A short bit of study to get primed on time-blocking.
Timeboxing * wiki article
Start with Wiki, as always.
Discovery: Personal timeboxing is now called timeblocking, apparently.
Personal timeboxing is also said to act as a life hack to help curb perfectionist tendencies (by setting a firm time and not overcommitting to a task) which can also enhance creativity and focus (by creating a sense of urgency or increased pressure).
Ok, Timeblocking wiki article then.
As seen here.
When done properly, timeblocking can help eliminate distractions and discourage unproductive multitasking.
The practice of timeblocking is nearly as old as the use of calendars. Evidence suggests that calendars during the Bronze Age corresponded to a particular agricultural action. This enabled farmers to plant and harvest at the right times, reducing crop spoilage.
Nice example from Benjamin Franklin:
Todoist article on Time Blocking
Nicely illustrated, and details some variations on the process.
A quote From Cal Newport:
“A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.”
Great illustration that more or less sums up the entire thing:
Some notes on Time blocking variations, paraphrased:
- time blocking: dividing the day into blocks of time, each allocated to a specific task.
- task batching: grouping together similar tasks (e.g., email, calls, admin) into a block to avoid context switching.
- day theming: blocking out an entire day of the week to a particular or flow.
- time boxing: setting a hard limit on a task in which you will complete it.
- The task batching topic above is noted as being good for knocking out “shallow work” in chunks, instead of having it spread through the day.
- Overcomes fuzzy timelines: gives you hard blocks to focus on, and in. Counteracts perfectionism.
- Allows you to spend more time on your actual goals: block out time for the things you care about. Strong intentions don’t get the work done, the discipline of working on things over and over does.
- Don’t underestimate your time, give solid blocks of time to activity.
Note at the end:
“Periods of open-ended reactivity can be blocked off like any other type of obligation. Even if you’re blocking most of your day for reactive work, for example, the fact that you’re controlling your schedule will allow you to dedicate some small blocks (perhaps at the schedule periphery) to deeper pursuits.”
I’ve seen a note elsewhere that says if you feel too restricted by this process, you can block out periods of “open” time to explore, deviate, etc. Seems sensible.
Rest of the article is Todoist specific so utterly-un-apologetically skipped here.
Toggl article on time blocking.
Parts of this are on the nose, has that spirit of “maximise your working hours and make your boss happy” which is a plebs game. Still some good points present. Example:
QUICK TIP: Parents treasure the quiet time each day after their kids go to bed – and you can apply this to your daily work. When (most of your) colleagues leave at 5 pm, you can work distraction-free (perhaps for the first time all day).
Stop clock-watching by scheduling tasks to complete each day. Leave your workplace when you’ve met your goals – not when the clock says it’s time to escape. Instead of leaving a project for the next day, finish it now, when all your ideas are flowing. Not only will you increase your productivity, you’ll impress your colleagues and supervisors with your work ethic!
Bleah. Though I appreciate this block:
Planning Time vs. Execution Time
If you’re like me, you love spending time on work-related activities that don’t really count as work.
You can dramatically increase your productivity by limiting the amount of time you spend dreaming about your goals and fiddling with your spreadsheets. Use time blocking and a time tracker to balance necessary planning with actual work. For example, you can set aside one day every year just for long-term, annual planning. At the beginning of each month, you can dedicate an hour to monthly goal-setting. At the beginning of your week, you can sit down for an hour and schedule your projects into daily time blocks. You can dramatically increase your productivity by limiting the amount of time you spend dreaming about your goals and fiddling with your spreadsheets. Use time blocking and a time tracker to balance necessary planning with actual work.
Resonates with me as my go-to procrastination method is the meta-game of fiddling around with task management tools, workflow processes, etc. Most of it doesn’t add up to much in the end compared to just focusing and getting stuff done. Likewise the following paragraph is a good “antidote” to the urge to get “more tools” on board. As with:
You must be unapologetic when it comes to your time. Drawing boundaries with your friends, family, and co-workers can seem daunting, but a little practice goes a long way.
And closing out with:
But I’m So Busy – I Don’t Have Time to Sit Back and Block Off My Time!
You probably read this article because you’re frantic and overwhelmed. You need to catch up on your back-logged work before adopting a healthy time blocking strategy. Follow these quick steps to get on the path to recovery:
- Focus on the Now – Stop. Don’t do anything. Take a breath and realize you’re going in circles, getting parts of many projects done and finishing nothing. If it helps, you can literally say “Stop” out loud.
- Slow Down You have the time to do every task correctly and well. If this seems impossible, remember that your productivity will dramatically improve as you eliminate distractions and focus on one task at a time. Yes, you really do have all the time you need. Whenever you feel yourself getting anxious, slow down even more than necessary. Work in slow motion and feel the good emotions that come with releasing stress and doing your best on every motion of a task.
- Complete Something – Anything. Just tell yourself you won’t stop or turn aside to another task (no matter how urgent it seems). Feel a sense of accomplishment for having finished one, small task – and the sense of relief you get from checking one thing off your mental to-do list. When you’ve done this, pick another small task and repeat the process. Repeat this process a few times until you feel grounded; then, take a minute to choose your most high-priority task and dig into it!
As above, skipped the chunks of the article that were just a sales pitch for more app-stuff.
On tools and systems.
I follow the vibe of Corey Doctrow’s notes on Life Hacks and the kind of setup detailed in Marc Andreessen On Productivity, Scheduling, Reading Habits, Work, and More. Which boils down to the following:
- A small set of text (markdown) files that hold task lists and project notes.
- A calendar (split between work and home because infosec) to block things out in.
Some quotes from
Conclusion: People use todo.txt (Ford’s is 27,000 lines long)
- Don’t use complicated apps
- If you want to organize yourself, take the stuff you’re going to forget quickly and dump it just as quickly -* if it’s in your short-term memory, you have to put it somewhere
- XML Guy: “Not interested in tagging my behavior with metadata just want to find stuff. Google shows that text can be found quick”
- You need to be able to find and enter text fast
- Some bits of life are too short to learn another app
- Text can be trusted: Power users trust software as far as they’ve thrown them in the past. Power users know that the bigger an app, the flakier it is. They’ve upgraded and crossgraded a lot, which means that they need text, which can run on every platform
Then, stealing a couple of screenshots from the Marc Andreessen article above, first his Calendar:
Then his planning file structure:
In my experience this is more than enough without getting into the overhead and complexity of an app, and I think I’ve tried literally every task, project and time management app on the internet at this point re: procrastination.