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timeboxing

Today I tried something different: timeboxing.

The idea, which is a common approach taken in managing time in software development (though with longer timelines), is that you take a collection of tasks you want to accomplish, assign a deadline on each, and if you don't accomplish the task by that deadline, you reschedule.

The idea is that you accomplish two things with this:

  1. you create focus and drive on a task because you don't want to miss the deadline, and
  2. you restrain perfectionist tendencies for the same reason

My personal implementation of this has been to set up three timebox planning iterations during the day. I work a ten hour day, so that divides my day into roughly equal portions of 3 hours. At the beginning of each, I write down what I plan to accomplish in measurable detail and in sequence within the next three hours. For each item, I provide a time limit. Then I go.

If I complete a task early, I don't go on to the next - I reward myself by checking in on Twitter or reading RSS feeds. When the next timebox happens, though, I drop what I'm doing and take up the next task.

Some tips: timebox things like email, Twitter, and RSS feeds. That'll keep you goal focused and keep you from becoming an environment-scanning zombie all day.

Also, much as I love them, avoid music services such as Pandora.com and Last.fm if you can't refrain from checking what that new song is that's coming on. That'll kill focus. Better to have a set playlist, or to find a mix tape you can put on endless loop.

I can't say I held perfectly to all my timeboxes today, but with just over one hour left to go, I have only two items from today's master list left, because this task... [X] ...is done in the 25 minutes I allotted.

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