How do you make time for important projects or tasks that need attention now?
How do you stop working on a project once it meets the required standard, rather than waste time perfecting it?
Time Blocking and Time Boxing are two planning techniques that you can use separately, but complement each other. Time Blocking is making time for a project. It hones your focus to meet the highest quality standards. Time Boxing is limiting the amount of time you spend on a project. It pushes you to complete a project that meets acceptable standards.
Time Blocking helps you to get unstuck, stop procrastinating, and move forward on a project. It makes time and space for tasks that need attention. It’s a way to chunk projects into smaller parts so it’s easier to start and make steady progress.
You set time blocks with a start time and end time to work on a specific activity. You could single focus on one difficult, high-leverage project like a strategic marketing plan, or batch process similar, low-level tasks like responding to emails and returning telephone calls. You can move around time blocks if true emergencies and unexpected delays come up. You can schedule new time blocks if you need more to finish the task.
Scheduling a time block goes beyond making a to-do list. It tells you when exactly you will do a task, in what context and under what circumstances, and for how long. It encourages you to take deliberate action steps and to block out distractions and interruptions.
Time Boxing helps you to stay within scope, avoid perfectionism, and finish and deliver a project on time. It puts time constraints on projects that tend to take too long to complete. It takes advantage of Parkinson’s law, which states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. Having a cut-off time to stop working on a task makes you more mindful of the value you bring, rather than the hours you put in.
A timebox can be as short as 15 minutes to several months, depending on the activity or project. One project might take one or two steps, while another requires hundreds of steps. A timebox has project milestones, deadlines and deliverables.
In episode 7 of The Incrementalist podcast, I cover:
- The Pomodoro Technique, a popular method for time blocking
- How time blocks help you do deep work, improve your ability to focus, and make progress on the right things at the right pace for the relevant deadlines
- The core problem with the billable hour model
- How time boxes help you to be more efficient, intentional and results-oriented
- Francesco Cirillo, The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work
- Cal Newport, Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)
To listen to Episode 7, Time Blocking and Time Boxing to Get the Rights Things Done, click HERE.
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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.