- 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
- Three Minutes Of…
- 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
- Decremental Timebox → Real Time Conversion Table
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 10: Timeboxing, Tony Schwartz and Recovery
- Can Timeboxing Help Me Do Really Big, Hard Things?
- Protected: How Zombie Gunship Taught Me All I Need to Know To Make My Real Life Awesome (And So Can You!): Gamifying Real Life For Fun and Profit and (Almost) For Free
- Nothing Is Hard
- Protected: All I Ever Needed to Know in Life, I Learned from Cloud Storage
- Protected: Don’t Be The Kaiser or the Fuhrer
- How To Get Nothing Done: The Art and Science of Wresting Defeat From the Jaws of Victory
Here we go again with another entry in the timeboxing series…I really should stop calling it a “trilogy”, since there are quite clearly more than three parts, but…whatever. I mean, it was originally intended to span only three parts but it kept — OK, no, we’re not talking about this any more.
What Is Decremental Timeboxing?
OK, so decremental timeboxing. AKA “downward spiral” timeboxing. What the heck is it? Well, decremental timeboxing is another nested timeboxing variant that occurred to me in the course of my daily adventures. All it is running timeboxes sequentially (back-to-back), while making each new timebox shorter than the previous one. Like dual timeboxing, decremental timeboxing is a “nested timeboxing” method. Unlike dual timeboxing, decremental timeboxing requires only one timer.
- The task is big: it needs time
- But you don’t want to “feel” like a lot of time is being spent, because this feeling of burden and enormity leads to procrastination
- You want to shorten the time for the task to take advantage of Temporal Motivation/Parkinson’s Law
- But you can’t make it that much shorter
- I don’t have the evidence but I imagine that our attention/mental energy follows a curve
- Over a single session, our ability to pay attention –- to focus mental energy on a task –- generally decreases
- But it doesn’t disappear — we don’t suddenly run out of energy. Rather, it fades away
- Decremental timeboxing takes advantage of the fact that we still have some mental energy to bring to bear
- But decremtental timeboxing also takes into account the fact that (a) we’re weakening and (b) creating a feeling of “this is going to end soon” makes us work better
- As always with timeboxing, all we are doing is cleverly choking the “D” term of the temporal motivation theory equation.
- Decremental timeboxing turns work into play: “just a little bit…we’re almost done…just this little bit…just a couple more minutes”
- Unlike dual timeboxing, decremental timeboxing accomplishes a nesting effect using only one timer. After all, we can’t always be Flava Flavin’ it with multiple chronometers…
What Kinds of Decrement Patterns (i.e. Timebox Sizes) Do You Use?
- Decrement patterns:
- 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (units: minutes) | Each timebox is one minute shorter than its predecessor
- 10-5-3-2-1 (units: minutes) | Each timebox is half the length of its predecessor
- 90-60-30 (units: seconds — incidentally, this was at one point my favorite decrement pattern for washing dishes)
- Decremental timeboxing with decremental reset:
- 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1; 5-4-3-2-1; 3-2-1; 2-1 (units: minutes) | Each timebox is one minute shorter than its predecessor
- 10-5-3-2-1; 5-3-2-1; 3-2-1; 2-1; 1 (units: minutes) | Each timebox is half the length of its predecessor
Somewhere along the line, we all seem to learn the false lesson that only big matters, that our steps do not count, that the process is a waste of time, that if we’re not working our way to a heart attack then we’re not really working. Everything is too small. Everything is too late for the fictional deadlines we make up. Everything is too early because we don’t have the imaginary perfect toolset we’re supposed to have.
And all the while we wonder why nothing’s happening…
It’s never too late. It’s never too early. It’s never too small. Do something, no matter how small. Do anything, the easier the better. ((((DO SOMETHING!) SMALL) USEFUL) NOW!)
I think that’s almost it for this particular more-than-three-part timeboxing trilogy. Except this — your questions. If you have any, I’ll answer them in the next (and probably-though-maybe-not final) post.