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The definition of timeboxing
A box needs four sides
This is the second edition of the One Thing at a Time (OTAAT) newsletter. It will always touch on time and how we use it. It’s short: fewer than 500 words.
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A book about timeboxing needs a solid definition. When I came to write the book, I couldn’t find one I was happy with, so I created one. Not comprehensive enough. A second attempt. Doesn’t have a nice ring to it. A third. Not right but can’t quite put my finger on why. I’ve lost count of the iterations. Arriving at a crisp, comprehensive definition of a term is hard.
Before reading on, how would you define timeboxing?
For a while, I’d had an informal, simple definition (shared on Instagram last week) which is good but wouldn’t do for a work devoted to the subject; this definition is about to be translated into more than 20 languages. There was some pressure. Eventually, I got to…
Timeboxing is the practice of:
selecting what to do, before the day's distractions arise;
specifying each task in a calendar, including when it will start and finish;
focusing on one thing at a time;
doing each to an acceptable (rather than perfect) standard
The first two are about planning. The second two are about doing.
I think it’s nicer to describe it more casually, as I can in a blog. Plan the timeboxes in advance, with a cool head, in the calm before the storm, so you make good choices. Describe each activity clearly, including how long it will take, in a (digital) calendar. Take some measures to avoid diversions from the chosen task. Get to good enough — most of the time, this will be fine.
time-blocking =  +  +
perfectionism =  + 
procrastination = 
single-tasking = 
satisficing = 
timeboxing =  +  +  + 
Can you improve on my definition? If you can, I’d love to hear; the book is still in the late-editing stage (and if your suggestion leads to an enhancement, I will thank you here and in the book).
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