Here's another very simple tool that will surprisingly make you more productive today. It's called Time Boxing. Checkout this 5min video where I explain the technique, or read the highlights below ( or just print this PDF to get started).
All you have to do is write down what you want to do today, estimate the time for each task, then block off time for that task. Although this is very simple, I find it's essential to my productivity.
You see, the moment you schedule your tasks, you transform them from an ephemeral wish list to a concrete action plan. You are at least twice as likely to accomplish your tasks when you have a concrete plan.
Benefits of Time Boxing
+ You get more done.
+ You feel better about yourself and your work.
+ You're less overwhelmed when you get tasks out of your brain and on to your plan.
+ Having a plan helps you overcome procrastination.
+ Small time investment for a big productivity boost.
Just try it! It only takes 10 minutes.
Here's How I Box with Time:
STEP 1: Brainstorm your list of tasks on the right
- Just brain dump all of the things you need to do and list them on the right side.
- It helps to pull from a separate running list of tasks, or your list from yesterday.
- Break large, complicated tasks into smaller sub-tasks.
STEP 2: Estimate how long each task will take
- Estimate in increments of 15 or 30 min.
- Put this estimate in the TIME column.
STEP 3: Choose your frog
- Choose the hardest, most overwhelming, most procrastinated task. That’s your frog.
- Write it at the top (this sets intention).
- Schedule it first in your day.
STEP 4: Schedule your tasks in order of importance
- Write your appointments in the schedule on the left.
- Schedule your Frog first thing in the day.
- Now add your next most important task to the schedule.
- Put a circle in the STATUS column (indicating that it has been scheduled).
- Keep adding your next most important tasks to the schedule until your day is full. Thus the least important tasks will naturally not make it into your plan for the day.
STEP 5: EXECUTE!
- Wow! You now have a concrete plan for the day, full of getting important things done!
- Check off your tasks in the STATUS column as you go.
STEP 6: ADJUST
- Most days don't actually go as planned. That's okay! Adjust the plan as necessary, moving tasks or postpone them until tomorrow. Don't be so rigid that you ignore important emergent tasks or opportunities just to keep your schedule. BUT ALSO don't derail your schedule for unimportant things like checking email, social media, and things like that.
- As new tasks come up, add them to your list with an arrow (>) in the status column, meaning you will push them back to tomorrow (or fit them in your current day if you can). It feels really good when you can receive a task and say "I'm doing something more important right now, but I can do that later."
- To promote a positive mindset, start your day by writing down a few things you’re grateful for at the top of your plan.
- Treat your tasks like doctor’s appointments; show up to them on time and take them seriously.
- When I'm feeling distracted, I find it helps to "set my intention" along with a timer. I set a timer and say out loud "I'm going to work on X for the next Y minutes." This helps keep me focused when I'm tempted to procrastinate.
- IMPORTANT: Don’t get discouraged when your plan goes to crap! This will happen often. But you’ll still be more productive with a plan than without one. Just adjust the plan and keep going. When you find yourself way off track wasting time on social media, don’t beat yourself up, just say “Oops, this isn’t what I want to be doing right now, I’ll do this later” and get back to your schedule.
- Just get started. When you have an overwhelming task, it helps to schedule just 15 or 30 minutes to just get started working on it. Usually, once you start, you hit your stride and get a lot more done than you thought you would. But even if that doesn't happen, at least you've made a little progress, which will be easier to build on next time.
- Download the free Action Plan PDF
- Use it to write your task list for today
- Estimate the time required for each task
- Schedule your most important tasks on the left side