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Inverse Timeboxing

Whew, okay, two entries literally right after each other but I had to bring this up as I just finished my Skritter reps for the day and came upon this idea.

Okay, so generally when we talk about timeboxing, it’s usually doing things in decreasing increments (10min-5min-4min-3min-2min-1min etc). I actually find that to be a rather annoying thing to do, because it meant having another clock going that I had to reset all the time. I’m ridiculously lazy so I never really ended up doing that timeboxing thing properly. (Also: I’m sure there’s other methods to timeboxing, but that is the one that I know and attempted to follow).

Anyway, while this is not knocking timeboxing since I know people have had great successes with it, I want to share my way of doing things now. That is, inverse incremental timeboxing! I came across this idea by noticing the timer on the main Skritter study page:

I set a daily goal for myself of doing 30min-1hr worth of Skritter a day. Anyway, I noticed that without fail, once I hit the 30 minute mark I would always find an excuse to continue going. Continue I would, typically I finish out at about 30-40mins/day:

So, because of that, my Character Writings have shot up and my time studied tends to be a lot higher as well. So, I figured, let me try applying this principle to other things too. Now I run a timer that goes up (usually my iPhone or anything that doesn’t require any extra steps) and set myself a rough upper limit of time. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes; all dependent on the task at hand. Once I hit that, I either feel bored and wish to move on, or (typically) I figure “one more can’t hurt” and keep on going. I feel this is better than a timer going down because that always gave me pressure to finish within a certain time. I hate pressure. That’s probably why I’m studying history. Anyway, it was something about a timer going up without any limit that allowed me to feel less pressured about the time and more likely to get more done. Even if I do it in less time, I still feel like I accomplished something, so I never give myself pressure to make sure I do the amount I specify (though I end up doing it anyway).

While this isn’t necessarily groundbreaking by any means, it certainly was “study-altering” for me, so hopefully it is beneficial to others as well. Of course you could split it up during the day–a few minutes here and there–but that seems like extra work to keep track of, and at least for me, doing it in one sitting isn’t such a big deal. But, of course, the material has to be fun and you have to enjoy it, by no means force yourself into it.

Now, I don’t expect, and in fact I quite hope people disagree with me because I strongly believe that is how real magic happens in progressing your studies, but I’m interested in what everyone thinks (for example, how grammatically wrong this sentence is would be a good thing to argue against me about). Feel free to comment below!

4 thoughts on “Inverse Timeboxing”

  1. Interesting idea. It’s definitely a good thing to study more.

    Do you ever feel that going beyond the time you allotted leads to diminishing returns, that is do you get more done in the first 15 minutes than the next 15 minutes?

    1. It depends on my activity. For Skritter I get quite a lot done because I enjoy it, and the way it mixes the activity up helps quite a lot. For other SRS programs (like Anki, which you mentioned on another comment), I find it easier to hit the diminishing returns problem. If that happens, I will stop and come back to it later to finish out the time. Recently, I’ve changed it from “time” to “lesson”. For example, I may bring it down to one lesson in a textbook a day rather than “30min” a day. It’s easier to remain focused on that kind of a goal.

  2. Are you still seeing a similar experience with the inverse incremental timeboxing approach, or have you switched methods? (I’m doing a tiny investigation on timeboxing and this popped up.)

    1. Actually yes! But for some reason it really depends on the activity. I still keep it up with Skritter and a few others, but I’ve been increasingly using the Pareto principle lately. I’ll probably write up about that soon.

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