Timebox Your Day

Grigori Melnik joined our team recently.  He's new to Microsoft so I shared some tips for effectiveness.  Potentially, the most important advice I gave him was to timebox his day.  If you keep time a constant (by ending your day at a certain time), it helps with a lot of things:

  • Worklife balance (days can chew into nights can chew into weekends)

  • Figuring our where to optimize your day

  • Prioritizing (time is a great forcing function)

To start, I think it helps to carve up your day into big buckets (e.g. administration, work time, think time, connect time), and then figure out how much time you're willing to give them.  If you're not getting the throughput you want, you can ask yourself:

  • are you working on the right things?

  • are you spending too much time on lesser things?

  • are there some things you can do more efficiently or effectively?

To make the point hit home, I pointed out that without a timebox, you can easily spend all day reading mails, blogs, aliases, doing self-training, ... etc. and then wonder where your day went.  Microsoft is a technical playground with lots of potential distractions for curious minds that want to grow.  Using timeboxes helps strike balance.  Timeboxes also help with pacing.  If I only have so many hours to produce results, I'm very careful to spend my high energy hours on the right things.

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Comments (5)

  1. Peter Ritchie says:

    Ahem! We work to live, not live to work.

    To be productive you need consistent amounts of sleep, down time, time to tend to life, etc.  It’s in the company’s best interest that you maintain your personal life.

    In my past I’ve had numerous times where I’ve stayed late for several hours only to give up to stress and fatigue and after a good night’s sleep solved the problem in minutes with a refreshed mind the next day.

  2. waletzky says:

    I agree! There has never been someone on the their death bed that wishes they had worked more.

    I keep coming back to this, but I think the Scrum model definitely applies for personal time management. With Scrum, you have a fixed-time iteration for work. The key to keeping people (including yourself) happy is spending time on a prioritized list of tasks. The time always stays the same, and if a high priority task ends up taking longer, then the lowest priority tasks are cut. You could easily apply this to a given 8 hour day, where if you plan monthly, weekly, and daily, you know what you need to do and you’ll get to it in order. A key is to minimize unplanned interruptions, however.

    Another way to think of this model is that you buffer by scope, NOT by time. Again, the KEY is the prioritized list.

  3. Whether you’re a new hire or taking on a new job, here’s some principles, patterns and practices to be

  4. Patterns and Practices for New Hires from J.D. Meier’s Blog has really good advise on this: Whether you’re

  5. Time boxing is a way to chunk up time and get results. If you continously miss windows of opportunity

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