Time Management using Ivy Lee-senhower Timeboxing

A seven-day calendar showing sample coloring of timeboxes.
Tasks timeboxed by color.

Ingredients

You don’t need a productivity app. Or a book on productivity. Or a productivity guru, a subscription to ProductivizeMeForMonthlyFees.com, or anything like that.

  • A calendar you’ll create using paper and/or a simple calendar app
  • Scraps of paper
  • A willingness to read to the end of this blog post
  • The will to iterate over a period of weeks

The Ivy Lee Method

Thanks to fellow Medium blogger August Birch, we have a succinct description of The Ivy Lee method. We’re on a schedule here, so let’s just copy and paste some of Birch’s article.

Eisenhower Decision Matrix

The Eisenhower matrix is your prioritization machine. The Indeed.com article about the matrix is good. Google “Eisenhower matrix” for more articles and images. Here’s a quick summary.

  1. Create a 2x2 grid
  2. Label the two columns as Urgent and Not Urgent
  3. Label the two rows as Important and Not Important
  4. Consider how each task fits in the grid.
  • a method to choose tasks for the day
  • a means to prioritize tasks

Timeboxing

I’ve got about 18 minutes left in my biweekly blogging allotment, so we’re gonna wrap this quickly.

  1. Spend two weeks logging how you spend your time. Create the simplest weekly grid you can, then start logging hours: 8 to 10am Monday on accounting; 1pm to 4pm Wednesdays networking on LinkedIn; and so on.
  2. Categorize your tasks. In my calendar the categories are Engineering, Governance, Marketing, etc., but below I’m calling them A, B, C, etc.
  3. Pick a color for each category. If you don’t see color, use some other means of distinguishing categories.
  4. Identify categories for which you should spend more time. Are you “always” behind on some category? Allow 1–2 additional hours per week on it.
  5. Create a weekly calendar. Allot time for tasks in each category. You can stick to one category/color per day, but for variety break up the days a bit. Use lighter and darker shades of the same color for back-to-back tasks in the same category.
  6. Allow longer contiguous blocks of time for intensive tasks. In the calendar below, purple corresponds to engineering for me. I’m still heavy into engineering.
A seven-day calendar showing sample coloring of timeboxes.
An Excel screenshot showing a breakdown of hours by category. The same image from earlier in the article.

Rules of Thumb

As you approach the end of a time box, start to wind down. Document what you’ve done, and what’s next. Documentation makes it easier to step into the task again next time.

But Wait, There’s More!

There’s always more. There are always more tasks. There are a half a dozen things I wish I’d written, but then this article might be longer than I wanted.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Gary Bartos

Gary Bartos

Founder of Echobatix, developing assistive technology for the blind. echobatix@gmail.com