For several years now, I have been an enthusiastic practitioner of time boxing—working in fixed time intervals (time boxes) of 25 to 40 minutes, interspersed with short breaks during which I get up from my desk and do some physical activity.
Over the years, I have tweaked my time box length several times to optimize my productivity.
If I made it too short, I would interrupt work too often; if I made it too long the time box would drag on and exceed my attention span.
I also needed a shorter time box length for reading than for writing, in particular when learning complicated material.
What you should also know is that I usually wear noise cancelling headphones or earmuffs to block out distractions.
But that also means that I might miss the alarm going off at the end of a time box. Often, I just didn’t hear it.
So I started using the vibration alarm of my Fitbit. That worked great because a brief vibration would always alert me to the end of a time box. I also didn’t disturb others with audible alarms.
Paced Time Boxing (PTB): Augmenting time boxing with intermediate reminders to pace yourself
Many fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit, have an interval timer, designed for high intensity interval training (HIIT), where you alternate between move and rest intervals.
This got me thinking:
“I could solve the problem of dealing with different time box lengths for different tasks and at the same time introduce a pace setter.”
So this is how I have been doing for a while now:
I set both the move and the rest interval in my Fitbit to 20 minutes (the maximum) to make up a time box with a total length of 40 minutes. In other words, I use both the move and the rest interval to make up a time box.
To begin a time box I start my interval timer, and it starts counting down. After 20 minutes I get two brief vibrations on my wrist.
But this first vibration alert only signals that half of my time box is over.