Timeboxing is a technique where you a set aside a fixed block (or box) of time to a single task. When that block of time is over, you stop. You can take a few seconds to finish that sentence or do one last compile, but nothing more than brief touches. If you finish earlier you can start on the next box or take a break.
The beauty of this is that you’re focusing on time spent, not tasks completed. By doing so you’re fighting off Parkinson’s Law — works expands to fill the time available. You have control of the immediate time spent and if you need more time you can allocate a box later. This prevents you from suddenly spending hours and hours on something you thought would be done quickly.
At first glance the Pomodoro Technique just sounds like timeboxing, but pomodoro’s real secret sauce, and its key to effectiveness, is adding a layer of methodology to timeboxing.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25 minute intervals called ‘Pomodoros’ separated by breaks. This method was developed by Francesco Cirillo, and in order to track his 25 minute time blocks he used a kitchen timer in the shape of a ‘pomodoro’ (tomato in Italian)
The technique consists of the following rules:
- Plan out what you want to accomplish
- Break your tasks into 25 minute chunks
- Take 5 minute breaks between each chuck
- If a distracting thought or another task comes along while you’re working within your 25 minutes try to continue working and just log the task for later processing
- After completing 4 work sessions take a longer break of 15-30 minutes
So, as you can see, it’s essentially structured timeboxing in 25 minute chunks.
Summing-up: Timeboxing is often mentioned as a technique to fight perfectionism. The Pomodoro Technique builds on the idea that timeboxing can help focus our mind and adds a specific set or fules around timeboxing.