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Virtual First | Effectiveness Kit

Timebox to help prioritize tasks

Need to get something done? Folks with demands from every direction have no choice but to be efficient. You can recreate efficiency-inducing pressure in your work by timeboxing tasks.  Just ask a parent or a caregiver!


Person sits in a wheelchair working at a desk on their computer, beside them there is a large clock on the wall

Step 1: Choose a challenging task

Scan your week ahead and allow yourself to recognize the tasks that your mind is shoving into the background. Those are the ones you don’t want to do. Perhaps they’re uninspiring, or perhaps you’re imagining that they’ll take an inordinate amount of energy to complete. Now that you’ve wrangled that task to the forefront of your mind, you’re in a position to control it — instead of it controlling you. 

Step 2: Establish a timebox

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management tool that encourages individuals to break big tasks up into smaller chunks, with 5-minute breaks between focused bursts. The exact timing for focused bursts may vary, so choose a pattern that works best for you. If your mind tends to wander, try setting a 50-minute block to go deep on a thorny task. If you want a dopamine hit of progress, start with 10-minute chunks, giving yourself plenty of chances to pat yourself on the back. 

Step 3: Eliminate distractions

Setting an intention to focus for a given amount of time is a great start, but you’ll need to take things a step further to avoid derailment. The universe will try to disrupt your focus. During your timeboxed focused bursts, close your email, social media, and messaging platforms while limiting your internet usage to the task(s) at hand. Want to block out outside noise? Grab your headphones and turn on ocean sounds, if that’s your thing. Remember, discipline is key! 
From Dropbox

More resources to support prioritization in your work

Check out these other practices from the Virtual First Toolkit: 

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3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • Tomorrow: Choose a task you’ve been avoiding and put it in your next timebox. 
  • Next week: Devise a reward for yourself for timeboxing and completing three tasks. Celebrations are incentives.
  • Quarterly: Block at least 5 hours per week as dedicated timebox time. Seeing it labeled as such hones your focus.