Micro-boxing for productivity

Time-boxing is an idea that I heard about a number of years ago. It’s only been fairly recently that I have tried to incorporate it as a regular part of my daily workflow. The general idea behind time-boxing is that you concentrate on working for a set periods of time through-out the day. I adjust the period of time to how motivated I feel. When I feel really motivated I work in blocks of 25 minutes. When I am just getting started on the day I work in blocks of 10-15 minutes.

An example of a time-boxing regime is the Pomodoro Method where you work for 25 minutes and then have a break.

For me, time-boxing has some characteristics that make it fantastic for getting things done.
Firstly it forces me to focus on time, which is the scarcest resource that I have.
Secondly, it allows me to build up and manage my energy in getting my tasks crossed off. I can use smaller time-boxes to build up my momentum, and having frequest breaks allows me to maintain my stamina in completing tasks.


Today, I decided to try out an idea I’ve had, which I’m calling “Micro-Boxing”.
The idea is to work within very small units of time – 10 minutes for each box. Instead of having a break after each time-box, I move to a new task instead.

The 10 minute work interval forces me to break tasks down into very managable chunks. This means that I am whittling away at tasks that I have been avoiding because they seem to be too big or require too much effort.
By moving to a new task, I both keep things fresh and yet keep my momentum going.

I’ve been keeping track of all my tasks using Emacs in org-mode. This allows me to easily break down tasks that are too big into smaller chunks. It also makes it easy to add new things to the list as I think of them.

I’m pleased to say that today has been an enormously productive day! It will be interesting to see whether this technique will scale out for the rest of the week, or whether my productivity today has just been the result of the novelty of the technique.

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