Updated: Sep 2, 2021
As per my four decades of life so far, time-boxing is the top productivity hack and the most useful habit that I have got to know up to date!
Will it be true for me? Certainly, this can literally change you instantly - You may gain a greater control of your priorities, focus and should be ready to produce much better results. Let me help you figure out how!
Time-boxing is a technique to manage time and become more productive
You allocate a certain amount of time in advance and then plan and try to complete your highest priorities within that time frame. As an example, I can have one week of time-box and then decide the priorities to complete - Within this time-box, I pay my best possible attention and focus to complete the agreed priorities.
A greater sense of control over your priorities
Time-boxing can give you a much greater sense of control over your priorities as you start asking yourself, what are my priorities to tackle during this time box. Be it a day, a week, a month or a year - this can increase your focus and attention span massively. You block out all distractions for that time-boxed period, and you get it done. This allows you to adapt the habit loop "Stop starting and Start Finishing".
Although it may sound easy, it usually takes time to master this practice!
A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.–Rita Mae Brown
Time-boxing insist much closer focus and attention on the current priorities.
Basing what you think possible to achieve, you make your team commitments. These commitments are a way of picking up the priorities to deliver the highest possible value. At the end of the time-box, you evaluate the progress made and review the product and the process.
In certain situations, due to the nature of the work, you are not able to define the priorities for the time-box very specifically. E,g. Support work is something you can predict for a week - the priorities will change often and you must adjust accordingly. In such contexts, my recommendation is to define a time-box and do minimal planning - and at the end of the time-box, you can evaluate the progress made and move onto the next time-box.
HOW COULD INDIVIDUALS TIME-BOX?
First, prioritize your To-Do list - estimate how long each item on your To-Do List should take to complete. Look at the list and start working on your priorities one by one!
The Pomodoro® Technique is useful - It's a time-boxing technique that involves working for timed segments, usually of 25 minutes, followed by a short break.
The core process of the Pomodoro Technique consists of 6 steps
01. Choose a task you'd like to get done
Choose a task you'd like to get done: Ideally your highest priority from your To-Do list for the moment should be picked
02. Set the Pomodoro or 25 minutes
Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes - This is a time-box where you shall focus on the priority picked up.
03. Work until the Pomodoro ends
Focus, focus, focus yourself in the task for the next 25 minutes. If you suddenly realize you have something else you need to do, write the task down on a sheet of paper.
04. Move the Task to Done state
If you have completed the task, move it to done state or if you are still on the same task, figure out what's pending - plan to complete the pending work in the next Pomodoro
05. Take a short break
At the end of each Pomodoro, take a short break - this will allow you to relax and enjoy - greater way to grab a cup of tea, talk to your colleagues and family or do a bit of stretching - After this short break, you are much energized and ready to work for the next Pomodoro.
06.Take a long break
Once you’ve completed four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break. Generally, 20 to 30 minutes is good. Your brain will use this time to assimilate new information and rest before the next round of Pomodoros. Again our aim here is to regain the energy and focus.
Pro Tip: Use this online Pomodoro Timer to boost your productivity
Use this wonderful or any thing similar to track the time effectively - If you do have a timer use that. the intention is to be conscious of time and keep track of time.
HOW COULD TEAMS TIME-BOX?
Whether you can predict your work or not, time-boxing can greatly help you team to achieve more and deliver the most optimum value through focus and effective prioritization. Teams with a continuous workflow can have shorter time-boxes (e.g. an hour or a day) to improve focus and the outcome. The length of the time-boxes can be based on the nature of your requirement pipeline.
I would recommend you make your time-box to be from one week to four weeks - make it weekly time-boxes, if you have higher uncertainty where predicting your work will be challenging. Use two weeks to four weeks time-boxes, if you are able to plan and stick to your plans.
Time-boxing for teams by Niroshan Madampitige
Bringing it all together!
You have have limited time and resources to use for doing your work. The amount of work that you must handle daily basis is overwhelming mostly and you may be counter-productive if you try to handle too much work - on the other and, trying to tackle everything may result poor productivity, less value delivered and finally, frustration. This is where time-boxing can help you to be productive, and produce much better results in smaller time chunks - because, your focus, commitment and concentration is on a few critical, important priorities.