Have you ever set (or wanted to set) a goal that was so big, so hairy, so audacious that it became so daunting that it was difficult to even start? (Lose 20lbs., write a book, increase sales or productivity by 20% this year, create a new app) Was that goal like proverbially asking you to eat an elephant? How is that task accomplished? How is it even started? The answer: One ‘bite’ at a time.
A time management technique to help in this endeavor is borrowed from the software development industry and is called “timeboxing.” Essentially, timeboxing is assigning a specific time frame to tasks so you discipline yourself to try and complete tasks during a certain period of time. Let’s say you have some important tasks that need to be accomplished -say, organizing your desk or kitchen, or writing a report, or reading an article or book. Assign a certain time to the task, say 25 minutes, then set the timer and do not let anything interrupt you for that period of time. You get done everything you can in that amount of time, then, if you are in the flow, continue. If not, move on to something different and assign more time as needed.
Benefits of timeboxing:
Red Tani, a communications consultant offers five reasons why you should try timeboxing:(Tani)
- Free and it is easy
- Flexible and customizable
- Curbs procrastination
- Keeps perfectionism in check
- Lets you flow
Daniel Markovitz takes timeboxing to the next level and suggests that rather than just set time to accomplish each task, we put each task on a calendar with time next to each item. (Markovitz, 2012)Markovitz calls this “living in your calendar” and doing this allows you to prioritize all items that need to be done in both the urgent and important categories. You will have to make choices as to what is truly most important, but you will be in charge of the time commitments you are making. Markovitz makes the point that if you timebox with a calendar you will be able to manage commitments that will take more than a few minutes or hours -say a large project that will take weeks or months. When your boss comes and asks you to complete an assignment in a certain timeframe, you can use your calendar to point out the resource constraints you are under and either move the deadline or ask for additional resources to accomplish.
He also details five problems with the to-do list:
- Overwhelming with too many choices
- Naturally drawn to simpler (easier to accomplish) tasks
- Rarely focus on important (not urgent) tasks, like personal improvement
- Not context for how much time you have available
- No commitment device (Are you ready to commit?:)
Marc Zao-Sanders, CEO of filtered.com, swears by Markovitz’s “living in your calendar” or “calendarizing” and makes the case it has at least doubled his productivity. (Zao-Sanders, 2018)and offers several benefits of calendarizing:
- Timeboxing on a calendar allows a clear view of the time you have and the time you need to accomplish a task (perhaps several hours over several days). Looking at commitments on a calendar enables a person to do the ‘right things’ at the ‘right time’
- Communicate and collaborate more effectively. If you have your commitments on a calendar, your colleagues can see at a glance if they are asking you to complete a task that won’t work with your current commitments.
- A comprehensive record of accomplishments. At the end of a week or month, it is easy to see what has been completed and acts as a history that can easily be pulled up to show your superiors the good work you’ve done (and why you deserve that raise!).
- You are in control. You focus on the tasks you have created for yourself and block out all other distractions.
- Forcing you to complete tasks in a finite time frame will result in a deadline to get the right amount of time focused on a task, rather than letting a task run longer than it should, increasing productivity.
Sometimes, deadlines help the muse speak. The Accomplishment System (TAS), a new approach for taking elephant-sized goals and breaking them down into bite-sized pieces, has a software that helps you review and focus your commitments, then when you have scheduled time in your day to complete the task, a timer is there to help you focus that time to keep you from being distracted by electronic devices, alerts, pop-ups and interruptions. It allows you to timebox and calendarize your life. Check it out at www.neverbehind.com/accomplish
So, go ahead and set your goals, decide what is important, block out a time during your day or week, set a timer, and eat your frogs!
Benjamin Davis is a builder of people, organizations and buildings. He currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer at NeverBehind, the company behind The Accomplishment System and the Formigio App. He has traveled the world over and presented at international conferences and is published in several construction trade publications. He has sat on several current and former boards of directors helping to lead and grow organizations. Benjamin holds a master’s degree in Construction Management from Brigham Young University and a bachelor’s degree in public relations and business management from Utah State University. He was also an adjunct professor at BYU-Idaho. He is an achiever and a motivator with an insatiable appetite to learn how to become a more effective leader. He can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Markovitz, D. (2012, January 24). To-Do Lists Don’t Work. Harvard Business Review, pp. https://hbr.org/2012/01/to-do-lists-dont-work.
Tani, R. (n.d.). 5 Reasons to Practice Timeboxing.Retrieved February 2018, from WorkAwesome: http://workawesome.com/productivity/timeboxing/
Zao-Sanders, M. (2018, December 12). How Timeboxing Works and Why It Will Make You More Productive. Harvard Business Review(https://hbr.org/2018/12/how-timeboxing-works-and-why-it-will-make-you-more-productive).