One of the best life hacks I learned is to time box. It started way back in high school. I’m sure I’m a bit weird here because I actually enjoyed math class ( I know, nerd alert), and I actually looked forward to math tests (yes, really)
This one time during an calculus exam the teacher announced “10 minutes left and then it’s pencils down.” exams. I don’t know what happened at that point but I would be transformed into this alternate reality where I was super focused
and knocked out several math problems at warp speed.
It was such a rush it’s like I gained super powers - yeah being hyper focused at solving math problems isn’t the kind of super powers people dream about (obviously being able to teleport is the ultimate super power) - but whatevs. This level of focus was unreal and that’s when I first learned about the Timebox Method.
(me in math class when there's only 10 minutes left)
So what exactly is Timeboxing?
Well it’s simple - you pick something to work on for a set amount of time. When that time is up, take a short break and then do it again.
That’s it? Yup, thats it.
So for example, on writing a blog posts I will:
-Write for 20 minutes
-Take a 5 minute break
-Write for another 20 minutes
-Take another 5 minute break
-And repeat this until I’m done
Simple right? Set a timer and start working away.
How To Make Timeboxing Work For You and Your Goals
This method works super well when you have a clear objective and eliminate distractions.
For example I wouldn’t say: “I’m going to work on Snowball for 20 minutes “ while having Facebook open in another tab and checking Snapchat on my phone.
You already know how that goes:
Hmm what should I work on - maybe the blog post, or I could update the website, or, ohhh Sydney sent me a Snap, better check it, *send a snap back after spending 5 minutes looking for the best filter*ok let me get back to this Snowball - I know I’ll outline….
..hmm message on FB from Andy, haven’t spoke to him in a minute - let me say what’s up…*messages Andy*ok seriously - the Snowball website…oh wait I meant the outline for the blog, that’s what I want to do…or should I podcast…hmm..let me look at youtube….
And you get the point - you get super distracted and go nowhere fast.
Instead I’ll pick something specific to work on and eliminate distractions:
Write the Time Boxing blog post would be a good example.
And I would eliminate distractions - close the FB tab, turn off the phone and put it in another room) and send that ghost emoji.
Now you know exactly what to do and you are not distracted. Prepare to enter The Hyper Focused Vortex at Maximum Speed
3 Best Cases To Use Timeboxing
In my experience here are the 3 best times to use the Timebox Method:
1. You Need Focus and Progress
This works well when you have something you really need to make progress on.
Perhaps a chapter of the book you been meaning to write
- Homework due tomorrow
- That blog post you need to get out
- The email you been meaning to send out
2. You Have Several Small But Related Items To Do
I know I said you should focus on one thing but it also works for a bunch of small tasks as well. A couple examples of small related items I’ll time box:
Organizing My Digital Life:
- Cleaning up email
- Cleaning up desktop
- Organizing my photos
Staying On Top Of My Finances:
- All the bills I have to pay (for those companies that don’t take auto pay *shakes fist*
- Tagging and organizing purchases
3. You Really Should Do Something That You Don’t Want To
I love a clean apartment, I do not love cleaning my apartment. It’s a bit easier when I tell myself to clean for 15 minutes, take a break, and repeat.
-Note: i find time boxing most useful for activities I’m not super motivated to do. They become a lot easier to do when you say “hey I’ll just dedicate 20 mins to this and only this.”
How Long Do I Set The Timer? And How Many Times Do I Do It?
The answer is its depends. Try out what works for you. For some 20 minutes with a 5minute break works well. For others one hour with a 10 minute break works well. It all depends on you and what you’re working on.
It’s simply setting a set amount of time to stay super focused, giving yourself a short break, and doing it again. Find what times work best for you.
Simple Yet Powerful
I’m a big fan of simple techniques that offer a lot of value in return. Give this one a try and let me know how it goes!