With Time Boxing you allocate a certain amount of time to your tasks, as opposed to working on something until it’s finished.
There are two ideas behind this approach:
- You’re working on a single task with more focus, and
- It is an effective ‘cure’ against Parkinson’s law.
Parkinson’s law says:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
In other words, if you have four days for a project, it’ll take you about four days to finish it, while you’d finish it in two if you’d just have two days. There may be more pressure, but you’ll find ways to finish it in time.
Obviously you can’t reduce your time to unrealistic levels. You have to play with this approach a bit. Time box in 30 (Pomodoro), 60 or 90 minutes. If your projects are bigger than that, break them down so until their parts fit in the time boxes you set for yourself.
I’m always intrigued how many people know breaking down big projects is a good approach, but never use it. Try this approach tomorrow. Pick a task, break it down and set short deadlines for it. See how will work for you.
Do you ever have the feeling after a full day’s work, that you haven’t accomplished much? That you haven’t made any progress at all? If you have, you’re in good company. Even the most productive people have this problem from time to time. But don’t worry: there’s a good solution.
When we do our everyday tasks we often jump everywhere with little sense of direction. We get lost in our day to day chores and aren’t moving forward with our most important goals. We stray from our path when a colleague asks us a question, when something unexpected happens, or just because we’re just reading mail or that interesting article on (shudders) Reddit.
To keep my focus, or ‘direction’, I write down my most important tasks for the next day. I usually do this in the evening before I go to bed. Another good time is at the end of the day when you finish work. This way, your unconscious mind can already start working on the problems. Also it’ll be clear what you should do to finish the next day with a satisfied feeling.
If you’re adopting this strategy, don’t write down too many tasks. Take at most two or three that can be completed in about fifty percent of your time. This leaves room for other urgent tasks that may require your attention, while still moving your projects forward.
Today I’m starting a new 4 week challenge: I’m going to write every day. I’m going to write a post for this blog everyday. I’d love to see what it’ll do for my writing skills. I’m sure they won’t get any worse, but will they get better? I’m not a native English speaker, and I’m afraid it shows, but will my daily writing help it much? We’ll see. I’ll let you be the judge.
To keep it within a single topic, I’ll be writing about productivity. I came up with 28 post ideas I hope will be helpful to you. They’ll be short and to the point. No use in talking about productivity and making you read a lot of crap.
Some people asked me on Twitter what my top 5 books of 2015 were. I’m not sure about the last two, I’ve read more than 60 books last year, but I do have a top three that made the most impact on me. Here goes:
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
I read this during my Minimalism experiment and it was really eye opening (as was te experiment). In his words The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.
Buy it on Amazon: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath
This also links to an experiment (about getting more energy). It’s a great read. It’s not a specific diet, or training schedule, or sleeping schedule. But I followed pretty much the ideas in this book and the effect it had on my energy, and even my life, was… well, profound might be an understatement. Read this, but more importantly, follow the advice. It’ll change yoru life!
Buy it on Amazon: Eat Move Sleep
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
I can’t stick to one thing for very long. While I know I should keep working to achieve something, it never hit home enough for me until I read this book. It perfectly illustrates the power of compounding interest. You can use this in every area of your life.
Buy it on Amazon: The Compound Effect
All of these had a big impact on me and I’m pretty sure they’ll be important to you, too. Let me know if/when you’ve read them. Love to hear from you.
I’m not a consistent person. I fly everywhere, and as a result getting nowhere. Actually this has been the main reason I wanted to do these 4 week experiments. It’s probably the perfect duration: short enough to keep motivated and long enough to form the foundation of a habit.
While the experiments are turning out to be huge improvements in my life, I hardly ever blog about them. And I want to change that. I don’t think I can write about what I’m doing every day, how often do you need to read that taking less sugar has great health benefits, but I’d like to settle on a 3 posts a week routine. I’m sure they’ll be short posts, but hopefully informative or inspiring.
In any case, I’ll continue doing these experiments. Both minimalism and energy have been very successful. I’m currently working on a SaaS (Software as a Service) which I hope to create in 4 weeks. To keep doing these experiments, I’ll reboot my Miracle Morning. Now that I have more energy I’m sure this will be easier and it’ll free up some time for other experiments and for writing.
On a more personal note: I’m very happy this year is over. This year has to be in the top 5 of bad years in my life. With a miscarriage, my father in law’s passing away, and many other lowlights, it’s been pretty rough to say the least. Today I had to help put my mother’s dog to sleep.
Fortunately there’s a highlight to look forward to: my wife and I are expecting our third child in March. Our third boy even, I just can’t make girls.
Even though I only partly implemented the actions I was going to take for this experiment, it was very eye opening.
I slept on average 7.5 hours a day as opposed to the 6.5 to 7 hours I normally sleep.
I also ate much better. I ate less ‘bad’ food: sweets, potatoes, dairy, produced meat, and I massively reduced anything that has sugar in it.
That last one was difficult. Read the labels on everything you eat for a few days: you’ll see that almost everything has some form of sugar in it.
I ate more of the good stuff: more vegetables, at least two pieces of fruit and some multi vitamins every day . I drank water and tea only.
I failed miserably in exercising more. Sleeping 45 minutes longer left me with less time during the day, and I wasn’t ready to give up playtime with my kids during this experiment.
Overall the experiment has been a big success. There are no more after lunch dips where previously I often had trouble staying awake behind my monitor. I feel far more energetic all day long. I even have a bounce in my steps when I walk. My mood has also improved a bit, especially in the evenings when I start to get a bit more tired.
Interestingly almost everybody around me had a cold or the flu during the previous 4 weeks, but I seemed to have escaped that virus. I’m totally attributing that to my increased health.
The hardest time was around Christmas, when there’s so much sweet stuff everywhere, but overall this experiment was easier to do than I’d initially thought. It’s sometimes difficult to only eat vegetables (I call it rabbit food), but reminding myself about the extra energy and health makes it much easier.
This is an experiment you can easily do yourself. You’ll already see results after a few days which makes it easier to finish the 4 weeks. And I certainly recommend it; I promise it’ll change your life.
My ideas to get more energy are to sleep a lot, which for me is more than 7 hours (I’m aiming for 7.5), do at least 20 minutes of workout every week, and eat better.
For that last part I read a book about food last week. It’s very strict in what you can and can’t eat, and I totally don’t feel like doing such a strict diet. I tried to adhere to their rule when doing grocery shopping last Saturday, reading the labels on all products I usually buy.
OMG, do they add sugar to everything? Suger, dextrosis, fructosis… sugar with every name possible. I’m not ready to completely change the way I eat, but it seems I can cut back on sugar very easily by just making a few changes. Also I’ll stop eat (most) dairy products. I drink a lot of milk and have no problem replacing that with water and tea. I’ll still eat bread (sugar in it), but I’ll stop with artificial sweeteners in my tea. I’ll stop eating many deserts, eat more potatoes and much more vegetables. And two pieces of fruit every day. And I’ll stop eating chips and any form of candy. And I’ll take some multi-vitamins every day, though maybe that’s overkill with the amount of vegetables and fruit I’ll be eating.
Most of these food choices are common sense, so no real surprises here, but if I took an honest look at what kind of garbage I regularly eat, I can do so much better by just making these changes.
In the end this experiment is about getting more energy, not about losing weight or a strict diet, even though a diet may have exactly the desired effect.
- Sleep more
- Exercise more
- Eat (much) better
- Measure energy levels… somehow.
No rocket surgery here. 😉
My vitals, at this moment, are:
I expect this won’t change much the next four weeks.
Weight: 212.4 lb (ouch)
I guess since I knew I was starting a healthy diet today, I decided to indulge a little more than usual, gaining too many pounds in almost two weeks. Again, I’m not weight watching, but I expect my weight or fat percentage to drop a little during this experiment.
I use a Microsoft Band 2 to monitor my sleep, daily steps and heart rate. I’ve been sleeping for over 7 hours every night for the last 3 nights, so I feel well rested at the moment. There’s a big discrepancy between the amount of restful sleep I get as measured between my Band 2 and my previous tracker, the Jawbone up 24. The Band seems to assign a much smaller amount to restful sleep. Nevertheless I’ll only use that device from now on. It says I average about 1:30 hours of restful sleep a night at the moment.
No after lunch dip today, even when sitting behind a computer, so I feel good.
My resting heart rate also measured by the Mircosoft Band 2 has been about 49 during the last week. Oh how I remember my golden years where it was around 40!
Now… if anybody knows of a more or less objective way to measure my energy don’t hesitate to tell me @4_weeks on Twitter!
For now, I feel energized. Not as much as I used to feel right before an important race (trained and well rested) where I’d literally be jumping up and down with excess energy, but definitely a 7/10.
It is done. In some respects my Miracle Morning experiment was a huge success. I loved having the mornings to myself. I achieved a lot. I loved the meditation and focussing more than I thought I would. I loved doing the small workouts and all the writing I did.
The downside was that I got tired. I didn’t think it was the lack of sleep, but the few times I slept more hours, I also felt better during the day. So the lack of energy was a problem, mostly at work, but also sometimes when being around my kids. I don’t like being angry with them. It accomplishes nothing – nothing good anyway – and I feel bad afterwards.
So I’m done with the Miracle Morning, but only for a little while. I intend to focus on my next energy project first, and if that works, I’ll reintroduce the Miracle Morning. I loved it that much.
I’ve been a little low on energy lately. For the next 4 week experiment I’d like to change that. For my energy level to improve, I intend to do the following:
- Sleep more (7.5 to 8 hours, as opposed to 6.5),
- Exercise (at least 20 minutes daily, I’ll make a schedule),
- Eat better.
The first one is obvious.
The second one is doable. It’s logical that a trained person has more energy. I know a bit about endurance training and I’ll make a schedule that’ll improve my overal fitness, taking enough rest or recovery periods.
The last one, eating, will be my biggest hurdle. I know very little about food other than ‘snacks are bad’. So I’ll stop eating snacks. Other than that…
There’s so much contradictory food info on the internet (is milk healthy or not?), and since I have to start somewhere, I researched some food related books on Amazon. I settled on this one: It Starts With Food. It’s based on the Paleo diet, and it has some science in it to back up its claims.
It specifically mentions energy, so I’m interested in finding out what’s in it.
During the experiment I’ll report daily on: my energy level, food intake, sleep, resting heart rate, and weight. I’m curious how the regimen will affect me.