What is the thoughts in using time-boxing in GTD Methodology.

Zax Teh

Registered
I'm exploring how best to schedule my time. Currently have to-do list for the tasks. Came across the method of time-boxing. I'm wondering did anyone have experience in using time-boxing for scheduling and does it help in implementing GTD Methodology? What are your thoughts on this? Thanks!!
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
I'm exploring how best to schedule my time. Currently have to-do list for the tasks. Came across the method of time-boxing. I'm wondering did anyone have experience in using time-boxing for scheduling and does it help in implementing GTD Methodology? What are your thoughts on this? Thanks!!
I avidly block time on my calendar for important projects, objectives, etc. I don't put actions on the calendar. If you are like me with a shared Office 365 Outlook calendar where meetings magically appear everywhere, it is important to protect your time. Here is a quote from David Allen in a recent posting of his:

"It’s like time-blocking — if you know you need two hours of uninterrupted time to complete the business plan due to the bank by Friday, and other people may be grabbing your calendared time, then blocking off two hours on Wednesday afternoon might be what you have to do to get that off your mind".

That is my philosophy as well. I do NOT block out every hour - it is important to have some white space to breathe and decide in the moment what is best to do next. I hope this helps.
 

enyonam

Registered
I have been experimenting with time-boxing for several months now. I call it time-blocking.

I have a theme for each day - Markets, Delivery, Operations, Network and Personal. I also have 5 blocks per day - Deep Work, Monitor, Talk, Scan and Shallow Work. Each block is 90 minutes and I plan to take a break in between each one ... or at least I try to. If I have any meetings I try to schedule them in a block so that my breaks are about the same time every day.

That's my hard landscape only. I do not put my next actions on my calendar. I still have a list manager (in Asana). All my projects are assigned to Monitor - that's when I look at my universe of projects for that theme and make decisions and plans. It's also when I schedule project review meetings. I think have for each next action, the block I want to tackle it in.

So when I get to the block, my next actions list is already narrowed to the block I am in. If I finish the next actions for that block I can always go snack on another block. The nice thing is that I know that I am giving each of these areas of my work and personal life at least 90 minutes a week.

This is not set in stone - if I have a ton of delivery work I can always switch out some of the other blocks. The nice thing though is that I am clear what I am trading for the time to do delivery work, and I am limiting each work sprint to 90 minutes.

So far I do like time-blocking but still tweaking it.
Hope that gives you some ideas.
 

samuel.d.kang

Registered
Time-blocking in essence is just another appointment on your calendar or hard landscape. The only difference - and the most critical difference - is it's a commitment to you, yourself, and no one else.

It's much easier to break commitments with yourself because the consequences do not manifest themselves as obviously as when you break a 3PM meeting with your boss or partner. If you can't uphold a commitment, usually you'll try to renegotiate with the other party or you'll face social consequences. Remember, a renegotiated commitment is not a broken commitment.

Time-blocking needs to be held to the same standard, if not internal dissonance occurs and you can grow numb to your time-blocks. The danger of breaking your commitment to yourself is that you can potentially grow numb to your calendar as a whole since you have a mixed log of external commitments and internal commitments that you may or may no commit to! Now you're risking overseeing and becoming numb to your external time commitments to others.

When you decide to time-block be sure it's an actual time-block and not a tickler or a next action that you want to finish or was deferred. When the boundaries between these three become blurred, it becomes very easy to break commitments to yourself. It's okay to renegotiate your time-blocks as long as you know why you are renegotiating and you're at ease just like when you reschedule an appointment with others. But if you're rescheduling/breaking the same time-block over and over again then probably it's not really an agenda with yourself but rather a tickler, a next action - perhaps even a project without a well defined next action or even a next action/project you're no longer really committed to (we can dive deep here haha).

Lastly, time-blocking according to the Three Fold Nature of Work during your daily/weekly review will help. If you find yourself constantly breaking or renegotiating your time-blocks you're likely micromanaging and losing perspective and thus control. Take a step back and really reflect on how much time do you have/need for defining work, doing predefined work, and doing ad hoc work. This will give you a higher horizon to actually time-block realistically and also value your blocked time more. Too much broken or renegotiated time-blocks usually mean you may not be aware of how much time your next actions actually take, you're over committed, and/or you're not protecting or allowing enough time for ad hoc next actions.

Hope this helps. Long story short, try it out and during your weekly review reflect on it if it worked for you or not, and alter it according to
your situation with honest self reflection.

Best,
Sam
 
Last edited:

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
I have been experimenting with time-boxing for several months now. I call it time-blocking.

I have a theme for each day - Markets, Delivery, Operations, Network and Personal. I also have 5 blocks per day - Deep Work, Monitor, Talk, Scan and Shallow Work. Each block is 90 minutes and I plan to take a break in between each one ... or at least I try to. If I have any meetings I try to schedule them in a block so that my breaks are about the same time every day.

That's my hard landscape only. I do not put my next actions on my calendar. I still have a list manager (in Asana). All my projects are assigned to Monitor - that's when I look at my universe of projects for that theme and make decisions and plans. It's also when I schedule project review meetings. I think have for each next action, the block I want to tackle it in.

So when I get to the block, my next actions list is already narrowed to the block I am in. If I finish the next actions for that block I can always go snack on another block. The nice thing is that I know that I am giving each of these areas of my work and personal life at least 90 minutes a week.

This is not set in stone - if I have a ton of delivery work I can always switch out some of the other blocks. The nice thing though is that I am clear what I am trading for the time to do delivery work, and I am limiting each work sprint to 90 minutes.

So far I do like time-blocking but still tweaking it.
Hope that gives you some ideas.
This is so cool! Thanks for sharing - it has given me some ideas to ponder over.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Time-blocking in essence is just another appointment on your calendar or hard landscape. The only difference - and the most critical difference - is it's a commitment to you, yourself, and no one else.

It's much easier to break commitments with yourself because the consequences do not manifest themselves as obviously as when you break a 3PM meeting with your boss or partner. If you can't uphold a commitment, usually you'll try to renegotiate with the other party or you'll face social consequences. Remember, a renegotiated commitment is not a broken commitment.

Time-blocking needs to be held to the same standard, if not internal dissonance occurs and you can grow numb to your time-blocks. The danger of breaking your commitment to yourself is that you can potentially grow numb to your calendar as a whole since you have a mixed log of external commitments and internal commitments that you may or may no commit to! Now you're risking overseeing and becoming numb to your external time commitments to others.

When you decide to time-block be sure it's an actual time-block and not a tickler or a next action that you want to finish or was deferred. When the boundaries between these three become blurred, it becomes very easy to break commitments to yourself. It's okay to renegotiate your time-blocks as long as you know why you are renegotiating and you're at ease just like when you reschedule an appointment with others. But if you're rescheduling/breaking the same time-block over and over again then probably it's not really an agenda with yourself but rather a tickler, a next action - perhaps even a project without a well defined next action or even a next action/project you're no longer really committed to (we can dive deep here haha).

Lastly, time-blocking according to the Three Fold Nature of Work during your daily/weekly review will help. If you find yourself constantly breaking or renegotiating your time-blocks you're likely micromanaging and losing perspective and thus control. Take a step back and really reflect on how much time do you have/need for defining work, doing predefined work, and doing ad hoc work. This will give you a higher horizon to actually time-block realistically and also value your blocked time more. Too much broken or renegotiated time-blocks usually mean you may not be aware of how much time your next actions actually take, you're over committed, and/or you're not protecting or allowing enough time for ad hoc next actions.

Hope this helps. Long story short, try it out and during your weekly review reflect on it if it worked for you or not, and alter it according to
your situation with honest self reflection.

Best,
Sam
This too is so cool! So nicely stated about the philosophy behind time-blocking. Very nicely done!
 

enyonam

Registered
This is so cool! Thanks for sharing - it has given me some ideas to ponder over.
Nice to see you about Prof Longstreet =D I'm glad it peaked your interest. Do let me know if you do anything with it and how that goes. I'm in tweak mode myself.
 

Zax Teh

Registered
I have been experimenting with time-boxing for several months now. I call it time-blocking.

I have a theme for each day - Markets, Delivery, Operations, Network and Personal. I also have 5 blocks per day - Deep Work, Monitor, Talk, Scan and Shallow Work. Each block is 90 minutes and I plan to take a break in between each one ... or at least I try to. If I have any meetings I try to schedule them in a block so that my breaks are about the same time every day.

That's my hard landscape only. I do not put my next actions on my calendar. I still have a list manager (in Asana). All my projects are assigned to Monitor - that's when I look at my universe of projects for that theme and make decisions and plans. It's also when I schedule project review meetings. I think have for each next action, the block I want to tackle it in.

So when I get to the block, my next actions list is already narrowed to the block I am in. If I finish the next actions for that block I can always go snack on another block. The nice thing is that I know that I am giving each of these areas of my work and personal life at least 90 minutes a week.

This is not set in stone - if I have a ton of delivery work I can always switch out some of the other blocks. The nice thing though is that I am clear what I am trading for the time to do delivery work, and I am limiting each work sprint to 90 minutes.

So far I do like time-blocking but still tweaking it.
Hope that gives you some ideas.
Thanks for sharing! It's great idea to block themes rather then next task. Next task would be very overwhelming in my opinion.
 

Zax Teh

Registered
Time-blocking in essence is just another appointment on your calendar or hard landscape. The only difference - and the most critical difference - is it's a commitment to you, yourself, and no one else.

It's much easier to break commitments with yourself because the consequences do not manifest themselves as obviously as when you break a 3PM meeting with your boss or partner. If you can't uphold a commitment, usually you'll try to renegotiate with the other party or you'll face social consequences. Remember, a renegotiated commitment is not a broken commitment.

Time-blocking needs to be held to the same standard, if not internal dissonance occurs and you can grow numb to your time-blocks. The danger of breaking your commitment to yourself is that you can potentially grow numb to your calendar as a whole since you have a mixed log of external commitments and internal commitments that you may or may no commit to! Now you're risking overseeing and becoming numb to your external time commitments to others.

When you decide to time-block be sure it's an actual time-block and not a tickler or a next action that you want to finish or was deferred. When the boundaries between these three become blurred, it becomes very easy to break commitments to yourself. It's okay to renegotiate your time-blocks as long as you know why you are renegotiating and you're at ease just like when you reschedule an appointment with others. But if you're rescheduling/breaking the same time-block over and over again then probably it's not really an agenda with yourself but rather a tickler, a next action - perhaps even a project without a well defined next action or even a next action/project you're no longer really committed to (we can dive deep here haha).

Lastly, time-blocking according to the Three Fold Nature of Work during your daily/weekly review will help. If you find yourself constantly breaking or renegotiating your time-blocks you're likely micromanaging and losing perspective and thus control. Take a step back and really reflect on how much time do you have/need for defining work, doing predefined work, and doing ad hoc work. This will give you a higher horizon to actually time-block realistically and also value your blocked time more. Too much broken or renegotiated time-blocks usually mean you may not be aware of how much time your next actions actually take, you're over committed, and/or you're not protecting or allowing enough time for ad hoc next actions.

Hope this helps. Long story short, try it out and during your weekly review reflect on it if it worked for you or not, and alter it according to
your situation with honest self reflection.

Best,
Sam
Thanks! very well broken down. Your last advice on try it out and review them weekly and alter it accordingly. I tend to want to get it right at 1st and has stopped me moving forward. Thanks for the reminder! Got to treat it like an experiment :)
 

Cpu_Modern

Registered
Of course in a more free roaming area like time management the technical terms are not sharply defined. That's okay. It's just about not confusing concepts and talking past each other.

My assumption is that the OP means with time-boxing what is commonly referred to as time-boxing, but of course nobody has an obligation to use the terms that way. So, time-boxing is not scheduling. Time-boxing is working on a task exactly for a pre-determined length of time.

This is IMHO a good device to combat procrastination, because there is always the end in sight. If for instance you committed to a time-boxing of 30 min doing dreaded task X, you are probably not procrastinate on it, because it's a "fair deal" kind of affair.

This underling principle of "end in sight" is also harnessed in Neil Fiore's "Unschedule."

Additionally time-boxing is also useful in goal setting for projects where the quantification of work is hard to come by. One can always set a goal of so many time-boxing units and the see how far that goes.

A very good system based on time-boxing is presented in Mark Forster's book "Get Everything Done."

On the web advanced time-boxing methods can be found under the term "Pomodoro Technique."

All these things can be very well used in conjunction with a GTD system.

Having said all this, personally I absolutely HATE time-boxing and never use it.
 

enyonam

Registered
Thanks! very well broken down. Your last advice on try it out and review them weekly and alter it accordingly. I tend to want to get it right at 1st and has stopped me moving forward. Thanks for the reminder! Got to treat it like an experiment :)
Yup! I'm very much in that "reformed perfectionist" camp. I also used to spend oodles of time trying to get something right the first time but now experience has taught me that for many things ... not everything ... but for many things, evolving your way gets you much closer to perfect, quicker. The phrase that helped me for years was "Perfect is the enemy of good enough." Perhaps that helps you too. I usually have the theme or quote inspiration I am focused on stuck to my computer monitor. ... It seems to work.
 

Zax Teh

Registered
Yup! I'm very much in that "reformed perfectionist" camp. I also used to spend oodles of time trying to get something right the first time but now experience has taught me that for many things ... not everything ... but for many things, evolving your way gets you much closer to perfect, quicker. The phrase that helped me for years was "Perfect is the enemy of good enough." Perhaps that helps you too. I usually have the theme or quote inspiration I am focused on stuck to my computer monitor. ... It seems to work.
"Perfect is the enemy of good enough." yup! this is what I need..

Evolve in time is the key.. :)

Thanks Enyonam!
 
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