This is a technique I learned over the years from project management gurus to manage time and boost productivity. Instead of letting a task or agenda take as long as it needs to be completed, you set a hard deadline or “time box” for it.

A simple example would be the time limit we have for our daily meetings where we time-boxed it to 10 minutes. This means the meeting can not last more than 10 minutes and if it does, we just end it right away. This is very useful to make sure we don't waste everyone’s time and get straight to the point.

The Pomodoro technique also employs this strategy by time-boxing your task into 25 minutes interval separated by short breaks. (e.g. 3-5 minutes) This teaches you to break tasks into small chunks that can be accomplished within each interval.

Timeboxing has been very useful in software development. The limit forces you to aim for some sort of deliverables when you approach the deadline. It prevents you from spending too much time on a particular task and affects the deliverability of others tasks in the pipeline. The notion of a sprint in Agile/Scrum is basically a timebox of 1-2 weeks.

Some examples of timeboxing we use when developing web applications.

  1. Keep meetings short by timeboxing them.

  2. Plan and schedule tasks that can be completed within a fixed time-frame (e.g. a sprint of 2 weeks)

  3. Prevent yourself from spending too much time on certain process. For example, timebox yourself to only spend X minutes updating status or writing reports.

This is not only useful for your work but also serves as a time management tool in your personal life. Start timeboxing your life and you may discover that you can get more things done.

The Little Numbers

You can find them everywhere. On Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, your mail client and even your phone. I'm talking about the number that shows how many unread messages, notifications, email, articles or what ever that are waiting for your attention. These little buggers are productivity biggest enemies.

Every time one of these pops up, I'll get the urge to stop what I'm doing and  go check it out. They are designed to catch your attention and they are darn good at it.

So if you are looking to improve your productivity and reduce interruptions, get these little numbers out of your sight. I promise you'll get more things done.