Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stay Motivated and Get Stuff Done Using a Timebox

A Westclox Big Ben ClockImage via Wikipedia
My life is extremely busy and I can only imagine that you have a similar experience. In this entry, I would like to spend a few minutes sharing how you can get stuff done while staying motivated. Do understand that I am an expert procrastinator. I would much rather do meaningless things then spend my time completing valuable tasks. It is not that I do not want to do them, it is just that I do not want to do them now. The intention is always there, but the execution needs some attention.

In the following sections, I will address how I get stuff done both in my personal and professional life.

Make a List
Yes, this is probably one of the most repeated steps in self-help articles, but it works. Pull out a sheet of paper, napkin, empty envelope, or cardboard box. It does not matter what you write this list on, just do it.

Once you make a list, it is time to organize the list in priority order. I often start each morning by placing a number behind tasks. You can put a number in a circle, square, or triangle. The method you use to prioritize is not as important as getting the highest valued item done first. Whatever works for you, get the list in order.

Timebox the Task
Now that the list is in order, review the top tasks on your list and decide how long it will take to complete that task. Place the time near the task. For ease of planning and execution, let us say that no task should go over one hour. If you think the task will take more than one hour, simplify the task until it is something you can finish within sixty minutes.

Ready, Set, Go!
With a to-do list organized and timeboxed, you are now ready to begin. If needed, pull out a stop watch or online alarm clock and start knocking off tasks. The more you get done, the more motivated you will be to finish other tasks.

Closing Thoughts
The idea of timeboxing is to simplify tasks. I, for one, get extremely tired when I think about writing this doctoral dissertation. I know that it is a huge project, but if I look at it as a bunch of fifteen minute papers, it is much easier to get started (and finish). Getting started is often the most difficult step in the process.

I can hear someone asking the question, "What happens if I do not finish within the time allotted?" At this point, you may stop, but if you feel ambitious and do not have anything more important to do, I say continue. If you find that you go over the allotted time a lot, then consider simplifying the task even more next time. Remember, we want to stay motivated by knocking stuff off our list. If the task gets too heavy or tedious, one is liable to quit.

I am interested in hearing how this works for you. If you have a story, please feel free to share in the comment section below.

Until next time...


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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