Timeboxing is all about organizing that list of tasks you have to do into focused ‘boxes’ of 30-minute slots – where you dedicate yourself to that particular area and nothing else. The theory is that it means less procrastination and flitting between tasks, and a focus on the stuff that needs to get done but all too often falls between the cracks. It's a particularly useful tool for those running solo creative businesses who are required to wear several hats. We spoke to sisters Sarah and Kathryn Phillips, co-founders of wellness and productivity company Well & Truly Workshops, to dig into the detail.
What difference does structure make for creatives?
A. ‘Structure allows for more creative flow. Knowing exactly when you're going to do [something] gives you much more freedom in those chunks of time you give yourself for creative work. It also means you're not wrenching your brain from one type of thinking to another.’
How can creatives find the right schedule to suit their flow?
A. ‘With timeboxing, you get much more used to the idea of how long specific tasks take. So if you have to do certain bookkeeping or PR activities, you might figure out it actually takes an hour. If you get well versed in tracking your time like that, you're going to have much bigger spaces and chunks of time to create. Intuitive timeboxing is very much about working with your natural biorhythm – creating a pattern that works for you.’
Where do issues tend to emerge?
A. ‘It can feel stressful if we get sidetracked from our schedule. If that happens, recreate it. Also, our mood and energy can change throughout the day – we might think that 4pm will be a great time for writing but feel totally uninspired when we get there. If that's the case, either take a break and do something that you know gives you energy and inspiration, or rejig your schedule and get some boring tasks done while you're not feeling it.’
And common mistakes to avoid?
A. ‘Not scheduling breaks and flexible time, not going into enough detail with regards to email, news, social media checks, and feeling stuck and frustrated if you don't quite judge the amount of time a task will take correctly. There's also a lack of discipline around tech hygiene – having this idea that our email inbox is a to-do list from other people.’
Sarah and Kathryn's rules to follow
• Create your schedule before you check your email, ideally after doing a bit of movement or breathwork so you're in a positive state of mind.
• Do admin in blocks during your lowest-energy time – this might be the afternoon slump or a particular day of the week.
• Avoid flitting between admin and creative tasks.
• Give yourself a few weeks to learn how long specific tasks take you – don't get frustrated and give up if your predictions are a bit (or very) off at first.
• Limit new business calls and meetings to a couple of days a week as they require a different energy.
• Have a chunk of time on a Friday to do an ‘admin wrap-up’ so you can enjoy the benefits of a proper break.