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Have You Tried Timeboxing?

Are you busy at the moment? Making up for time off over Easter, maybe, or just lots of different things to get done?

I'm overcommitted at the moment in work and life, so I have lists and lists of things, big and small, that need to be done. It's meant I have revisited an old fave productivity technique, called timeboxing. I love it for its simplicity and its sanity-saving properties.

Basically you divide your day into time periods and slot a task into each box at the start of each day, with the aim of just spending that section of time on the project, then stopping. If the task isn't finished, you add another slot for it. That's it. No unrealistic 'to do' lists, no sense of failure at the end of the day...

It's excellent for stimulating creativity and keeping up focus and interest in open-ended projects. It kills procrastination stone dead (well, almost...) and it lets you be very efficient with smaller amounts of time.

It also links nicely with 'batching', another great technique. This is where you store up similar little boring tasks, like paying bills or doing minor admin, then spend 30 minutes knocking it all off at once. Very satisfying.

Of course, you need to prioritise as well, so the urgent tasks get done first.

There are other benefits (I know this is starting to sound like a 'six free steak knives' promo, but...). You get very clear about time - how you spend it, and how you waste it. You feel great at the end of the day. You also get to create a structure and break up your day, which can be most enjoyable.

Want to give it a go?

  1. Make a list of the things you need to get done this week, or of current projects - whatever works for you.
  2. Divide your day into periods such as 30 minutes (or longer or shorter depending on your natural focus length or types of tasks). You may also have varied periods, such as longer (45 to 60 minutes) in the morning then short and snappy (20 or 30 minutes) as the after-lunch slump takes hold!
  3. Fill in the boxes with tasks.
  4. When the time is up, switch to the next box and task on your list. You will need to keep track of time - there are plenty of free online stopwatches which make a sound at the end of your time, and count down in your browser header, but you could even use a real old-fashioned egg timer or alarm.
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