Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting away without Time Boxing

I am not very good at time boxing the tasks I take on. I am not lousy, but I could definitely use some improvement.
When looking around at people I know fairly well and that I think are “high performing”, there are only a few that I would consider being good at time boxing their work.

More than often, time spent on a task is constrained by interruptions. The interruption might be external, e.g. a phone call making something else top priority for the moment, or internal like letting your mind wander off to something else, or even getting bored with the current task.

So, how come these high performers, but lousy time boxers, actually get cool things done?
Could it be the interruptions that saves them?
Without the interruptions, would they just continue the task until it was complete and thus putting more effort into something than the outcome would be worth?

It is like the interruptions would involuntarily make them follow some kind of 80/20-rule where 80 percent of the value comes from 20 percent of the work.
But what if their 20 percent of the time they spent are the wrong 20 percent, only making 60 percent of the value, or that they do 30 percent and the last third is more or less waste?

Would it be worth it the get better at time boxing to hit the right 20 percent of work, and reduce the risk of doing the lesser valuable work by doing less on a specific task?

I don’t know. And I time boxed this, and my bell just rang.


  1. I've 16 minutes left on my Pomodoro time box, dedicated for doing a mid-month budget- and forecast report, with the sole purpose of keeping the internal steering group happy, so why am I even reading this, not to speak of me posting a comment!? Because the task at hand is boring. Boring and doesn't add much (if any) value. (13 min left...)

  2. I don't believe that anyone can work focused 80% of the time anyway.
    Those interruptions are what let's your brain move a step back from the problems you're working on, when you come back around to work on the problem again you've had time to process things in the background (we are after all inherently multi-tasking creatures).

    At least that's how I work :-)