Use Timeboxing to Boost Your Efficiency
Imagine you’re getting ready to throw a party and have some pre-festivity shopping to do. You head off to the department store and start wandering through the aisles, checking out party-themed plates and tablecloths. Pretty soon you’re thinking, “Maybe they’ve got nicer ones at the store across the street,” and you go there. Unfortunately, you hate the colors, so you go to a third store.
With this strategy, you’re going to spend so much time shopping that the party will be over before you’re done.
Timeboxing could be the solution to your problem. In timeboxing, you predetermine the maximum time allowed to get everything done—say, two hours. To get your shopping done in that time, you make a detailed shopping list before going to the store. That takes thirty minutes. At the store, you follow the shopping list to the letter and get all the products in the remaining ninety minutes or less.
In this way, timeboxing helps you avoid overthinking your purchases. As a side benefit, you don’t waste money buying stuff you don’t need because your plan dictates what you're going to buy.
In agile development, timeboxing can keep your project focused and on schedule. The entire work plan can be based on timeboxing. You determine the launch deadline when you start the sprint or iteration, and everyone works toward that date.
Even with projects that aren’t based on agile, you can use timeboxing to focus on doing the best work possible in the time you have.
If during development you realize you don’t have time to do everything you’d planned to, you can remove less critical features rather than prolonging the development phase.
There are advantages to timeboxing:
Timeboxing prevents overdoing it. Some people overwork every detail of their assignments. If you limit the time they can spend on the task, you force them to do first things first. This is why you break down requirements into smaller tasks when using agile methods.
Timeboxing helps you focus on your work. We have a natural tendency to resist starting tasks that are very tedious or take a long time to produce something tangible. Because you commit to working on the task for a set time, it will feel easier to get started; once you’re up and running, your psychological resistance will be lower, as you’re allowing yourself to quit once the time is up.
However, there are also disadvantages to timeboxing:
Timeboxing needs willpower. Timeboxing is not perfect. Some people get frustrated when they aren’t allowed the time to reach their internal standards, and it requires self-discipline to stick to the allotted time instead of giving yourself an extension.
Timeboxing works best for short-term projects. It is difficult to stick to timeboxing when dealing with projects that take a long time to develop. However, if you break the task down into several smaller ones, you can apply timeboxing to each individual sub-task.
You can use the timeboxing technique for both personal and professional tasks. The main benefits are that it helps you avoid overworking things and keeps you focused.
Do you use timeboxing? For what? Do you find that it helps you or hinders you?