- 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
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.