Time Boxing

I’ve recently started to use Time Boxing for my work. Time boxing is where you take a task or series of common tasks and work on them for a set time period.

For example, answering emails. Instead of answering them throughout the day, you set a time each day to go through all your emails, read them and respond.

Another example is coding tasks. Instead of trying to get all you coding tasks completed throughout the day, but keep on getting interrupted by other things. You can schedule a time box in your day (from 10am – 2pm) to work on your coding tasks.

Well, the first thing is we need to start grouping tasks together by category and having a way of capturing all these things that arise throughout the day. We all love Todo apps, having one of those where we can quickly capture what we have to do is the first thing.
Then we need to start categorising these tasks we have throughout the day, some examples of these categories are:

  • Emails
  • Coding
  • Meeting
  • Research
  • Planning
  • Admin

As something comes up we capture it in our todo app and give it a category. Next we need to set up our ‘time-boxes’.

In your calendar you need to block out time to work on these categories of tasks. For developers we might say, I have my daily standup at 10am, so from 9-10am I’ll do some Admin tasks, update Jira, add estimates to tickets etc. Then from 10-10:30am I have meetings so that leaves me between 11-3 for coding tasks. So you’ll block out between 11-3 as busy so no meetings can be added to you calendar that time, you switch off Slack and notifications and just focus on your coding tasks. (You do have to plan in breaks within that time, but the main focus between these hours is coding). After those hours you can switch to another time-box, say between 3-4pm you answer emails, slack messages and the final hour of your day is spent doing research/study.

These hours aren’t set, it’s up to you to decide how many time-boxes you have and how long they are. The important thing is to have them set up and in your calendar so you can only work on the related tasks at that time. Using this approach will mean you days are no long scattered, you won’t feel like you’ve achieved nothing in the day, as you have set the time to focus on working on something.

Time boxing can also be used outside work

This approach can also be applied to outside work as well. For example, say you want to learn a musical instrument or write a book. Again you can capture your ideas and the tasks for this. Then set time in you calendar to work solely on that. So every Monday evening between 7-9pm you practice the instrument you are learning or write 1000 work every weekday between 9-10pm.

So far this approach has been working for me, it makes planning your work day easier, without feeling to overwhelmed. I’m going to keep trying to implement this approach over the next few weeks see how it goes.