Last year, my life completely changed. I came back to London after nearly 5 years living abroad, I left the agency world to start my own company and I bought my first house with my husband. I also discovered time-boxing. 

Ok, so time-boxing might not have been the biggest change last year, but it has had a significant impact on my daily life and well-being, because it has freed me of my never-ending to-do list.

This year, after a couple of months of normality, we’ve been hit by COVID-19. I’m so pleased that I’d already discovered time-boxing, as it gives structure to the endless days at home, keeps me disciplined when all I want to do is check the news constantly, and keeps me purposeful during a time that could feel hopeless.

Time-boxing is pretty simple. It’s more or less like putting together a workshop agenda, but just for yourself. Instead of simply writing out everything you need to do, you assign everything (including email checks and phone time) a set period of time during the day. It sounds constrictive, but it is actually incredibly freeing for several reasons:

  • You prioritise at the beginning of the day when you’re fresh, so you aren’t tempted to do the easy and quick tasks first just for the sake of ticking them off a list.

  • You cut down on compulsive email, social and news checking

  • It allows you to think about what you really need and schedule it. Need some fresh air? Schedule it. Having it planned will remove any guilt and sense of “I should be working now.”

  • It helps you work with your biorhythm.  If you’re energetic and creative in the morning, schedule any writing or thinking for then, and do more basic admin in the afternoon slump.

  • You gain a sense of control. There is a lot of time in the day to get things done, but when you’re confronted with a massive to-do list in the morning it can feel overwhelming and you spend more time panicking than doing.

Naturally, timeboxing sometimes go awry, whether because you have a meeting thrown on your calendar or your boiler breaks (having just moved house I’m facing more of the latter type of problem at the moment).  However, I would highly recommend it to anyone feeling overwhelmed, and particularly people in creative roles who need to set aside proper time to think and create. 

Timeboxing is just one of the techniques we teach in our productivity training sessions (whether that’s a WFH online training – free till the end of April! – while most of us are stuck at home or a live session later in the year). If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch.