Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Putting my Kids in a Box (okay, a Timebox)

Another one of those Work Concepts that has crept into my home life is the timebox. A timebox is just a fixed amount of time you will spend on a task. When the time is up, you quit working and go on to something else.

This has several benefits:
1 - You can fit some progress into whatever windows of time you have in your day. This works for any kind of job that can be stopped and re-started, or one that has Low Hanging Fruit .
2 - It helps you attack those tasks that are never really "done" without feeling overwhelmed.
3 - Because you know you only have so much time to get things done, you are more motivated to get started and stay with the task.

I've found that my kids respond well to this approach. I will tell them that we need to do a "30-minute drill" which means the kitchen timer gets set for 30 minutes (sometimes it's shorter, but longer times are too much at their age) and they work on the job until the time is up. Even though they like to check the time remaining a little too often, seeing the time dwindling away gets them fired up for another burst of productivity.

I have also used this on myself. Whenever I have a new game on the computer, I find it's very easy to lose hours of my time (usually taken from sleep). I've started setting the timer (yes, the same one) for some reasonable length of time and using that as the clue to stop playing for the day.

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