Mark Danger Powers

drummer • educator • author

Kick Procrastination in the Arse

There never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish all the things we’d like to. Work, family and other activities always find a way to eat up every passing minute and hour. Before you know it, poof, another week, month, or year has gone by, and you still haven’t even begun to focus on what you really wish you were doing.

Enter: timeboxing. That’s right . . . fighting the clock and punching out everything possible within a predetermined window of opportunity!

Used in RAD software design for years, timeboxing can be harnessed in our personal lives, too. It can help you to:

          • overcome procrastination.
          • stop being a perfectionist.
          • avoid wasting time.
          • focus on important matters.
          • quit over-committing.
          • get more done!

While best used on open ended tasks (such as writing this blog post!), timeboxing can be applied to virtually any task or chore. The idea is to decide in advance exactly how much time you will allot to a particular project, stick to it and utilize short windows of time to make it happen.

For example . . .

Instead of thinking: “I’m going to sit at the laptop today until I’ve come up with a blog post on timeboxing. I don’t care how long it takes- it will be done. Then, if there’s still light outside, I’m going to catch some sun.”

Think: “I’m going to give myself thirty minutes to write about timeboxing. If I’m done within that time, cool. If not, I’ll choose to either schedule myself another timeslot tomorrow to continue writing, or trash the whole idea because it’s going nowhere for me. Either way, I’ve put in my time, and feel good about it. Watch out sun- here I come!”

Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . .

1. Select one task/project you’ve really been meaning to accomplish. One that you’ve been putting off because it’s seemed too tedious, or demands more time than you feel you’ve got to sit and devote to it.

2. Pull out your planner and schedule 30 minutes tomorrow, dedicated to absolutely nothing but that task. I’m sure you’re feeling that that’s not nearly enough time to make much progress. But do it anyway.

3. When your allotted appointment with yourself comes around, turn off the cell phone, the TV, and close your email inbox. You’ve got 30 minutes to get started on your project. Do something. Write a draft of that proposal letter. Organize even one corner of that room. Scribble a list of future steps involved in reaching that more complex goal you have in mind.

4. Time’s up. Stop. I know, I know . . . but I don’t care that you’re not done yet. Stop! Evaluate where you’re at. Did you get more done than you guessed you would have? Has that small amount of progress gotten you even more excited about continuing? If you need more time to complete the task, put an additional timeslot in your calendar for a day or two from now. Give yourself the time between to roll more ideas around in your head, and you’ll hit it as hard, or harder, the second go-round.

5. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Better yet, how you’ve beat the clock, kicked procrastination in the arse, and made timeboxing work for you!

8 Comments

  1. There is new research out on procrastination which classifies it as a psychological disorder in some people- one of the suggested treatments is dealing with ‘perfectionism.’ Limiting the time you spend on something and removing expectations that make a task overwhelming (like the belief that the result of all your efforts must be some kind of masterpiece to make the effort worthwhile) really appeal to me. A 30 minute time limit sounds like it let’s you commit to the TIME without being overwhelmed by the task. Getting started is often the hard part for us procrastinators.

    Great post! I’m actually going to do it.

    • Interesting . . . but I totally agree! The feeling that we need to be perfect can easily lead to us putting tasks/projects off until a later date. Super cool to hear you’re going to give it a shot- keep me posted on how the timeboxing works out for you!

  2. This is a great and timely post Mark. Ironically this is something that I started doing recently. I schedule out the tasks I want to get done and assign hour time slots. I had to start doing this because I found that I was easily distracted and wasn’t getting anything done. I’ve been trying to get my SmugMug site up for ages and over the weekend I finally made some progress on it by setting aside several hour long blocks. During this time I turn off all distractions like email, IM, Facebook, Twitter, anything that would draw my attention away from the task at hand. It really has helped me. I may try the 30 minute block instead as I find that at a times my mind wanders after 30 minutes.

    • Hey, Matt- awesome that you’ve already been applying this! I share your tendency to wander off. That’s exactly the reason I shoot for 30 minutes. Let me know how the shorter block works for you!

    • Hey, Aurélien! Yes, definitely similar. I’m also a huge fan of the Pomodoro 25-on/5-off system. Thanks for adding this!

  3. Very cool method…I have an annoying tendency to think I can’t work on a project unless I’ve got plenty of open-ended time, and that keeps me from working on things if I only have a half hour or less. I’m going to try this!
    Thanks,
    Laurie

  4. Mark, you’ve nailed it with this post.

    States-side we call this “Time Blocking,” and it is so powerful as a way to stop procrastination. One thing that is implied by what you said (but that some people need to hear Big & Bold) is that a “project” is different from a “task.” If you’ve written down every project (you have written down your Master Action List, right?) but you haven’t written down the individual tasks that go into making that project happen step-by-step, then you are bound to be overwhelmed.

    Combine that with a 30-minute Timeboxing approach, and you can see how easy it is to assign one task — just one of those steps of progress — to that 30-minute window (much like how you mentioned to choose one corner of the messy room . . . same thing, and it is so powerful!)

    Single w/ Luggage’s comment is a huge side topic all its own . . . procrastination and perfectionism go hand-in-hand for so many of my procrastination hypnotherapy clients. Getting beyond perfectionism frees them up to dive right in, trusting that they will create imperfect (but excellent) results . . . which is more than good enough.

    Thanks for this great post!

    Brennan

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