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Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 8: Don’t Those Super-Short Timeboxes Make Timeboxing Meaningless?

This entry is part 14 of 26 in the series Timeboxing Trilogy

OK, now I’m just abusing the word “trilogy”.

Series starts here. Previous post is here.

I can’t find the original comment, but back in one of the preceding timeboxing posts, a kid asked a very pertinent question. It went something along the lines of:

“How can a 60-second timebox have any meaning or motivational value if you know you’re just going to have another one?”

Great question. Excellent question. Let me answer it very simply.

  1. First, you’ve got go get out of the mindset that a 60-second timebox has no intrinsic value. Or, more accurately, you’ve got to get into the mindset where you can see the intrinsic value of 60 seconds. And what mindset is that? It’s this one. It’s the probabilistic algorithm mindset: it’s the mindset that says: “I’m not going to a lot of work; I’m not going to do perfect work; I’m just going to do something that helps [for 60 seconds]”. So a short timebox is saying to you: what you do doesn’t have to be big, it just has to help.
  2. Once you understand that 60 seconds can have value, you are then in a position to begin to appreciate nested timeboxing. Because the whole point of nested timeboxing is to bring form to the formless. 60-second timeboxes are great, but an endless succession of them can seem, well, endless. That’s where nested timeboxing comes in. It puts these useful microtimeboxes (which I’ll arbitrarily define as any timebox of size < 300 seconds) into a larger framework of meaning. Nested timeboxing gives bigger meaning and structure to the small-but-useful microtimeboxes.
  3. Finally, there’s no rule that says you have to use 60 seconds as your timebox length. That just happens to be a length that appeals to me personally. That’s just how I play the game; it’s how I roll. Remember, though, this is all a game, i.e. it is something you play at. For fun. The rules only exist to make things fun. Change, interchange and ignore at will.

So that’s the basic idea there. Keep your questions coming, they’re top stuff 😀 .

Series Navigation<< Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 7: Isn’t Timeboxing Just A Waste of Time?Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 9: Birthlines And Timeboxing >>

  11 comments for “Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 8: Don’t Those Super-Short Timeboxes Make Timeboxing Meaningless?

  1. Irwin1138
    August 19, 2010 at 00:19

    I tend to dislike timeboxes that are too short. Maybe for the very tiny things that one can do they might be helpful, but they are way too distracting to keep lots of them in succession e.g. 60×20. It’s nearly impossible to focus when you are distracted every minute to reset the timer.

    However the 60 second timebox has an immense value of being a startup timebox. Sometimes to do what I wanna do I need to feel like doing it, and I don’t. I know though that I will immediately begin to feel like doing it when I immerse myself into it, when I get started. So after the initial 60 second timebox, I usually annoyingly reset the timer to 20 minutes and happily continue werking. Then watch some anime/read some manga and more 20 minutes. If I feel like it.

    My biggest problem is to get started, and 60 second timebox helps me do just that.

  2. Koneko
    August 19, 2010 at 00:59

    I never used to understand timeboxing, but I hated SRS reviews… So they just didnt get done. Today I decided to try and make it work, and I love it! I’ve done two (about 10 minutes apart because Im kinda lazy, and I ended up reading one of your posts in that time) 5 minute boxes. I’ve reviewed 30 cards, which is far more than I normally get done, and I’m just waiting untill I finish typing this comment to go review more. So… What Im saying, I guess, is thanks for making it fun 😀

  3. Drewskie
    August 19, 2010 at 01:33

    If you want to see how valuable a single minute is, watch one go by on a clock.

  4. Ed
    August 19, 2010 at 01:39

    One more part and its a trilogy of trilogies.

  5. Warp3
    August 19, 2010 at 04:48

    Koneko: I did something similar with my SRS configuration a while back and it does seem to help. My “session length” in Anki is set to 2 minutes (that’s a bit low, but it works well for me). If I’m ready to keep going when the 2 minute session ends, I just click “continue” and keep at it, if not I stop and do something else for a while. If I’m not feeling motivated to work at all in the SRS, but I know I need to, I tell myself I need to do one session of each language (I’m studying 2 languages at the moment, so that’s a total of 4 minutes required) then I can stop, if I want. Sometimes I do stop after that 1 session of each deck; other times I get interested and keep going until the queue is empty for a deck.

  6. Sarah
    August 19, 2010 at 13:05

    Hi all! This is my first time writing anything on this site. Long story short, no actually, long story kept long (I apologize for this btw). Well, I have been studying Japanese for about 2 years now (not serious study though, I have to admit). Anyway, immersion is not a problem for me, I love basically EVERYthing Japanese, though I cannot commit to full immersion at the mo.
    My problem is, for a while now, I have had a lack of concentration. Not matter what I do, it feels like I am barely progressing. I have only just got into Srsing. I had Anki for a good while on comp, but didn’t use it till I got the ipod app. Got ipod touch in April and love that it is great for Japanese! Anywho, I find srsing to be a great idea, whether I stick to it or not is another thing. I’m lazy and tend to forget to use things.
    Now, when I was a child, I always had a facination with things from China, Korea and Japan but didn’t as a child understand the different cultures. The cherry blossom tree in my neighbourhood, started everything. But 2 years ago, a book in the library caught my eye. It was a travel guide to Japan. I leased it and while flicking through it, saw an amazing picture, of toriii gates in Kyoto. It took my breath away and from that moment I decided to had to go there one day. The phrases at the back were so beautiful and easy, that there was no giving up. I was becoming Japanese.
    I’ve never looked back. My family and friends think i’m crazy, but the Japanese culture gripped me and is my life, an obsession.
    Only the other day, In order to motivate myself, I asked myself the question: “If I gave up Learning Japanese, how would my life be?” I hesitated. “Would I still watch Japanese movies and drama’s? Would I still like the culture?” I realised (though I knew just didn’t question it before) that I couldn’t give it up. I think of something to do with Japan and Japanese with basically every thought I have, and if it were possible, I would lose everything that goes with it, because I’d feel like a failure for giving up. I wouldn’t be me. My dream from day one (since I saw that photo) is to live in Japan.
    I am 19 now and am wondering what to do. I have no degree, nor am I in college at the mo. Ireland is very limited when it comes to courses. I would love to do something to do with Japanese but the requirements are ridiculous. I did German for my Leaving Cert (oh God that was so boring, I learned more Japanese by myself in a few weeks, than I did in years with German) No offense to the Germans, it was just a bad school system. Anyway the LC required higher level C3 (and I did ordinary) along with other stupid requirements, that have nothing to do with Japanese. Pathetic.
    Also Japanese people are hard to come by in Ireland, to put it simply I know none.
    Sorry I sound so gloomy!
    But my question is: ‘How hard is it to get a job or enter college in Japan if you have no degree?’ Providing that you self study Japanese and can prove profiency.
    I know this probably sounds like a stupid question, or one that comes up too often, but I would appreciate an answer. Thank you. Love the site. Sorry about my rant!

    Sarah aka ‘Waynetta180’

  7. Han
    August 19, 2010 at 16:24

    Don’t worry, Douglas Adams has a trilogy in five parts called Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You’re definitely beating him ^^.

  8. Ken
    August 21, 2010 at 07:53

    I believe the last one was published as “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy”.

    Perhaps the form of the lesson is meant to be part of the lesson. If Khatzumoto had titled the first one “Part One of the Timeboxing Octology” (“八部作”?), maybe he never would have started. (Seriously, who would start on a “part 1 of 8”? That sounds like *work*.) But he has no trouble writing 3 blog posts, and then he just kept going. Momentum is a strong force. My guess is the only reason he thought to make it in 3 parts (instead of 1) is because he didn’t want the pressure of having to make a single timeboxing article “complete” — do a little now, and fill in the rest next week.

    I’m going go to 1/2 a set on my SRS. That sounds pretty easy.

  9. khatzumoto
    August 21, 2010 at 13:01

    >If Khatzumoto had titled the first one “Part One of the Timeboxing Octology” (“八部作”?), maybe he never would have started. (Seriously, who would start on a “part 1 of 8″? That sounds like *work*.) But he has no trouble writing 3 blog posts, and then he just kept going. Momentum is a strong force. My guess is the only reason he thought to make it in 3 parts (instead of 1) is because he didn’t want the pressure of having to make a single timeboxing article “complete” — do a little now, and fill in the rest next week.

    That is PRECISELY what happened, actually 😀 ナイス洞察力!

  10. August 25, 2010 at 11:23

    I read about time-boxing here and liked the concept. I didn’t have a timer and I’m a non-linear in the moment kind of person. So I just invented for myself the non-timed random just-feel-it time boxing.

    I recently accepted a teaching post in 2 colleges in Illinois. I will be teaching 4 college French classes at the end of the August. I have taught languages for a long time but never in an academic environment. Good God! There were dozens of things to do and organize and sequence and.. and…… So I started to random time-box, moving from one course to the next, one book to the next, one syllabus, one set of tests to the next…etc. I got it all done in about 10 days. The constant recycling and moving to different tasks – but with purpose – actually allowed me to go deeper faster and to make many more useful connections.

    I timed nothing, but I listened to the intuitive feeling that said: “Move on now!”” Sometimes 60 seconds, sometimes 30 minutes. I kept the idea that movement through ALL I had to do was the primary directive.

    It also eliminated the feeling of burden and overwhelm. It was replaced by excitement and a feeling of power ,, like a good computer game.

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