Time boxing big projects

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Time boxing means scheduling time on your calendar for working on specific tasks. Some people plan their entire day in 15-minute increments. They know what they’re supposed to do, and when, and by sticking to their schedule, they get a lot done.

Other people, including yours truly, schedule 30 minutes to an hour, or a couple of hours each day, dedicated to certain activities: email, seeing clients, writing, catching up on reading, and so on.

Either way, scheduling your workday in blocks of time allows you to get your important work done, and avoid wasting time doing things that may be urgent but aren’t necessarily important.

Time boxing works because “constraints” force you to focus. When you know you only have 30 minutes for email, you don’t spend two hours.

The Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes of focused work, 5-minute break) is based on this concept.

You can also use time boxing for big projects.

If you’re working on a new presentation, for example, you might schedule one hour a day to work on it until it’s done. If your experience is anything like mine, however, you often find that what you thought would take days or weeks is somehow taking months.

This morning, I heard about another way to use time boxing for big projects. In addition to scheduling the days and hours you will work on the project, decide how many days or weeks you’ll work on it.

In other words, set up a time block of (say) 90 days to write the book, finish the presentation, or achieve the goal.

This forces you to focus on getting the project done, making it more likely that you’ll finish it sometime before the end of next millennium.

I wish I’d thought of that before I started my current work in progress.

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