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

Gardener

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If, on the other hand, you have enough time in your typical day for you to choose between several different opportunities for you to play guitar for 2 hours,
I feel that you may be the lucky person who doesn't deal with constant interruptions, either from other people or your own head. :) Having multiple clear two-hour blocks in a day seems like a rare luxury. Time-blocking, as I see it, is intended to create things like a two-hour block for people who will, without it, rarely or never get one.
 

Visual Learner

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Time boxing is a term I use with agile protocols— not allowing a task or meeting to swallow up more time than it should. Time blocking is useful for me to block off time for a consistent purpose on a routine basis. Every Wednesday I do my weekly review. By creating that regular block on my calendar I limit coercion by other coworkers. They cannot evaluate my timeblock content and I don’t have to justify it against their competing priorities/emergencies.
 

mcogilvie

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It certainly is a battle between “none of my actions have to be done right now, so I’ll wait” and “I don’t have unlimited time, so I’ll schedule my actions.” I lean toward the former, being lazy and entirely incapable of acting in the face of even the slightest unreal deadline or schedule. Anyone more disciplined than I am (hopefully most people!) may very well use time boxing without problems.
….
To be super clear, my definition of time-boxing is the blocking out of a time-specific slot on a calendar for a commitment that is not truly specific to that time. I find that to be extremely unproductive in my own life and counter to a lot of what GTD is about.
Yes. This.
 

mcogilvie

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I feel that you may be the lucky person who doesn't deal with constant interruptions, either from other people or your own head. :) Having multiple clear two-hour blocks in a day seems like a rare luxury. Time-blocking, as I see it, is intended to create things like a two-hour block for people who will, without it, rarely or never get one.
I do get that Interrupt ions are a problem. But saying yes to important things means saying no to other things, and sometimes you have to tell people no.
 

mcogilvie

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Time boxing is a term I use with agile protocols— not allowing a task or meeting to swallow up more time than it should. Time blocking is useful for me to block off time for a consistent purpose on a routine basis. Every Wednesday I do my weekly review. By creating that regular block on my calendar I limit coercion by other coworkers. They cannot evaluate my timeblock content and I don’t have to justify it against their competing priorities/emergencies.
If you feel you can’t say no, you can always fib. A small lack of candor in service to the greater good. Calling it time-boxing sounds better, though.
 

Gardener

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I do get that Interrupt ions are a problem. But saying yes to important things means saying no to other things, and sometimes you have to tell people no.
But part of my point is that blocking off one's calendar is a way to say no without anyone even having to ask. They see the block, they back off.
 

mcogilvie

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But part of my point is that blocking off one's calendar is a way to say no without anyone even having to ask. They see the block, they back off.
Yes, I understand. Is this time-blocking, in the usual sense of self-commitment or even self-coercion advocated by, say, Cal Newport? Or is it a tactic designed to say no without saying no? What does the blocked time say on the group calendar? What do your fellow workers think you are doing, and are you doing it? What does this say about the culture where you work?

As a tenured university professor, I have the luxury of largely setting my own schedule, and it is very difficult for most people to force me to do something I don't want to do. Yet I and most of my colleagues lead very busy lives. I sometimes joke that the university doesn't care when I get my 70 hours a week in, as long as I get them in. Certainly the administration is not always mindful of faculty time. Given that I have any choice in what I do, I want to agree to do things I want to do, or are important, or easy for me to do, or at least things I don't mind doing. So saying "no" in a good, clear way is important to me.
 

Gardener

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Yes, I understand. Is this time-blocking, in the usual sense of self-commitment or even self-coercion advocated by, say, Cal Newport? Or is it a tactic designed to say no without saying no?

Well, it's designed to say no through automation. :) I see no extra value in two people getting on the phone so that I can say no by voice. My calendar is blocked; if someone needs me for a meeting, they don't book the meeting at that time--the "no" is pre-estabished. If they decide they can live without me, they book the meeting where they want. This seems a lot more efficient than them calling or emailing me--it's pretty much what the sharing aspect of the shared calendar is for, I think.

During that blocked-off time, I do the things that would most suffer by being interrupted.

In addition to meetings, there's a variety of interruption-triggered work that's the shared responsibility of two, or three, or four people, depending on exactly what the category is. We not infrequently declare that one of us is "it" for a day or a chunk of a day, so that the others can be totally un-interrupted. The others might block the time on their calendar and block themselves on message systems.

What does the blocked time say on the group calendar?

I usually set it as a private meeting. If for some reason I had to put a public name to the appointment, I would probably put, "Pretend I'm Dead." This is the phrase that I tend to use when I want to be freed up from interruptions but others might want to as well, and therefore negotiation might be called for: "Anybody mind if I pretend I'm dead Monday afternoon?"

What do your fellow workers think you are doing, and are you doing it? What does this say about the culture where you work?

They think I'm doing the suffers-from-interruption task of the moment, which I usually am.

As a tenured university professor, I have the luxury of largely setting my own schedule, and it is very difficult for most people to force me to do something I don't want to do. Yet I and most of my colleagues lead very busy lives. I sometimes joke that the university doesn't care when I get my 70 hours a week in, as long as I get them in. Certainly the administration is not always mindful of faculty time. Given that I have any choice in what I do, I want to agree to do things I want to do, or are important, or easy for me to do, or at least things I don't mind doing. So saying "no" in a good, clear way is important to me.

And that's what the calendar time-blocking does.
 

TesTeq

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Well, it's designed to say no through automation. :) I see no extra value in two people getting on the phone so that I can say no by voice. My calendar is blocked; if someone needs me for a meeting, they don't book the meeting at that time--the "no" is pre-estabished. If they decide they can live without me, they book the meeting where they want. This seems a lot more efficient than them calling or emailing me--it's pretty much what the sharing aspect of the shared calendar is for, I think.
@Gardener Is your calendar fully blocked? 100%? :confused:
 

Gardener

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@Gardener Is your calendar fully blocked? 100%? :confused:

No, not at all.

I'm not sure where I'm being unclear.

There are times when I want to work uninterrupted.

For those times, I block off my calendar ahead of time, and turn off my access for messaging during that block of time, in order to achieve that uninterrupted time.

At other times, my calendar is not blocked.

If someone wants to have a meeting that includes me, they can either book that meeting for one of the times when my calendar is NOT blocked, or they can decide that they don't need me after all.
 

Gardener

Registered
Yes, I understand. Is this time-blocking, in the usual sense of self-commitment or even self-coercion advocated by, say, Cal Newport? Or is it a tactic designed to say no without saying no? What does the blocked time say on the group calendar? What do your fellow workers think you are doing, and are you doing it? What does this say about the culture where you work?

As a tenured university professor, I have the luxury of largely setting my own schedule, and it is very difficult for most people to force me to do something I don't want to do. Yet I and most of my colleagues lead very busy lives. I sometimes joke that the university doesn't care when I get my 70 hours a week in, as long as I get them in. Certainly the administration is not always mindful of faculty time. Given that I have any choice in what I do, I want to agree to do things I want to do, or are important, or easy for me to do, or at least things I don't mind doing. So saying "no" in a good, clear way is important to me.

To try a different way to phrase this...it feels like you're saying that I shouldn't block off a few hours during which I won't accept meetings or interruptions, because I should learn to say no to meetings and interruptions.

But...that's what the blocking off IS. It's me saying no to meetings and interruptions.

I feel like there's a distinction that you're making, that I'm failing to see.

(And, apologies for the double post and edit.)
 

mcogilvie

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@Gardiner: I think what most advocates of “time blocking” or ”time boxing” are suggesting is that one should pretty much schedule one’s entire life, perhaps with some wiggle room depending on the advocate. Examples of this stance can be found in the writings of Cal Newport. Sometimes this idea is accompanied by the assertion “What is not scheduled does not get done.” My experience is that this is not true for me, and I suspect it is not true for you either. For people who advocate this kind of scheduling, this is their strategy for getting stuff done.

As you know, GTD has a very different strategy, in part because it distinguishes time commitments on your calendar from discretionary time. Now, David Allen says there is nothing wrong with making an “appointment with yourself” in the sense of committing time to work on things. This is a tactic which can be used within GTD, and not the whole of GTD. I tend to protect my mornings for significant work, which is similar. Calling either one time-boxing or time-blocking kind of invites confusion with the extreme scheduling true believers, at least for me.

Issues of workplace culture and practices impact personal productivity. Designating one member of a group as an intake person or troubleshooter on a rotating basis is a common practice. In some places, it’s the junior person who does intake. Sometimes these systems are put in place because of a dysfunctional workplace culture, but sometimes it’s just a good practice most people are comfortable with. I hope that is the case where you work.
 

Gardener

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@Gardiner: I think what most advocates of “time blocking” or ”time boxing” are suggesting is that one should pretty much schedule one’s entire life, perhaps with some wiggle room depending on the advocate.
Ah! I didn't think that anyone in the thread was advocating blocking off the entire calendar or scheduling every task. No, I can't imagine that working. That is, no doubt it works for someone, but I can't wrap my mind around it.

What I'm supporting is regularly blocking off substantial chunks of time--two hours, four hours, a day, half a week--during which one rejects all outside interruptions. Whether you decree in advance that you WILL work on Task X, or you just sit down, breathe the blissful isolation, and then work based on the impulse of the moment, I have no strong opinion on.
Issues of workplace culture and practices impact personal productivity. Designating one member of a group as an intake person or troubleshooter on a rotating basis is a common practice. In some places, it’s the junior person who does intake. Sometimes these systems are put in place because of a dysfunctional workplace culture, but sometimes it’s just a good practice most people are comfortable with. I hope that is the case where you work.
In our team, the team does a particular type of work at a certain level of expertise and/or authority, and also supports the questions and support requests of a larger population of people, in different and sometimes distant management structures, doing the same work at a lower level of expertise and authority. This is useful, because that larger population can do tons of quite productive work with just a little assistance.

Imagine (since I can't find a gardening analogy) a pastry chef being interrupted in his creation of a pulled-sugar castle by a cook from the interns' kitchen down the hall who wants some advice about his broken custard, another pastry chef being interrupted from his croquembouche by a cook from the kitchen across the street who wants to borrow a sous vide machine, and another pastry chef who gets a call to please put the puff pastry in the fridge and mail four grams of saffron to another cook across the country. It would be logical, in this scenario, for just one pastry chef to deal with all of the day's interruptions and requests, while the others work uninterrupted for that day.

(Yes, it might seem logical for an intern to hold the keys to the sous vide and saffron. Pretend that a certain amount of expertise is indeed required to provide that support.)
 
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