3 Benefits to Time-Boxing

Or why there’s no picture for this story.

UPDATE: Initially, this story was about how time-boxing helped me with the design of my book cover. The picture was going to be, quite fittingly, the book cover. But for whatever reason, it’s not posting to Medium, so I’m switching examples (how nimble of me.) Keep reading to see my new example.


It took me two decades and a half to figure out how to fight procrastination. (A struggle that continues to this day.)

My most successful strategy?

Time-boxing.

You may have heard the term “time-boxing” before. If the term is new to you, let me introduce it:

Time-boxing is a strategy in which you take control of time and use it strategically to get things done. You set a clock for a set period of time, focus on whatever task is at hand, and when the timer goes off, you drop everything and take a break.

The psychology behind time-boxing (and its primary benefit) is this:

Benefit #1: When you know a break is coming, when you know your misery has an endpoint, you feel more motivated to move forward, even if the task is awful.

The most popular time-boxing method is the Pomodoro Method. Put simply, a “Pomodoro” is 25 minutes of uninterrupted focus upon one clearly- described task.

  1. Complete the Pomodoro.
  2. Take a 5 minute break.
  3. Do another Pomodoro.
  4. After 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15–30 minutes.
Benefit #2: Another benefit of time-boxing is the ability to provide data on how long certain tasks take.

For example, when I was writing my dissertation, I figured out that writing a page took THREE TIMES more Pomodoros than I initially thought it did.

Whoops!

Time-boxing is not only effective for the crucial “must-do” tasks. It is equally effective for those chores around the house you have been dreading.

Want to clean your garage? Do a Pomodoro. You may find that other tasks take less time than you think. (For me, this often happens with tasks I am procrastinating. In my mind, they grow into venomous beasts only to be revealed as pests.)

Benefit #3: But there’s another, less-mentioned benefit of time-boxing: limiting yourself.

For example: the new cover of my book. I’m honestly not crazy about it, but I was spending far too much time sweating it. It is, after all, not a pareto task.

So, I employed time-boxing. Rather than using it to motivate myself to work on a dreaded task, I used it to limit myself.

Two pomodoros later, I have a cover I’m eh about.

But that’s a good thing — now I’m onto more important tasks…

WAIT, WAIT, NO I’M NOT. The cover is not uploading here for some reason. Annoying. Oh well. I promised myself I’d finish this story by the end of this Pomodoro. And 15, 14, 13, 12…

This was primarily sourced from Long Term Person, Short Term World, available on Amazon, and posts from mjmottajr.com. You can visit my blog, follow me on Twitter, and read my stories here on Medium.

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