but waited until the last minute? Yes. Why? Because THAT’S WHAT WE DO!


A task is going to take as long as it takes, no matter when we do it. If I was told this piece was due by the end of the day on Monday, I would have had it done Monday. We are always hoping for more time to get things done, but the reality is, extended timelines are dangerous.


If you haven’t guessed it by now, there is some not so subtle irony going on here…this article is about time management.  More specifically, it is about “timeboxing”, a methodology that I adapted about 30 minute ago and will continue to use until the end of time.


Timeboxing is the practice of focusing on one project task, without distractions, for a short, pre-defined period of time. It is the anti-multitasking. There are many styles of timeboxing, but the basic idea is that you pick a task, allot a certain amount of time to work on it and when the time is done you move on to the next task- even if the first one isn’t finished.


One of the most popular methods of timeboxing is the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break. Repeat this 3 times and then reward yourself with a longer break. But during those 25 minutes, you are focused on one task and one task only. Another is a two week time box for software development called Scrum.


If you are one of those people who think 25 minutes is even too long to focus on one thing you can try Merlin Mann’s (10+2)*5 method.  Ten minutes on, two minute break, repeat 5 times.


Okay, so I haven’t quite adopted it 100% yet because I still have 19 windows open in my browser, my phone next to my keyboard and Pandora playing. But I do believe timeboxing is one of the best time management strategies I have ever come across, and here’s why:


Inhibit Procrastination & Increase Focus

If you are a procrastinator, you are only going to work when the deadline is right in front of you. Timeboxing does just that. And if you are a perfectionist, timeboxing limits the amount of time you can fret over the same minute detail that is completely insignificant, but yet you waste 4 hours on it.


Don’t Get Overwhelmed

If you have a huge project, the idea of even finishing it might make your head spin.  But the idea of working on it for 4 hours is totally doable. Break it down and get it done!


Kill Those Pesky To Do’s

We all have that list of stupid little things that in reality will only take 5 minute to finish, but they have been weighing us down for 5 weeks. Time box 15 minutes and bust three of them out right now.


Feel The Rhythm

50 minutes on, 10 off, 50 on, 10 off, 50, 10, 50, 10.  Hard task, easy task, hard, easy, hard, easy….feel it? Feels good, huh? Kinda makes you want to keep working…or go dancing.


Tune Your Inner Timer

Timeboxing raises your awareness of time. Maybe you thought that checking emails each morning took an hour, but after time boxing it for a few days you discovered that the undistracted version of yourself can do it in 20 minutes. You just saved yourself 40 minutes a day! As you become more aware, you’ll get better at setting time boxes that are challenging, yet doable.


Reward Yourself

Don’t become so busy with productivity that you forget to reward yourself for being so awesome. Time box breaks into your day and even time box a day off. You are going to have to pick up a new hobby with all that time you’ll be saving.


If you need virtual help boxing out your time, there are definitely some apps for that! Try tomato timer if you are a fan of the pomodoro technique, or Vitamin R2 for a more customizable time box strategy. We personally love the Time Timer– it’s super visual, making it great for meetings.

Well, my time box for writing this blog post is almost finished, so I better wrap it up. I am going to reward myself with a glass of wine and then move on to my next time box task…the weekend!