Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 2: Nested Timeboxing

This entry is part 1 of 17 in the series Timeboxing Trilogy

OK, so we’re talking about timeboxing. If you’re lost, go here to start from (at?) the beginning of the discussion.

Nested timeboxing is a fake umbrella term I just made up for what is actually two different variations on the timeboxing concept that I recently “discovered”. I don’t want to go all Columbus on you here – it may well be that someone else was already living in this part of timeboxing space. But I’ve never seen anyone discuss these before, so, I’m going to go ahead and unjustly take credit for now.

So, timeboxing, for the reasons discussed in the previous post, makes it easier for us to actually get to work and save time. Timeboxing “lowers the barriers”, if you will. In fact, the smaller the timebox, the more time is saved and the easier it is to get to work. But that’s exactly the problem and paradox of traditional timeboxing. Because, you see…

  • while smaller timeboxes are easier to work on → concretely
  • LARGER timeboxes are easier to work with → conceptually

It’s a simple concrete vs. abstract dichotomy. Larger blocks of time are easier to work with conceptually, such as when scheduling. It’s easier to say “I’ma work on this for an hour” and write that in your schedule, and keep track of that in your time-tracking system, than to say “I’ma work on this for fifty-six 90-second units”…because keeping track of 56 little things is annoying; it’s just more overhead that we do not need; there’s so much to keep track of in life already: the systems we use to help ourselves work better should be reducing our workload, not increasing it. I, for one, refuse to sit around tallying up 90-second timeboxes.

So an hour of time is easy to work with, but it’s very hard to work on. As anyone who has ever said to themselves “let’s sit down and work on X for an hour” knows, that hour is incredibly hard to get started on – you suddenly find yourself stricken by the urge to do “righteous time-wasting” – endless tidying up, cleaning and preparation activities. Whether it’s work or play, big blocks of time invite procrastination. Conversely, if someone says to you: “do X for 90 seconds”, you won’t even think twice about it; there’s nothing to think about – you just get started on it. You’ll drop whatever you’re doing and do it, because the D parameter (see the equation in the previous article) is just so freaking small. Small blocks of time invite action.

Nested timeboxing allows us to enjoy the best of both worlds; it helps us actually walk the big talk. With nested timeboxing, a large timebox surrounds a bunch of smaller timeboxes. We’ll discuss the details in the next post.

Series NavigationTimeboxing Trilogy, Part 3: Dual Timeboxing >>

  11 comments for “Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 2: Nested Timeboxing

  1. ダンちゃん
    June 7, 2010 at 02:44

    Cheers Kats

    Just wondering, you going to be finished your ‘side tracked in salt lake city’ post soon? Been hanging out for part 3 for a while… ^^

  2. Ceryni
    June 7, 2010 at 11:14

    Ahh, so is it like this? You come up with something you want to study over an hour, then divide up what it is into manageable chunks?

  3. さか
    June 7, 2010 at 11:21

    Great post, I understood it quite well and could relate to that 90 second example, ha.

    By the way,I am also waiting on that ‘Side tracked Salt Lake City’, thing also. :P

  4. Macca
    June 16, 2010 at 21:30

    I’ve been using 2 minute SRS reps for ages now, but I got bored of them at one point, completely forgot about it, and just ignored it whenever the time limit finished. I think the main problem I have with timeboxing is that when I’m doing SRS reps, I’ll find a word in a definition, or in the Japanese recording I’ve got going on in the background, and then I’ll look up the word, add it, find another word in the definition, find a new kanji etc, etc, and end up very off track.

    This article has inspired me to try timeboxing again, for Japanese and schoolwork. I certainly know how hard it is to stay focused on a planned hour of homework.

  5. Harry
    July 28, 2010 at 06:13

    When you were coming out with these articles I never really cared since I’ve never used timeboxing, but in the situation I’m currently in, I’m finding I really need to try it in my life. So far so good, bit hard to grasp at first, but I’m looking forward to reading the future articles (which I’m about to) to in essence make Japanese, and my life easier. ;)

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