We’re used to creating a schedule based on the amount of time that we have, but not on the number of tasks that we have for the day. In effect, we struggle to make everything fit in our schedule, and this causes us to feel overwhelmed or worse, lose interest in completing the task. How can one resolve this?
Tackle Your Schedule Like a Pro
An effective way of sorting a busy schedule is to focus on the tasks and then allocate time for each of these tasks. This method is called Time Boxing. There are two ways to apply this technique: soft time boxing and hard time boxing.
It’s also worth noting that time boxing is different from time blocking. Time blocking is more schedule-oriented, while time boxing is more task-oriented. With the latter, you can get more done in a day.
What Makes Task-Oriented Scheduling Effective?
When you create a schedule based on the tasks that you plan to do for the day, you can see what the big and small tasks are and you can decide how much time you want to give each one of these. When you make work and time visible, it is easier to create a plan and work structure to accomplish your goals for the day.
How Do You Box Your Time?
The most effective way to box your time is to create a task list and then sort it based on priority. You can do this by following the Urgent/Important Principle. Once that’s done, you can decide how much time a task requires and you can break a large task into smaller parts, especially if the entire task will take more than 90 minutes to complete, including breaks in between.
If you’re not sure how to start with time boxing, follow the steps below:
1. Assess the total amount of workload
If you’re constantly swamped with work at the office and feel like you’re taking on more work than you can handle, review your workload and separate the big tasks from the smaller tasks.
This way, you can see if it’s possible to break a huge task down into shorter work segments to make it more manageable for you to scale your work progress.
Estimate the amount of time that you think you can finish the task. If it takes longer than an hour, see how you can divide the work to create mini-milestones, which leads us to the next step below.
2. Break big tasks down into smaller actionable steps
Once you’ve established the mini-milestones, estimate the time that you need for each one, based on the number of steps under each mini-milestone. This ensures that you don’t spend too much time working on a single step or a single milestone, and it will encourage you to focus and ignore distractions.
When creating a task list, review deadlines before allocating time and create the order of tasks in accordance with the deadlines. Time boxing improves your ability to meet deadlines and improve the quality of your work.
3. Apply soft time boxing on action items that are part of a big task
If you’re working to complete mini-milestones that make up one full task, soft time box each of the mini-milestones. It allows you to work multiple related steps at a time and complete each mini-milestone as you see fit. This makes multi-tasking effective and manageable.
4. Apply hard time boxing on unrelated tasks
Once the allotted time for one task is done, you consider the work done for the day and move on to the next task on your schedule. If you have a list of quick tasks that you need to work on, set a hard time box for it and do as many as you can within the allotted time.
At the end of the day, review what you’ve accomplished within each of your time boxes to see how much work you can actually do and the type of work that’s taking up most of your time.
This is will help you set realistic goals, allocate the proper amount of time, and set reasonable deadlines.
Practical Application of Time Boxing at Work and in Life
Leaders and managers can benefit from time boxing, especially when holding meetings. Scrum meetings like daily stand-up meetings are the best examples of work meetings that use time boxing. These meetings last no more than 15 minutes and are meant for attendees to state their planned tasks for the day and their expected time of completion for each. It keeps everyone on track, resulting in a higher level of work output.
Time boxing is commonly used in the workplace, but its practical application extends beyond your work. It can also helpful in personal time management.
Start Doing More Today
Time boxing makes the work visible and helps you track your progress more effectively. When you time box your activities and tasks, you can avoid taking more work than you can handle and at the same time be able to optimize your daily schedule. It lets you find the time to do the things that you want to do and enjoy doing, and make tedious tasks more manageable and doable.