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There are tons of hacks out there that claim they’ll make you more productive. Now one has been proven to be the “best”: Timeboxing.
The idea behind the hack is simple. Whenever you have something come up that you need to do, put it on your calendar. The idea is that rather than just creating a to-do list, you’re actually picking a “timebox” that has you committing time to complete that task.
It’s something I’ve personally been doing for years. Productivity expert Marc Zao-Sanders recently looked at 100 of the most popular productivity hacks and also found time boxing to be the most useful. The results of his study were recently published in the Harvard Business Review.
It’s not hard to see how the practice can be successful.
With traditional to-do lists, you’re creating a list often without regard to how long each task might take. The end result is a daily to-do list that is more than likely a bit unrealistic when it comes to execution. For instance, you might have eight available hours in your day, but your to-do list might contain 14 hours of work. You’re going to fail.
By putting things on a calendar, you’re forcing yourself to think through how long a task is actually going to take. You’re also blocking off time on your calendar in order to do it, so you won’t run into a situation where you end up booked in meetings all day and can’t handle what you’ve personally scheduled for yourself to accomplish.
You’re also forcing yourself to schedule time for the hard stuff. Traditional to-do lists present the issue of allowing us to select which items we want to accomplish first. In most cases, we’ll all gravitate toward the easiest and fastest items first. While there’s definitely something to be said for that, if you keep avoiding those tasks that require a longer commitment, then you’ll never get them done.
By timeboxing, you’re creating a to-do list at the same time you’re creating an executable plan (based on actual time you have available) to complete it.