I have a few big projects at the moment, things that can’t be done in one sitting, and which tend to do my head in if I stick with them for too long. I am doing project work for clients, seeing some clients of my own and trying to keep up the momentum on my new book (on the new retirement…).

So, I’ve gone back to an old favourite time management tool. It’s called ‘time boxing’ and  basically all you do is divide your day into time periods, such as 30 minutes (longer or shorter depending on your natural focus length or types of tasks). You may also have varied periods – I like longer (45 – 60 minutes) in the morning then short and snappy (20 or 30 minutes) as the after-lunch slump takes hold!

You then slot a task into each box at the start of each day, with the aim of just spending that amount of time on the project, then stopping. If the task isn’t finished, you add another slot for it. That’s it. No unrealistic ‘to do’ lists, no sense of failure at the end of the day…

I have found it’s excellent for stimulating my creativity and keeping up my focus and my interest in open-ended projects. It kills procrastination stone dead (well, almost…) and it lets me be very efficient with smaller amounts of time – I’m sure I’m not the only person with a tendency to say ‘I need to wait until I have a whole day free to do X or Y task’.

It also links nicely with ‘batching’, another favourite of mine. This is where you store up similar little boring tasks, like paying bills or doing minor admin, then spend 30 minutes knocking it all off at once. Very satisfying.

Of course, you need to prioritise as well, so the urgent tasks get done first.

Other benefits? You get very clear about time – how you spend it, and how you waste it. You feel great at the end of the day. You also get to create a structure and break up your day, which I quite enjoy.

I am using the timer on my phone, but I also like this free online stopwatch which even lets you choose cute little sounds when you reach the end of the allotted time. There are lots of online timers around – you could even use a real old fashioned egg timer or alarm.

I have to move on now (my allotted blog writing slot is up) but why not give it a try?

Joanna Maxwell


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