Timeboxing vs. To-Do Lists – Pros, Cons and Recommendations


Timeboxing vs. to-do lists is an essential topic of discussion in terms of which to use to get things done. If you want to know these works, you need to understand how you work and your ideal workflow. In the end, you can decide which is more applicable to you. There are scenarios where you could even use both timeboxing and to-do lists. Using both to-do lists and timeboxing is how I work. 

What Is Timeboxing?

Timeboxing is blocking off a continuous period of time for working on a task. The amount of time in a timebox is less important than ensuring that you use that time solely to work on one task.

James Martin, in the book Rapid Application Development first described the term timeboxing. According to him, timeboxing is a fixed time frame where after assigning a task to yourself, you put your end efforts to complete it within the time limit. Timeboxing does not require you to complete the task within the timebox. You can perform a task across multiple timeboxes if the task is complex.

How Do You Do Timeboxing?

timeboxing

So how do you get started using timeboxing in your workflow? Enclosed below are some steps that should prove helpful to get started timeboxing effectively:

  1. Set Timebox for Each Task

The first thing is to set a specific time frame for each of your tasks, no matter how long or short it is. It’s a straightforward thing to do, as working non-stop may cause burnout and diminishing returns on your productivity. 

  1. Take Regular Breaks

Humans optimally work only for 35-45 minutes on average with maximum efficiency. So, to retain your energy and working quality, it’s vital to take breaks consistently. People who take regular breaks make more efficient progress than those who work without frequent breaks. 

If you find yourself looking for some more structure, I highly recommend the Pomodoro Technique. It works very well with Timeboxing and can be a boon to your productivity. Check out my guide to using the Pomodoro Technique.

  1. Set A Goal

The next step is to set a specific goal to complete a task, i.e., I will make a cup of tea after I accomplish my first task. In this way, there are more chances to build your confidence level. So, decide the time, complete a specific task, and enjoy a working routine.

  1. Evaluate Your Results and Adjust

While working, when I apply the timebox routine, my main aim is to look at how to progress in one of my tasks. Can I accomplish the same functions in less time next time? What optimizations can I make to reduce the time it takes to get the task done? Take the time to evaluate yourself honestly and continue to look for ways to get more efficient.

To-Do Lists

Todo List

Want to know the key to getting things done? It’s making lists of your tasks and doing them. Here, the most important tasks are on the top of list, with the least important lessons at the bottom of the list.

Making a list of the things you want to get done, prioritizing the list, and working through it is the oldest form of productivity out there, but it works.

When Should You Timebox vs. Use A To-Do List?

After the above discussions, it’s hard to find which technique to use, which is more efficient. However, I recommend using both because they are complementary. You can create a list of your to-dos, prioritize them and estimate how long each should take to complete. Then, setup timeboxes for each of those tasks with the estimated duration.

So, if you want to know the implementation time of both, you need to know the tasks. If there are some big projects off your purpose, I do recommend timeboxing. But if you are working under a boss, mentor, or any other person, I will suggest following to-do lists. Shortly, both are good and depend upon your working criteria.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Timeboxing Vs. Using To-Do Lists

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of Timeboxng and to-do lists to know the real difference.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Timeboxing

Advantage

  • Easy to perform
  • Easy time management
  • Increased evaluation opportunities
  • Less stress

Disadvantages

  • Finding continuous time in schedule to complete tasks

Advantages and Disadvantages of To-Do Lists

Advantages

  • Easy to implement
  • Important tasks accomplishment/ Prioritization
  • Little hard working
  • Easy sense of accomplishment

Disadvantages

  • can lead to stress if list gets too long
  • Need a software or a proper list
  • still need to separate fit into schedule

Final Thoughts

The next step for you is to determine what is good for you, either timeboxing, to-do lists, or both. I would recommend using both as they work together really well but feel free to experiment to see what works for you.

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