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Mastering the Art of Timeboxing
By Kathleen Welton

Do first things first, and second things not at all. – Peter Drucker

Over the years, I have been a big believer in goal planning, to do lists, and action items. I am still hooked on the paper and pen method of writing down my tasks for the day and week ahead. My planning system is simple–I have a master list of goals, put the tasks in Outlook, update the tasks at the end of each week, and then schedule them for the next week in my planner.

But this system did not solve the problem of scheduling too many tasks each day or spending too much time on any one task. Or sacrificing personal time due to work time. Welcome to “timeboxing.” I first encountered this term and technique about a year ago when I was studying to become a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner.

So what is “timeboxing?” According to Simplilearn, “Timeboxing is a feature of software development technology that plans and allots time boxes for different activities. Time-boxing enables separation of different time boxes for various tasks and processes within a project along with their own deliverables, budget and deadline. The idea behind timeboxing is to set a fixed time limit to a certain activity in order to generate focus sharply on the expected outcomes from that particular activity.”

I have used timeboxing with great success not only in my consulting business with clients, but also in other areas of my life. While I am by no means an expert, here’s what I’ve learned so far about using this technique to help me do first things first:


  • Focus on what’s most important
  • Be specific with daily tasks
  • Achieve measurable results
  • Prioritize the most important activities
  • Improve little by little
  • Minimize stress from rushing
  • Avoid unnecessary injuries and strains
  • Meet deadlines
  • Limit interruptions
  • Free up more time

Timeboxing Techniques

  1. First off, it is important to identify priorities.
  2. Ask yourself this question: What are the top 1-3 things that are important to accomplish over the next year or project phase?

  3. Write down the top priorities and think about them for a few days. Are these the right ones? If not, change them until you not only are committed to them but also have a sense of excitement about them.

  4. Create a system that works for you to monitor the priority/priorities on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

  5. Be disciplined in following the guidelines and strategy that you follow.

  6. Build in flexibility that while there will be improvements, there may also be times with little or no progress.

  7. Think of time increments in terms of ranges, such as 15-30 minutes for a meeting or 30-45 minutes to work out.

  8. Say “stop” when it is time to finish.


My priorities for the coming 12 months involve making improvements in mind, body, and spirit as follows:

  • Fitness: work out either on a bike or walking for 200-300 minutes each week.
  • Gratitude: express thanks often during the day and give the gift of gratitude 3-5 times each week. (Here is my gift to you–you can record things in The Little Journal of Gratitude which is a free ebook in PDF form).

  • Practice timeboxing: plan work with clients on agreed-upon project priorities and deliver phases in increments with tasks taking 30-60 minutes at a time.

For each or these initiatives, I write down my goals for the week in a master planner in the form of planned time. For example, I write down 30 minutes for a meeting or 60 minutes to complete a task or 30-45 minutes for biking or walking on certain days. Regarding my fitness priority, I record the amount of time that I actually worked out and then total up the minutes at the end of each week. I then have an Excel spreadsheet that is organized by week and I fill in the actual amounts there to review my progress weekly.

So far, so good. I am on track to meet or exceed working out 200 minutes each week with the goal of reaching 300 minutes each week by the time Spring comes!

Enjoy the journey!

Kathleen Welton currently serves as publisher and project manager for aka associates. Her published books include: The Little Book of Success Quotes (2012), The Little Book of Gratitude Quotes (2011), and The Little Journal of Gratitude (2011). She earned a BA degree in both English and Italian Literature from Stanford University. She is a Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM)® and a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® from the Project Management Institute.

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