- How To Get Nothing Done: The Art and Science of Wresting Defeat From the Jaws of Victory
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 1: What Is Timeboxing, Why Does It Work, And Why Should You Care?
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 2: Nested Timeboxing
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 3: Dual Timeboxing
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 3.5: Timeboxing Turns Work Into Play
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 4: Decremental Timeboxing
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 5: Incremental Timeboxing and Mixed Timeboxing
- My (Current) Timeboxing Tools: Hardware Timers
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 6: Q&A
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 7: Isn’t Timeboxing Just A Waste of Time?
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 8: Don’t Those Super-Short Timeboxes Make Timeboxing Meaningless?
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 9: Birthlines And Timeboxing
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 10: Timeboxing, Tony Schwartz and Recovery
- Decremental Timebox → Real Time Conversion Table
- Can Timeboxing Help Me Do Really Big, Hard Things?
- Three Minutes Of…
- Nothing Is Hard
This is the first post in a multi-part series on timeboxing. I’m expecting the series to run for about 3 parts, plus maybe 1 or 2 extra posts to answer any questions that come up along the way.
This first article is just a placeholder to help us get our bearings. The real tofu and potatoes will come in the next two parts, where I’ll discuss two timeboxing variants that I’ve recently been using — dual timeboxing and decremental timeboxing, both of which are “AJATT originals” AFAIK…
What Is Timeboxing?
If you’re not familiar with timeboxing, WikiPedia, Steve Pavlina, Litemind, J.D. Meier , WiseGeek, WorkAwesome and Dave Cheong all give great, easy-to-read introductions to the concept. My first exposure to the idea was Mr. Pavlina’s article.
While we’re being definitional, when I talk about timeboxing here at AJATT, I’m generally referring to what WikiPedia calls “personal timeboxing”.
Anyway, the short answer is this: timeboxing is a technique where we place deliberate, prior, artificial limits on the time to perform a given task. Within reason, the tighter (shorter) the time limits, the better.
Why is timeboxing so powerful and useful? Well, recall the Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT) equation by Piers Steel. This equation tells as that for any given task:
U = EV / ΓD
- U = Utility, i.e. fun. The idea is that humans always make the choice they believe maximizes U. IIRC, humans always want and choose to do the thing that has the highest U.
- E = Expectancy. Your confidence in your ability to complete the task.
- V = Value, i.e. importance of the task.
- Γ = Distractions.
- D = Deadline, delay. How much time you have to do the task.
For a fuller discussion of the whole Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT) thing, you might want to check out the rather verbose article I wrote about winnable games, as well as the original TMT paper by Steel himself. In my humble, non-expert opinion, Steel has probably managed to compress virtually the entire body of work of the personal development industry into a workable equation using only simple arithmetic and just one Greek letter. Hot stuff.
So timeboxing works by artificially limiting D. By giving you a smaller delay – less time – to work with, the utility (U) shoots up and the power of distractions (Γ) is weakened. In fact, the more we shrink D, the weaker Γ becomes. So if you could only do one thing to help your situation with regard to some task you’ve been avoiding, reducing the amount of time you have to do it, would be it.
While we’re here, this seems like as good a time as any to bust out Parkinson’s Law – of course, it’s not a “real” law, but…it might as well be:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion
So reducing D makes Parkinson’s Law our friend rather than our enemy, because not only do we actually get the work done, but we also find that there is less work to do. More accurately, limiting the time causes us to make choices that reduce the quantity of work; we trim the task down to size.
That’s all for now. Come back for the next installment in the series! Feel free to share any ideas, info and/or insight you may have down below in the comments section. 😛