Time boxing

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying hard to box out my time each day of the week.

One of the challenges I struggle with, and from speaking to many other people – both founders and anyone working in a small team – is it’s hard to switch between the hundred different tasks you have each day.

It’s widely understood that constant task switching destroys your productivity, but it’s so hard to escape when there’s a constant torrent of new tasks to be accomplished and decisions to be made.

But escaping the torrent and becoming productive requires you to be in charge. You need to take control of your time.

Control your time

If you can control how you spend your time you can do so much more.

I was always sceptical of this, but since putting a concerted effort into boxing out my time during the week, I’ve become dramatically more productive, less stressed, and I’m able to spend my energy on the most important work – not just the most urgent.

How can you start to take more control of your time?

One simple change I’ve made is to book in my calendar the time I would normally leave as empty with an event – perhaps it’s titled “Map out our plan for Q4” or “Deep creative work”.

It doesn’t matter too much what tasks you put in – what matters is you treat your “free” time in the work week as protected time.

If a meeting deserves to get a fixture in your calendar, why the hell doesn’t the most important work you do get to feature there too?

A chance to reflect

As a bonus – it’s one thing to map out your week ahead of time, but it’s another to reflect on where your time went.

During the week, stuff comes up. Priorities change. "Urgent" tasks – even when we try our hardest to avoid them – tend to take priority.

I’ve been trying to keep track of my time throughout the day retrospectively by adjusting my calendar events based on what actually happened.

None of this is highly scientific. None of this is necessarily “industry standard”. And none of this requires any fancy tools or software. It just requires a calendar and a mindset change.

Do you feel in control of your schedule? If you do, I’d love to hear about what you’ve done to accomplish such an achievement.

James Gill

CEO and co-founder of GoSquared.

London, UK