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Try This Now: “Timebox” Your Tasks at Work

This visualization exercise can help you reduce stress, focus, and stay organized.

Mego Studio/ Shutterstock
Mego Studio/ Shutterstock

When you’re overwhelmed, your first instinct might be to jump around from task to task, trying to get it all done without any structure. After all, when your to-do list seems like it’s a mile long, and your plate is overflowing, organizing your tasks into designated time blocks can seem like the last thing you want to do — but experts tell us it’s exactly what you need to manage your stress, and break free of the perpetual time famine that comes from trying to do everything at once.

Research finds that “timeboxing” your workload into visual blocks can help you stay organized when you have a lot to do, and can reduce stress by helping you visualize what you need to prioritize first, and what can wait. The next time you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list, take out a fresh piece of paper, and draw a column of boxes, placing each of your tasks in its respective box, based on priority level. That way, you’ll see which to-dos need to get done first, and which are less urgent. “[Timeboxing] enables the relative positioning of work,” productivity expert Marc Zao-Sanders writes in Harvard Business Review. “It’s visual, intuitive, and obvious.” 

Zao-Sanders says the exercise can help you work smarter. “Working hard and trying your best is sometimes not actually what’s required,” he explains. “Getting the right thing done at the right time — is a better outcome for all.”

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