I often face a problem in my day to day work life. The problem stems from two separate realities:
- Terrible To-do List. There are many many many things I want to create. The list is endless and overwhelming.
- Perfectionism – the archenemy of progress. Even with small things, I often won’t take them on until I know I have time to do them perfectly. This prevents me from tackling my Terrible To-Do list. Is all lost?
Not quite. An effective solution is called timeboxing. In short, you choose a task (or deliverable) and give it a set amount of time. At the end of that time, whatever you’ve accomplished is the final deliverable. In other words, you create a deadline and then stick to it no matter what. When your time is up, you’re finished with that project – forever.
Okay not necessarily forever. And it doesn’t work on every task. But for the right projects, I love this technique. It forces you to focus on the essentials and cut the fat. It works especially well if you’re deadline-driven, as I am.
Last week, I had an extra hour or two and I challenged myself to time box a small project I’d been putting off: create (and order) a return address stamp. Since the stamp isn’t expensive or something I’ll use forever, I figured it would be a great project to timebox.
Here’s how it turned out. First I did the sketch. Then I scanned it. Then I converted it to a digital vector program and played around with it until my time was up. I placed the order just in time to hit my deadline.
Is it perfect? No, but I love how it turned out. I had fun making it. And, of course, now I can cross something off that Terrible To-do list.
Have a great week,
SIDENOTE: One interesting application of the timebox concept is used in creating indie (small time) video games. I’ve participated in a couple of these contests. Both times, I worked with a developer to create a simple, playable computer game in three days. You might be able to play one of them in your browser here (doesn’t work in Chrome).