Tame Time with Time Boxing…or is it Blocking Time?
I want to share with you a scheduling technique that is new to me but has been around for many years: nowadays it’s referred to as “Time Boxing”. I was recently made aware of the concept through a virtual assistant (VA) forum I belong to and in more detail through two business associates of mine, and now that I’ve implemented and utilized it for the past several weeks – I want to tell you, it’s great!
Those of you that are familiar with me or my previous articles know that I am a huge fan of To Do Lists and Checklists. However, I admit that it never occurred to me to merge my lists with my daily calendar – which essentially is what Time Boxing is.
The concept is simple: block (or box) time on your calendar to complete projects and tasks. This will help you reach deadlines in a more organized fashion plus it helps you set aside time for other essential tasks. The key is to block time for everything you do including menial everyday tasks to reoccurring projects to family or “me” time. Block your entire day (if at all possible) so you get an honest feel for the time you truly have available. The results may surprise you!
Time Boxing eliminates procrastination (for the most part) because it tells you when to begin working on an item on your To Do List. And it will help curb your perfectionist tendencies because when you find that you are locked on a project (a problem I battle with), it will tell you when it’s time to stop and move on to something else.
My approach to Time Boxing:
First, I decided to use the Calendar feature of Microsoft Outlook (but you should use whatever method you are comfortable with). I went ahead and scheduled daily recurring tasks such as barn chores, meals, and personal care time. I also scheduled time for reading email, tweeting on Twitter, and posting on Facebook. This may seem unnecessary but it isn’t! Once you block (or box) this time off on your calendar, it gives you a visual of how many hours you have available for work (I was shocked the first time I did it!).
Next I looked at my To Do List, prioritized it, estimated the time each task would take, and then found a place for it within my calendar. I keep my tasks limited to 30 – 60 minutes each “effort”, so therefore if one project is going to take four hours to complete I will break it down into four different segments and spread it out. This gives me time to refresh my brain for each effort plus it helps me plan for the deadline. If this particular project is due in just two days, then I might schedule a couple segments for each day, but if it’s due in a week I’ll break them up over the course of several days.
The beauty of using Outlook is that I can easily move scheduled events around! If I don’t get to a certain event because of something unexpected, it’s no big deal – just drag it to another place within the calendar. (Note: if you already “dismissed” the event, you will need to turn the Alarm back on).
I can also color code my events, which I do because I like the visual of seeing at a glance which time is personal, communication, company growth, or paying work.
However my absolute favorite feature in Outlook is the Alarm! Oh what a lifesaver that is. I schedule every event with the alarm so that it will sound and tell me “Wrap up what you are doing and move on to the next task.” Sometimes I get very involved in a task and hours will go by before I look at the clock again, so this is an excellent way to stop me in my tracks and keep me productive (or let me eat lunch!).
I am happy to report that utilizing Time Boxing has really helped to improve my daily productivity especially since joining time-vampires such as Twitter and Facebook (which are necessary evils). Time Boxing keeps me focused and helps me accomplish more in an efficient manner. I love it and recommend it to everyone!
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you let me know include this complete blurb with it: © 2/27/2009 by Virtual Assistant (VA) Kimberly McCloskey who publishes the newsletter “Productive Pointers” featuring articles on how we all can improve our personal and business efficiency. Request yours at kimberly.j.mccloskey @ gmail.com.