One question often asked in interviews is ‘How do you make sure you get things done in your day?’. Time boxing may be your answer!
If you've ever been asked the interview question, 'How do you make sure you get things done in your day?', what they're really asking you about is your time management skills. For many software developers, these are skills we haven't fully developed, but are critical to our success as developers.
Time-boxing in this respect is really a micro version of the same concept that is frequently applied to much larger projects. The concept is simple, set up a block of time for a specific task. That's it! While it may be a very simple idea, it can be a great solution to help you keep your head down and focus on important tasks, while also allowing for time spent on miscellaneous projects. Here are a couple of tips to make it work for you.
Set your schedule each morning.
It’s a great routine to get into to look at what’s on your plate each day and then allocate your time blocks accordingly. You can review your notes from the day before to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything, then look at meetings you have and figure out how to spend the rest of the time. I’ve tried setting my schedule the day before, but invariably something gets lost in the shuffle for me if I try that approach.
Schedule blocks of time for miscellaneous work each day.
This is the biggest problem with making this process work for you. We all get distracted and pulled in different directions each day. If you expect it and allocate time for it, you can easily manage these distractions while staying focused on your task at hand. If you fail to do this, you’ll find that you fall further and further behind everyday because of time lost on these unaccounted for distractions. If you don’t have any odd tasks to perform when you get to one of these blocks, just continue working on your previous task until something comes up.
Stick to your schedule.
Yeah this sounds simple, but in practice it can be the biggest challenge. When someone pings you for a non-related task during the day, politely respond that you are free at a certain time (a block of time you already allocated for miscellaneous tasks), then follow up with them then. Occasionally there will be emergencies that need tended immediately, but not everything is an emergency.
If you use these tips, you should be able to get lots more done each day while minimizing distractions. You may find that you can use these same techniques to get lots more done in your personal life too!