“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” — Albert Einstein
Putting time limits on things is “timeboxing.”
You put a box around the time you will spend on something.
Without a timebox, you can easily spend all day reading mails, blogs, aliases, doing self-training, etc. and then wonder where your day went.
Using timeboxing helps you strike balance across the dimensions of your life.
Some things are worth spending more time on, some things are worth spending less time on, and that awareness helps you shape better days.
Timeboxing is a tool to help you get more out of your days, and out of your life, whenever you want.
Timebox by Setting an End Time
One way to add a timebox is to add a specific time to stop. For example, you might set a time to end your work day (such as 5:00 PM, or 6:00PM, or whatever). Or you might decide that your workout needs to be done by a certain time (such as 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM, 9:00 AM or whatever.)
You probably have a time that you start your day.
Do you have a time that you end your work day?
Some people don’t.
Their day never ends. In reality it does, but they feel they are “always on” indefinitely. The reality is, they go until they get too tired, or it gets too late. And, because they don’t know when their day is done, they don’t have a way to pace themselves.
On the flip side, some people end their work day at 5:30. And they focus on getting all of their great results before their day is done. And since they have a specific time when they are done, they focus all their time and energy throughout the day on their best activities, their best ideas, and their best actions.
And that’s how they get their best outcomes.
It’s how they stay strong, all day long.
Without an end time, we keep going until we burn out or burn up (whether that’s mental fatigue, get get tired, we get hungry, etc.)
But if you don’t control when you can end your work day, there is another strategy you can use …
Timebox by Setting Time Limits
Another way to add a timebox is to allocate a maximum amount of time that you’ll spend on a particular activity.
You can think of this as deliberately spending your “time budget.”
Ideally, you allocate more time to your high-value activities and less time to your low-value activities. For example, you can decide up front that you’ll spend a max of 20 minutes on this, or an hour on that.
A simple approach is to think of your day in terms of the types of activities you do (e.g. administration, work time, think time, connect time), and then decide how much time you need to allocate, against how much time you actually have.
Timeboxing Helps You Pace Yourself
A timebox is a great way to help pace yourself throughout your day. If you only have so many hours to produce results, you’re more careful to spend your energy on the right things.
If you keep time as a constant (by ending your day at a certain time), it helps with a lot of things: work-life balance, figuring out where to optimize your day, prioritizing what to do, etc.
Without a timebox, things just keep going until they fizzle out. And your days chews into the nights, and your nights chew into the weekends.
Timeboxing Helps You Improve Your Effectiveness
By timeboxing, you can now take a good look at how efficient or how effective you are. If you’re not as productive as you want, you can ask yourself, are you working on the right things? Are you spending too much time on lesser things? Are there some things you can do more efficiently or effectively?
For example, when I write a blog post, I timebox it to take 20 minutes or less. If blogging ever starts to take me more than 20 minutes, then I take a look at my approach, and try to find if there are things that I can shave off, optimize, or do differently.
I do this so I can blog in a sustainable way.
Not everything is an opportunity for timeboxing.
But if you take a look at your day or your week, it’s very likely that you’ll find some great opportunities for timeboxing. For example, if you find that you are spending too much time on low-value activities and not enough time on your high-value activities, then use timeboxing to fix it.
The best thing I ever did was deliberately focus on expanding my timebox of “free time.”
In fact, that’s probably the single most significant idea that helped me create more free time in my life than any other idea.
Who know what timeboxing can do for you.
Test it and find out.
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Image by Robert Bejil.