Timeboxing, Collaboration and Personal Time Management

It was (Canada) Thanksgiving Day yesterday.  Food, family, relaxation…  Well mostly, relaxation.  I was still feeling time pressured to get some “work” done.  Timeboxed!


Time is our cue to act.   We all know that feeling: the baby is due in one month, the project deadline is tomorrow, Dad just entered palliative care… Better focus your attention on what matters most, at this time.

So, feeding off of being timeboxed this weekend, here’s a few more thoughts on that subject.

Timeboxing and collaboration

Timeboxing is a distinctive feature of project management.  A time box allots a fixed period of time for getting something done; e.g., completing an activity or deliverable.

Timeboxing feels as natural as putting socks on. It’s the way things get done. At least, that’s my experience over the years; as a construction project manager (“you have 1 week to complete that concrete work, before the road contractor shows up”), as an IT consultant (“the deliverable is due in a month”), as a court mediator (“we have 2 hours to resolve this matter”), community volunteer (“we’re only available to meet this Thursday”)…

Done right, timeboxing is a blend of ‘clock time’ and ‘event time’, efficiency and effectiveness. In collaborative problem solving, it’s fair to aspire to elements of both; efficiency and effectiveness.

“The #1 way to get a group to be more creative is to give them less time.” (Ben Chestnut, MailChimp co-founder, CEO in his talk about creating an environment of creativity and empowerment)

Personal timeboxing

Here’s 3 ways to conceptualize personal time management as timeboxing:

  • Attitude. When marketer Seth Godin tells us to “ship” our product or service, Nike says “just do it”, “perfect is the enemy of good”… we are being asked to timebox delivery. Then, move on to the next thing, learning as we go.
  • Chunking. Chunking down the big problem into a number of smaller, more manageable, problems, aligns with success through timeboxing. Timeboxing is an antidote to “the work increases with the time allotted”.
  • Reminders. “I will work for 25 minutes, then rest for 5”, “I will respond to client emails within 24 hours”, “I will do the most important things first, each day”…

Personal time management and timeboxing are bedfellows.

Still, not all cultures think timebox.

“What’s time? Leave Now for dogs and apes! Man has forever.” 🙂 (Robert Browning)

My bottom line

Enlist time to get it done.   Yours, too?


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