Multitasking, the ability to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, sometimes dominates daily routines. While time hacks can be tempting to stay agile in a fast-paced business environment, they can also foster misleading illusions of productivity. Research suggests that too much multitasking can lead to decreased efficiency and quality of overall work. The brain, despite its complexity, is not designed to focus on multiple tasks at once. Shifting attention constantly comes with a “switching cost” — a mental toll that can result in longer completion times, errors, and increased stress. As the CEO of RX Medical, a family of healthcare businesses, we value efficiency (a good thing). However, we’ve also learned too much emphasis on efficiency can hinder concentration and creativity (not good). Time management is a crucial skill, especially when it comes to optimizing operational effectiveness and leading others through complex challenges. Would you agree recognizing the benefits, and limitations, of multitasking is essential for maximizing productivity and safeguarding the mental well-being of both ourselves and our teams?

The Principle: Allocate Fixed Time Blocks

In the book “Timeboxing: The Power of Doing One Thing at a Time,” author Marc Zao-Sanders shares insights from a concept originally introduced from Agile project planning. “Timeboxing” can help tame the chaos of life says Zao-Sanders. It outlines more suggestions around the principle of allocating fixed time blocks—whether minutes or hours—to individual activities, thereby eliminating distractions and fostering concentration. This practice emphasizes the importance of dedicating specific, uninterrupted periods of time to singular tasks. Zao-Sanders believes this process enhances productivity and mitigates the detrimental effects of task-switching and cognitive overload. The premise advocates for prioritization based on importance rather than urgency and promotes a sense of accomplishment and mastery over workloads.

Timeboxing: Where to Start

The Timeboxing system starts with an initial to-do list followed by migrating said items to a digital calendar for example. We’re encouraged to choose timeframes to begin and end specific tasks. Zao-Sanders suggests taking energy levels and mood into consideration when planning each day. He recommends bundling or breaking down tasks by estimating the amount of time needed for each task. Accounting for preexisting commitments is par for the course too. Scheduling breaks and activities that replenish energy levels throughout the day is key.

Mindfulness and Timeboxing Shares Similarities

The “Timeboxing” method offers psychological benefits because it cultivates a sense of control and reduces stress by breaking daunting projects into manageable sessions of time. Both Timeboxing and mindfulness emphasize staying present, fostering self-awareness, and reducing burnout. They can even compliment each other. Timeboxing acts as a gateway to positive mindfulness practices and mindfulness enhances Timeboxing effectiveness. Like anything, there are limitations. For example, Timeboxing, while beneficial, can’t guarantee optimal results 100% given life’s unforeseen events that often appear with little warning.

Most of us face an overwhelming array of always-on options, endless notifications, and constant battles for our attention. This inundation diminishes our ability to prioritize effectively and leaves many feeling anxious and overwhelmed. While the Timeboxing method isn’t perfect, it has been proven to help many obtain what seek most … peace of mind.

📌LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE: Consider exploring the Timeboxing method to determine if it might be a fit for you and/or your team to structure and prioritize tasks more effectively. Have you / your teams considered this method? What results were uncovered?