Routines are key to avoiding task overwhelm

Routines are key to avoiding task overwhelm

A few weeks ago, I wrote about avoiding task overwhelm. Task overwhelm is one of the biggest issues for finance leaders. It can easily stop you from being as effective as they would like to be and keep them from being involved adequately in business strategy.

I suggested that good habits are one of the things you have to develop and addressed how you might do that in the first 100 days in your new finance role.

This week I’m delving deeper and looking at how time boxing can help you initiate the right routines. Time boxing is a time management technique that involves allocating specific time periods, or “boxes,” for different tasks or activities. The idea behind time boxing is to create a structured schedule that helps you manage your time effectively and stay focused on specific tasks.

I’ve not been pleased with my use of time lately. Work extends into the evening, and personal things I want to achieve are not getting done. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using AI to help me implement time boxing in an attempt to make sure the important things get done at the right time. Reclaim.ai has helped me enormously. I’m still learning, but so far, productivity is up, and work-life balance has improved.

Here’s how time boxing typically works:

  1. Define the task: Start by identifying the task or activity you want to work on. It could be a project, a specific work assignment, or any other item on your to-do list.
  2. Set a time limit: Determine how much time you want to allocate for that task. It could be a fixed duration, such as 30 minutes, or a flexible time frame, like one or two hours.
  3. Create a time box: Mark out the designated time slot for the task on your calendar or schedule. This visually represents the time box for that activity. Reclaim.ai can do this for you and automatically block out time in your calendar, even splitting bigger tasks over several time boxes. Time boxes move as meetings are scheduled and rescheduled, and your availability for meetings is constrained to make sure there is time to do deep work.
  4. Focus on the task: During the allocated time box, concentrate solely on the designated task. Minimise distractions and avoid multitasking. The goal is to work on that specific activity without interruptions. If it is placed in your diary in a specific time slot, then it’s harder not to do it.
  5. Complete the task or take a break: Once the time box expires, evaluate your progress. If you’ve finished the task, great! Move on to the next one. If not, you can decide whether to extend the time box or schedule additional time for it later. You can also take a short break before moving on to the next task.
  6. Repeat the process: Continue time boxing for each task or activity throughout your day or week. By breaking down your time into focused intervals, you can increase productivity, maintain concentration, and manage your overall workload more effectively.

Timeboxing offers several benefits, including:

  1. Enhanced focus: By allocating specific time periods for tasks, you create a structured environment that promotes concentration and minimises distractions.
  2. Improved time management: Timeboxing helps you allocate your time more consciously, ensuring that important tasks receive dedicated attention.
  3. Increased productivity: The focused approach of time boxing can boost productivity by providing a clear framework for completing tasks efficiently.
  4. Reduced procrastination: Breaking tasks into manageable time boxes can help overcome the tendency to procrastinate, as you have a defined period to work on specific activities.

It’s likely that you have quite an extensive task list and many commitments already on your calendar. Plus, your schedule is constantly changing. How do you stay on top of it all? Scheduling time boxes effectively becomes a real chore. Here’s where AI comes in.

Reclaim.ai helps me by automatically scheduling these time boxes in my calendar. Two weeks into my trial and I know I’ve been much more productive, focussing time on what really matters.

Habits have to be scheduled too.

It’s not just about scheduling tasks; scheduling habits are equally important. How often do things you want to do daily end up not happening?

Reclaim.ai is allowing me to schedule habits, too. The hour each week to write this newsletter. The hour to publish this week’s GrowCFO Show. The spare time to work on specific hobbies.

Combining time boxing and habits can be an effective way to manage your time and develop consistent routines. Here’s a suggested approach:

  1. Define your habits: Start by identifying the habits you want to develop. These could be daily or weekly activities that you want to incorporate into your routine, such as exercise, reading, or practicing a skill.
  2. Prioritize your habits: Determine which habits are most important to you and align with your goals. It’s better to focus on a few key habits rather than overwhelming yourself with too many at once. Reclaim needs to know this priority so that the important things take precedence in your calendar.
  3. Set specific goals: Define clear and measurable goals for each habit. For example, if your habit is to exercise, specify the number of days per week and the duration of each session.
  4. Create a schedule: Time boxing involves allocating specific time slots for different activities. Designate dedicated time blocks for your habits in your daily or weekly schedule. Consider your energy levels and other commitments when deciding on the timing. Reclaim.ai lets you specify the ideal time and duration for the time box.
  5. Commit to consistency: Treat your scheduled habit time as non-negotiable appointments with yourself. Consistency is key to forming habits, so make a conscious effort to stick to the designated time slots.
  6. Start small and gradually increase: If you’re just starting, begin with manageable time frames for each habit. As the habits become more ingrained, you can gradually increase the duration or frequency.
  7. Track your progress: Keep track of your habit adherence. You can use a habit tracker app, a physical journal, or a simple spreadsheet to monitor your consistency. Seeing your progress can provide motivation and help you stay on track.
  8. Adjust and adapt: Be flexible and open to adjusting your approach as needed. If you find that certain habit time slots don’t work well or need to be rearranged, modify your schedule accordingly. The goal is to find a routine that fits your lifestyle and supports your goals.

Remember, combining time boxing and habits is a personal process, and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with different approaches, and don’t be afraid to refine your system as you go along.