Time Boxing

I’ve been reading about time boxing this morning. Time boxing is essentially budgeting your day not in terms of what you want to accomplish, but in terms of the amount of time you want to spend on a task. So you could budget 30 minutes per day for e-mail or 60 seconds for sit-ups. Time boxing seems to be particularly effective for small tasks that can build into overwhelming to-do lists and for intimidating projects that can be de-scarified by chunking them into small bits.

One of the intriguing strategies related to time boxing that I have never tried is to budget a very small amount of time for something you’ve been procrastinating–say, 30 seconds to begin writing a book review. The idea is that once you’ve made a small start,  it will be easier to keep going.

Freeelance web designer Bryan Connor’s post, To-do Lists & Priorities, contains very helpful information on time boxing, and following his links will lead to more time boxing insights. For tips on time boxing your dissertation, see The Clockwork Muse; Zerubavel does not use the term time boxing, but that’s essentially what the book is about.

One time boxing-ish strategy that I recently employed involves spending the last fifteen minutes of my work day cleaning up my desk. I re-file anything that has a home, go through my mail, and start addressing any to-dos that have been jotted down on scrap paper. If I have more time, I answer a few e-mails. The benefits of this fifteen-minute time box include:

  1. having a nice transition time between working and not-working.
  2. knowing there’s nothing urgent that needs to be done before tomorrow morning.
  3. accomplishing a few small errands that could easily be neglected and build up into a long, stressful to-do list.
  4. beginning each work day with a clean workspace and thus a feeling of calm.

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