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Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 6: Q&A

This entry is part 12 of 26 in the series Timeboxing Trilogy

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 seriously not talking about this any more.

Oh, go here to read the series from the very beginning, and here to read the previous installment.

Today, as promised 😀 , I’d like to answer some of the questions you raised in comments on preceding articles of this series. Let’s go straight to it.

Did you use timeboxing to write these articles?

Yes. Although sometimes I eventually had enough momentum going to not need the timeboxes.

How long should one [rest] break for between timeboxes, and what are recommended activities?
Should I make my work timeboxes and rest timeboxes equal in  lengths?
What if I like 2-minute timeboxes for resting? Should I not do them because you say I shouldn’t?
Also, if I feel like stopping mid-timebox should I continue anyway or should I stop because I want to stop?

OK first of all, write this on your liver: never use the word “should” in my presence. There are no “shoulds” in AJATT. People are always shoulding all over themselves </TonyRobbinsReference>. Do whatever you want. Do whatever makes you happy and productive.

I don’t make rules: I make games. SRS is a game. Nested timeboxing is a game. Games have rules, too, but those rules are designed to make things fun and addictive. That is their only purpose. It just so happens that we use the game of timeboxing to do “productive”(-seeming) things, but that doesn’t make it any less of a game, any more than a beanbag stops being a beanbag because it’s an office and not a living room.

Second. I don’t take breaks between nested timeboxes. I mean, I do insofar as I ultimately stop working and go do other things, but taking breaks isn’t part of the game, if you will. For me, the point of (nested) timeboxing is to be working all the time you work. It’s about focus. Gosh, I’m using all these words I hate. I do have natural moments of “pause”, but no official breaks. But that’s just me.

I hate time-limited breaks. To me it’s like timing sex.  I’m gonna break until I feel rested, and I’m gonna hump until it no longer feels good…and I don’t know when that is until I get there…When hungry, eat…when tired, rest. When bored, change the channel. But that’s just me.

Now, I know a lot of you are thinking: “but if I start resting, I’ll never stop”. That’s because you’ve been raised in slavery. Don’t you see? BECAUSE your breaks have been rationed out and time-limited, they have increased in value a hundredfold. More than all the camels and women in the desert, yazalami! They’ve become like crack and gold and diamonds and baseball cards and first edition comic books — valuable BECAUSE they are rare.

Humans are forgetful, but not lazy. Humans work hard. Watch someone play WoW, those motherlovers get worn out. And we’ve all read those news stories of kids in Korea playing video games literally to death. Humans are hard-working sons of mothers. We only seem intrinsically lazy because we have inadvertently given rest activities a very high (but extrinsic) value.

With timeboxing, we are doing the complete opposite of that. We are rationing out and nickel-and-diming and salami-slicing and swiss-cheesing and bite-sizing and shrinking and wrapping and miniaturizing the work, while freeing up the rest. The idea of timeboxing is to make work addictive by making it exciting and rare and short.

When tired, rest. Rest all you need to. Make your rest abundant and you’ll get bored of it. Flood the market with rest — make it so that you can rest any time. It’s kind of like how when you were a kid and you actually wanted to go back to school as the summer holiday grew to a close. You were like: “enough of this Nintendo and candy and playing outside already…get me my uniform and pencil case — I’m going back to meet the lads!”.

Aside: IMHO, there’s a bit of a scam going on with school summer holidays. It seems to me that they’re designed to be just long enough that you get sick of them, but not so long that you start taking on productive, independent learning projects that would demonstrate to you that you don’t need school. But I digress.

Again, I do take breaks during the timeboxing, but never for more than one minitimebox (i.e. never traversing a timebox — the alarm lets me know “hey, get back in the game”). If you need to rest that much then you shouldn’t be working, period. But that’s just me.

So, either:

  • Stop and go do something else until you’re bored of it — eat, sleep, rest, whatever.
  • Or, make your timeboxes smaller.


The whole thing about nested timeboxing is that it’s not a new form of slavery, it’s not a new way of forcing yourself to work. Nested timeboxing is designed to make you want to work. It’s supposed to make you go: “What? 60 seconds of work??? I’ll do that for free! Heck, I’ll pay for the privilege to get on the ride :D…where’s the turnstile?”. If it doesn’t do that for you, then tweak it until it does.

Remember: game = FUNgible. You run the show. You make the rules. I cannot sit here and tell you what to do and if I were you I wouldn’t let me tell you what to do.  Dang, man…life is complex enough, already.

Do not mold yourself to fit any idea I put forward. Mold the idea to fit you. This is a blog, not a religion.

A personality cult with fascist leanings, yes, but not a religion.

Again, do whatever you want. This is all a game. It’s not school; I am not your teacher; you do not take take orders from me. I’m barely sharp enough to be making systems (games) that work for myself. Don’t come here all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed looking for magic pills; I have none for you. You will gain nothing from following or forcing yourself to be like me. Just try stuff out and see what you like.

For freak’s sake, man…you are not an “average” person; we all have a lot in common, but there is no “average” person. So don’t come here to take orders, come here to see a perspective and see how you’re going to use it. This is why people — Americans, at that — die at personal development seminars: they don’t know when to just act like a cat and tell the whole world to buzz off because it’s ball-licking time. Be a cat about this, not a lapdog.

So… There is a 2 minute break between each timebox, correct?

No. If you need to rest that much, you shouldn’t be working. I mean, come on, in dual timeboxing, the small timeboxes are only like 60 seconds each. What’s to rest from?

When I read a textbook using 30 minute time boxes, it felt too easy at the beginning.

Dude…I say let it be too easy 😀 . Then again, you weren’t asking a question.

When I have a short break between study sessions, I lie on the sofa and do nothing.

Good one!

Anyway…that’s it from me for now. Uncle Khatzumoto went a bit PG-13 there…I hope you weren’t all scarred. Feel free to add any questions and insights you may have; I’d love to do one more round of Q&A.

Series Navigation<< My (Current) Timeboxing Tools: Hardware TimersTimeboxing Trilogy, Part 7: Isn’t Timeboxing Just A Waste of Time? >>

  14 comments for “Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 6: Q&A

  1. July 25, 2010 at 00:07

    I don’t know what a Fungible is, but it *sounds* tasty.

    I do know that I’ve knocked my normal timeboxes down from 60 to 30 and now down to 10 minutes; and with so much more bliss recently; that I highly recommend it. However, I believe this is a personal path you will have to find on your own; subscribing to 1 minute timeboxes from the get-go could cause ulcers… seriously.

    Never make your timebox intervals short enough that they cause panic and/or stress, otherwise you’re defeating the purpose.

  2. Dr. Lazy
    July 25, 2010 at 01:51

    Ah… I think I finally see my problem. I can’t make work fun, at all. SRS isnt fun for me, timeboxing doesnt help, I dread it everyday and for a extra kick to the face I dont feel as if Im learning, and I thought the sentence phase was the holy land :/. I however can spend my entire day playing monster hunter, or some other game. But not if I have to think about anything. Like if I have to look up a whole bunch of fights or have to think at all I cant do it. So I cant even do productive work in a game because I dont find it fun. FML

  3. July 25, 2010 at 07:07

    I actually do use 1 minute timeboxes. I do incremental timeboxing, because for me the hardest part is just getting started. So I start with 1 min (the timer that comes with iPod touch let’s you set the timer on 1 minute increments). Once I get 1 min done (you can get surprisingly far in 1 min; once you figure out what document to open and what you need to be doing, you’ve already got momentum), and the timer goes off, I set it to 2 mins and keep going. By the time I hit 5 min intervals I’m feeling good about myself for getting stuff done. Whenever I need to get momentum again I start at 1 min.

    Dr. Lazy,
    What’s up with your cards? The other day I was doing some vocab cards taken from and it was making me hate the process. It was too hard and boring. They were business terms made up of kanji compounds where I could barelyfigure out what the kanji were, didn’t know the readings of those characters, and didn’t understand why the Heisig keywords I knew made up the vocab word. After failing them a few times, I suspended them. I do not want to keep failing the same 100 cards and thus failing to get to the rest of the 2000 vocab words. Lazy, easy, fun, is the name of the game. So my question for you is, are your cards lazy, easy, and fun? Right now I’m using AnkiSRS for my Heisig/RTK kanji deck and its showing me all the cards with like 1.3 year intervals that I have never failed. It is pretty easy to do because the cards are easy. Maybe you should get your delete key handy and when you get a card that makes you want to hit “end session” delete the card instead.

  4. July 25, 2010 at 13:29

    Great series!

    Question for you: How do the timeboxes make you feel? No, that’s not a crazy psychoanalytic question…. What I mean is, if I know I will simply set another timebox when the current one finishes, I feel nothing about the time counting down. No pressure. 1 minute timebox? No problem, cause I have infinite 1 minute timeboxes if I need them. So it’s kind of like not using timeboxes at all, since they lose their motivational power if you can just set another one. This is mostly a problem with tasks that I MUST finish (i.e. something due the next day, or finishing ALL my reps), since there can’t be a time deadline (the deadline is “complete”). Any suggestions?

    also: I’m learning cantonese and happily making strides thanks to you and SRS software. Would love if you shared some of those resources too sometimes. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  5. July 25, 2010 at 15:41

    Of course, if it helps, more power to you 🙂

    Basically, if it helps, add it; If it adds more stress than necessary, drop it (this includes deleting cards).

    When your sentence deck gets around 7000, you have all sorts of ways of stressing yourself out. Ignoring it just inflames it more (makes them increase); so finding a good way to balance everything with medium-sized intervals throughout the day is possibly the best way.

  6. Jon
    July 25, 2010 at 21:45

    Currently doing 5 minutes active work, 2 minutes rest work and liking it – although by ‘rest’ I mean taking some time to do some reading or enjoying some Manga. I find this breaks up my SRS work nicely and gets me back into it giving me the brain rest I need, but not being seperated from my SRS long enough to fo beyond the forgetting point with new cards. I usually do a max of 30 minutes active all together, but wouldn’t mind doing a build up from 2 minutes to 5 doing 2-2-3-3-4-4-5-2-5-2-5-2… I’ll have to try it sometime.

    P.s., I don’t think rest is bad. You just need to rest while still ‘doing’ Japanese – TV is a favourite.

  7. Jon
    July 25, 2010 at 21:48

    P.s. Chronology 1.6.0 is a great app for timeboxing on the iphone. It’s essentially an interval timer with multiple functions that really do help.

  8. n
    July 27, 2010 at 11:19

    In my experience, I can take infinitely long breaks. If I let myself become distracted, even with an impending deadline I’ll tempt fate and go nuts doing something completely off-topic. For Japanese study perhaps, timed breaks are a poor idea, but things with deadlines seem to reward timed breaks.

    Getting tired of breaks happens, but I’ve become quite skilled at not working at all for extended periods of time, and making procrastination the default; while I know work should be more interesting than a lifelong vacation, I still have difficulty getting started.

  9. Dr. Lazy
    July 28, 2010 at 04:09

    I would rather have a life long vacation 🙂

  10. Tony
    July 28, 2010 at 06:29

    I time-box my breaks from unpleasant activities, otherwise they’d become infinite. I haven’t tried very short time boxes yet. It is probably high time to test them “to let things be too easy.”

  11. Jermjus
    July 28, 2010 at 15:59

    More and more I find myself really enjoying your philosophical ideas of learning and everything in general. It goes well with what I’ve come to accept in my life and how I found learning and living to be best enjoyed.

    When I get a few extra greenbacks I’ll be sure to buy some electronic book goodies from you. Keep up the interesting and inspiring words. I always like reminders that I’m not crazy in a bad way.

    (autodidactism ftw)

  12. triplez
    July 30, 2010 at 14:30

    I just got my first timer today! The nice lady at Yamaga Denki also taught me how to say “timer” in Japanese, it’s タイマー or キッチンタイマー.

    I have a few questions: should I make my time boxes and rest time boxes equal lengths, or should I change them? Also, what if I like 2 minute time boxes for resting? Should I not do them because you say I shouldn’t? Also if a I feel like stopping mid-timebox should I continue anyway or should I stop because I want to stop?

    That should be all the questions I thought I should ask. I’m sure it shouldn’t be too much trouble for anyone to tell me how I should get started on this. Thanks.: )

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