Timeboxing to Avoid Procrastination

As a follow-up to my new year’s resolution, I’ve decided on January’s trial: timeboxing.

Getting things done is often a problem for me. Not because I can’t work effectively, but because I don’t work effectively. I sit around with a vague idea that I should be working on things, then don’t actually work on them. Instead, I lazily read e-mail or RSS feeds, feeling sort of guilty about not doing what I should. Because of that guilt, I don’t even enjoy being lazy! It’s not that I don’t want to work on things, since once I start something I really get into it and get a lot done. What’s difficult is putting together the energy I need to make myself start working.

What’s lacking is direction. In a work environment, it’s easy to find direction. Since you’re working as part of a team on a larger project, there are always tasks waiting for you. Having other people working around you also provides direction. In university, though, there’s no one around to tell you what to do. You have to provide your own direction, whether it leads to schoolwork or to personal projects.

Timeboxing is a simple concept. Instead of setting achievement-based goals, you set time-based ones. For example, instead of deciding to reach a certain milestone for a school project, you set aside three hours and devote that time entirely to the project.

Timeboxing helps in two ways. First, it forces you to make conscious decisions about how you spend your time. If I want to read RSS feeds, then that’s okay. I’ll just set aside a half-hour and focus on exactly that. Since I’m making that decision consciously, I won’t feel bad about it. The second way it helps is by providing immediate direction. Even an hour devoted to reading RSS feeds or playing video-games is better spent than an hour wasted without a clear sense of direction.

The way I see it, if I can get myself to start working like this, I’ll have no problem getting what I need to done. So, my trial for January will be to time-box a minimum of 3 hours each day, for whatever tasks I choose. It doesn’t have to be 3 hours at once, or all for the same purpose, but the total should be at least 3 hours. Not all of that time has to be school-related, but I’m confident that since I’ll be conciously deciding how to spend my time, work isn’t going to be neglected in favour of leisure.

Posted on 2009-01-01 at 22:54. trackback