I want to share with you a scheduling technique that is new to me but has been around for many years: nowadays it’s referred to as “Time Boxing”. I was recently made aware of the concept through a virtual assistant (VA) forum I belong to and in more detail through two business associates of mine, and now that I’ve implemented and utilized it for the past several weeks – I want to tell you, it’s great!Those of you that are familiar with me or my previous articles know that I am a huge fan of To Do Lists and Checklists. However, I admit that it never occurred to me to merge my lists with my daily calendar – which essentially is what Time Boxing is.
This technique helps one in focusing on tasks. More often than not, when we sit in front of the computer to start doing our tasks, we are bombarded with distractions. We often end up spending more time on unimportant things and not get much done for the day. With this technique, however, you are able to focus more on your tasks by allowing you to set your time boxes according to the amount of time that you think you will be able to concentrate on the tasks. And since it is customizable, you can set your time to as little as 10 minutes per task, and gradually increase your time each day. This way, your concentration and focus are improved even without you forcing yourself to concentrate.
My Approach to Time Boxing Here is what I did. First, I decided to use the Calendar feature of Microsoft Outlook (but you should use whatever method you are comfortable with). I went ahead and scheduled daily recurring tasks such as barn chores, meals, and personal care time. I also scheduled time for reading email, tweeting on Twitter, and posting on Facebook. This may seem unnecessary but it isn’t! Once you block (or box) this time off on your calendar, it gives you a visual of how many hours you have available for work (I was shocked the first time I did it!).
The next advantage is often listed as an end result or the product of time boxing: Productivity. Once you learn the basics on how it can help you reset and attain focus and discipline, productivity often follows. But remember to keep you work up to par, too. You need to be both productive AND produce the best quality.
Be strict with yourself. If you blocked off one hour starting at 10:30 to work on the $3 million proposal or research for your next article, start at 10:30, set a timer and stick to it. (You can use a kitchen timer or you can download a free online timer.) You may be on a roll, and you may not want to quit, but stop and go on to the next time box. If you continually find that an hour isn’t enough time, then adjust your time to 1-1/2 hours to work on the $3 million proposal. There will be days that unexpected things happen — interruptions, emergencies, etc. — don’t stress those! Just move your time boxes to the next day…it’ll be better tomorrow.By using time boxing, you may also find there are areas in your life that are lacking. Start blocking off time during the day to devote to those areas, whether it be social, spiritual, or physical.Now…take those gloves off, get serious and kick some butt — uh, I mean time!!