How Time-boxing Can Help You Become a Better Project Manager

You can view Time-boxing as running a stopwatch for your own project tasks; it is a simple yet effective way of managing the hours in your working day during which you can allocate certain periods to specific activities. It works successfully for software development teams, designers, writers, engineers and students and can also work for project management.

Here are five good reasons for using Time-boxing to help you manage your working hours:

  • Time-boxing is simple and costs nothing. All you need is a clock timer, which you probably already have on your mobile phone or computer. There are also plenty of timer software devices freely available online. The basic method of time-boxing is this:Choose which task or set of tasks you’ll be doing on a particular day. Set the timer to a period which is enough to complete the activity. Now, having started the timer, focus on the task in hand and only that task. Try not to get distracted and don’t clock watch. When the clock alerts you of time up, you stop working. Job done. Repeat the process as necessary.
  • It is a flexible and customisable time-management method. For the perfectionists and ditherers, time-boxes can be made as short as 5 minutes or any length you desire which, for many people, would make working against the clock less intimidating. In the case of workaholics, time-boxing can work the other way – it can limit working hours, so taking away some pressure, and making work less stressful.
  • Ditch that procrastination. Sometimes, just to get started on a task is often more difficult than getting your teeth into it once it is underway. This is where Time-boxing can make getting started less daunting. For example, it’s a lot easier to begin a task you only have 30 minutes to complete than one you could spend an indefinite amount of time on. When you think of work and time in an indefinite way, it can be difficult to complete tasks.
  • Keep that obsessive perfectionism in check. Perhaps not too surprisingly, procrastination is often caused – or at least related to – the need for everything to be perfect with the task in hand. Unfortunately, not only do perfectionists find it hard to get going on anything, they find it equally difficult to continue when they do get to a certain point – and sometimes to finish even! Time-boxing lessens the aversion to – and stress from – the task by simply limiting its duration. Also, by setting specific goals to accomplish before time is up, the perfectionist is forced to settle for good enough. He has to prioritize the essentials and avoid getting carried away with often superfluous details. If tinkering can’t be avoided, it can at least be time-boxed. And remember that perfection is the enemy of good.
  • Going with the flow. Those perfectionists make work too challenging by setting unrealistic goals for themselves, often with standards that are too high. On the other hand though, when the goals are too trivial or the standards are set too low, work becomes too easy, resulting in boredom – and the end product being of poor quality or of a just adequate standard. But when work is neither too easy nor too hard, it becomes effortless and pleasurable, and certainly highly productive. Yes – this state is called flow and it’s what you need, every working day!

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