Time and the Black Box

Time is the last portion of the black box, and in order to maximize your time, we’re keeping this article short and sweet.  On its face, it seems simple: to maximize time, arrive earlier, leave later, and work longer hours.  But, as with most things, it isn’t quite so easy.  Simply working longer hours ignores the human factor.  Longer hours can lead to poor morale, lower productivity, and burnout.

Simple time savings techniques vary widely, they can include shorter, but more restive, breaks, working from home to avoid commute time, especially irregular commutes, and using internet-connected devices to work during commutes on public transportation.

One method gaining popularity is time-boxing.  This is a project planning technique where a schedule is divided into a number of separate “boxes.”  Each box can have its own deliverable, and at the end of each box a small rest should be taken.  Each box should be a small amount of time, on the scale of minutes and hours, not days or weeks.  It can be thought of as a sprint followed by rest, followed by another sprint, continuing until the end of the day.  Timeboxing has also been used in software development methodologies, including Agile.  The Pomodoro method is an example of time-boxing that became somewhat popular, but no fancy tomato-shaped timers are necessary – a clock or a stopwatch is the only tool you’ll need to time-box.

The point to remember with increasing the time portion of the black box is to do it in ways that do not lead to burnout or low employee morale.

It is much more effective to increase quality, efficiency, and speed.  However, if the amount of time must be increased, using some of the suggestions above will be more valuable than simply increasing work hours.

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