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How To Timebox In 5 Easy Steps - Schedule Your Day

We all know someone super organized. They get stuff done, they're productive, even if it seems like they have a million things going on, they never miss a deadline, a meeting, a get-together, a gym class, a parent-teacher meeting, etcetera, etcetera.

You're intrigued, you ask to see their calendar or schedule, and everything is in color-coded boxes and planned to the minute. Fascinating.

You've been introduced to timeboxing! It's a way of organizing a day that's proven highly effective - the benefits of timeboxing are worth a mention. Want some of that action? Let me show you how to timebox to get more done.

Color coded to-do list on laptop and phone

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How to Timebox and Schedule a Productive Day


1. What is timeboxing?

Color coded timeboxing on calendar

Timeboxing is breaking your days into smaller chunks of time and then assigning a certain amount of time for each task.

It's like scheduling a meeting in your calendar. You select the day, start and finish hours, and define the desired outcome. Then you treat this box of time like a scheduled meeting - no rescheduling, no interruptions, no distractions - entirely focus on that specific task for the allotted amount of time.

Do this for every part of your day. From getting up to making the bed, meditating, taking out the trash, taking your dog for a walk, for work meetings, running errands, and having dinner with friends, you can even schedule time for thinking...

Timeboxing encourages you to focus on TIME, not tasks.

The benefits of timeboxing cannot be disputed. If productivity is your main aim, then timeboxing is definitely for you.


2. 5 Steps To Use Timeboxing To Schedule Your Day

To Do list, pen, calendar, coffee, stopwatch, plant
  1. Write your to-do list for the day - be detailed and specific.

  2. Next to each task - write an estimate of how long the task should take to complete - be realistic - more often than not, tasks take longer to complete than you anticipate.

  3. Build in extra time for unexpected interruptions or changes.

  4. Choose how long you can do focussed work - 25 minutes of focus is generally what most people can handle, then take a 5-minute break. You must include breaks. You need a few minutes every (hour) to recharge your brain.

  5. Open your calendar, add your to-do list items, and set each task's start and finish times.

Lightbulb, helpful tips

3. Helpful Timeboxing Tips

  • Schedule similar tasks together - these can be similar in location, similar in physical intensity, similar in brain power - you want minimal disruption between each task.

  • If you're timeboxing ahead for a whole week - make repetitive tasks the same color on your calendar. That way, you'll know all the green blocks are for watering your garden, and the blue ones are for breaks, etc.

Eliminate distractions, pen, coffee
  • Eliminate distractions - set aside a quiet space where you can work, turn off all notifications on your phone, etc.

  • Don't give up if you've started timeboxing and are deviating from the schedule. Instead, follow your schedule to the best of your ability and adjust your plan as you go along until you figure out one that suits you best.

30 min stopwatch
  • Set a timer on your smartphone or computer to alert you when you should move on to your next timebox. It might help to keep your timer in front of you.

  • Start small. This might be a massive shift for you. Try timeboxing one day per week or even just one afternoon per week. Try that for a few days and see how it works out. Then slowly build to more days per week.

  • Your focus will be building a routine around timeboxing; make it a habit to schedule and include timeboxing in your day-to-day.

Lightbulb, review, screws
  • If you don't finish your task within the allocated time - analyze what you've accomplished and review your progress at the end of each day.

  • Ask yourself the following: did you complete your work? If not, why not? How will you schedule your tasks differently next time?

  • Learn as you go - make your schedule work better for your needs as you learn the best ways to allocate your time.

Wooden man controlled by strings

4. Psychological Tip

Because this is something new and unfamiliar, your brain will resist the change and tell you to stick to your old way of doing things.

Your brain will also get upset because it's being told what to do.

Try this - instead of thinking, "I have to do this," change your thoughts to "I get to do this. I want to do this."

"But I don't want to do it!" LIE. Lie to yourself in the best possible way.

It might seem silly or even too easy, but your words matter, and what you tell yourself, your brain will believe.


The Bottom Line

Timeboxing works and is a life-changing practice. Like anything, it takes time and discipline to form routines and habits. Keep at it. Once you get the hang of scheduling your calendar by using timeboxing, you'll never go back. You run your own life. You are in charge. Your time belongs to you!


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