Timeboxing - Leave No Calendar Whitespace

Making plans used to stress me out. I wasn’t a calendar person, so when asked if I was doing something next week I honestly didn’t know.

The problem was I wasn’t using my calendar. When you’re not opening your calendar daily, you’re not sure what’s on it, so you trust it less. If you’re in a job where you have daily schedule changes, you need to check it every day. For years my job didn’t utilize a calendar so I didn’t need to look.

Most of the time I use my calendar to keep track of things in the future scheduled at a certain date and time. We have tickets to see a musical in March, and with a few swipes I could tell you exactly when.

I’ve recently picked up a calendar method that is more about everything that’s happening throughout your day. Every chunk of time between waking up and bed is marked. Every hour gets a purpose.

Timeboxing allows me to plan out every minute of my day, making sure there’s no whitespace in my calendar. This isn’t supposed to be filled with work, but just everything that I want to do and at what time for what duration. If I want to play video games today I can box out an hour to do that. Setting aside time for the things that I want to work on, like reading and fitness, ensures they actually happen.

I especially love it because if I could I’d book my entire day to be ‘productive’, working, learning, exercising, etc. It’s not healthy and doesn’t align with my actual goals. So by color coding the different types of events I can see when I’m doing too much of one thing. Is my day entirely blue? I’m probably relaxing too much. Is there a lot of red on my weekends? Seems like I’m working on Saturdays a bit more than I’d like.

It’s a great visual indicator of how I’m spending my time.

If I’m not sure about the duration of something I’ll use OR blocks. My schedule might look like this:

  • 11AM File Taxes
  • 12PM Lunch
  • 1PM File Taxes or Website Build

I prioritize File Taxes because I know it’s what I want to complete before anything else. If I get my taxes filed in the first block I’ll change the 1PM block to “Website Build”, otherwise it becomes “Website Build.”

If I schedule an hour and the task only takes 30 minutes, I shorten the block to 30 minutes and decide then. Sometimes I’ll pull the next block up and start on it early. If I’ve just been working for a couple hours, I might take a break.

When things come up that knock some of my hour blocks off the board, no problem. Just this weekend I thought an event was canceled, so I removed it and filled the space with something else. When the event was back on, I cleared the space again and put it back.

You know how at a buffet you always take way more food than you have any right to make your stomach deal with? I’m kinda like that with daily to-do lists.

I always try to pack a bunch of tasks into my day. I mean, who doesn’t love getting more stuff done? The problem comes when several of those tasks take 2-3 hours. As a solitary checkbox in my to-do app, they don’t seem all that time-consuming. They start to reveal themselves when I timebox them. I can easily see that of the 5 tasks I want to get done, I only have time for 3. I get a realistic sense of my day and I don’t feel like a failure for not accomplishing the last two.