Time-Management Experiment – Part 2

Published March 18, 2010 in productivity - 0 Comments

Time Experiment

It’s been three days since I started my “5 hour workday” experiment. This post is simply a quick update on how things have been going so far and some initial thoughts on what’s working out well and where I’m still having trouble.

5 Hours a Day

As a quick recap for anyone who hasn’t read the introductory post about this time management experiment, I simply decided to limit my working hours to just five per day. The reason being that I hope this will force me to work more effectively and concentrate on the most crucial tasks during what little time I have. Being on an open-ended schedule always makes putting things off and procrastinating that much easier.

I was also hoping that a 5-hour day would make it easier for me to apply Parkinson’s Law to my workday and effectively do what is often called “time boxing” (i.e. setting a specific time for each task and sticking to it).

What’s Working and What Isn’t

So far, the one thing that’s clearly worked out with this experiment is that it has made me more productive. I’ve definitely gotten more things done per working hour in the past few days than I did before the experiment. In fact, I’ve gotten more things done in total during some of the 5-hour work days than I got done during many an open-ended 10- or 12-hour day. In this regard, the experiment has already been worth it.

What’s not been working so well is the time boxing. My first idea was to work for 2 1/2 hours in the morning and another 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon. But how to split up this time for individual tasks? I still haven’t found a good system for this. For example, I have customer support e-mails to answer every day, from one of my businesses. But I can’t ever know how much time this will take. Some days, I get only a handful of mails and other days I literally spend several hours doing nothing but answer one message after the other.

If I create a time box for answering e-mails and there are still several left when time runs out, do I just leave those unanswered? That wouldn’t be fair to the customers and it would only mean that I’d have to spend more time on answering e-mails the next day. Or what if I’m done with the task before time runs out? What was the point of boxing, then?

Perhaps some tasks are not time-boxable or perhaps I’m approaching this the wrong way. As planned, I’ll keep going with this until Friday and after that, I plan to tweak the schedule and run another round of this experiment next week.

Any suggestions and comments about time-boxing would be greatly appreciated!