Published on May 17, 2021

How To Master Timeboxing For Increased Productivity

How To Master Timeboxing For Increased Productivity

If you’re looking for ways to improve your productivity, chances are, you’ve come across a concept called timeboxing. Even if you’ve never heard the term “timebox” before, you might have come across other aspects that belong to timeboxing, such as calendar blocking and the Pomodoro Technique.

In any case, timeboxing is one of the simplest yet most effective time management strategies. And in this article, you’ll learn exactly how to apply this technique in your day-to-day life.

What Is Timeboxing?

Let’s first look at what timeboxing is. Timeboxing is a very simple concept where you give yourself a certain amount of time for a certain task. This stands in contrast to the “normal” way of working, which is to just work on a task until it’s done. You can either use your calendar and add blocks for certain tasks in your calendar, or you can simply use a timer to give yourself a deadline for your timebox.

The most efficient way to go about it is to combine both. This means you’ll add blocks for work and break blocks in your calendar. Then, write down your to-dos for the blocks in each block.

From here, write down your to-dos for each day. While doing that, make sure that it doesn’t get over three to four hours of high-focus tasks for maximum efficiency. Ideally, the total doesn’t go over six hours because you won’t be able to focus for longer than that.[1]

Now, let’s look at how timeboxing can increase your productivity with a bit more detail.

How Timeboxing Can Increase Your Productivity

While timeboxing is a simple time management technique, it has huge potential to increase your productivity. The effect will be especially big if you haven’t monitored the time you need for certain tasks previously.

1. Making Use of the Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law says that time expands with a task at hand.[2] This means that you’ll need as much time for a task as how much you give.


Did you ever have a super tight deadline and wondered how you even got that task done in such a short amount of time? On the other hand, did you ever have a full Saturday with no plans apart from vacuuming your hours ahead of you? Normally, that might take you an hour. But if you’ve got the whole day to only get that done, then you’ll likely need the whole day for it, right?

Now, with timeboxing, you can take advantage of that. Give yourself a deadline to get a task done. Even if you don’t hit it in the beginning, it will soon give you a good gauge as to how long you realistically need to get it done. If you’ve set a timer and work without interruption during that time, you’ll likely get it done once the timer goes off.

2. Helping to Stay Focused

I highly recommend setting a timer for timeboxing. While entering blocks into your calendar is great to give you a good overview, it won’t necessarily help you get more done in less time. Setting a timer and giving each box a deadline will help tremendously, though.

Another huge benefit of timeboxing with a timer is that it helps you stay focused. The easiest way to get started is to use short intervals. The 25 minutes of the Pomodoro Technique (we’ll get to that in a minute) are a great place to get started.

Choose a short time frame and then work without interruptions for this amount of time. Twenty-five minutes is nothing, and even if you feel a strong urge to do something distracting, just push through this short time frame. Even short chunks will help you stay focused. And you’ll be surprised about how much you can get done in 25 minutes if you don’t allow any distractions or interruptions to take away your attention.

3. Making the Amount of Time You Have Visible

Another great benefit of timeboxing is that it makes the amount of time you have each day visible. This is where calendar blocking comes in handy. If you add blocks for your breaks, time off, and your work, then you’ll quickly see that you only have a certain number of hours each day to work. This is especially helpful if you tend to overload your to-do list because you don’t really know how long you’ll need for a certain task.

4. You’re in Control of Your Time

The last main benefit of timeboxing is that you’re in control of your time. Instead of just working on any given task until it’s done, you proactively decide how much time you’ll give it.

You take full control over how much time you want to spend on a given task. This means that you’re in charge of your own work and life, not the other way around. Instead of not knowing what to expect on any given day, you craft it the way you need.


7 Tips to Master Timeboxing for Increased Productivity

Okay, now that you’ve understood the benefits of timeboxing, here are seven tips that will help you master time boxing for increased productivity.

1. Calendar Blocking Is Essential

As mentioned earlier, calendar blocking is essential for timeboxing. This is what allows you to actually “box” your time. Plus, it will make the amount of time you have each day more visible. Here’s how to do it

Use Google Calendar or another calendar app that you have access to on different devices. Then, add break blocks and blocks for time off. This will give your work a pre-determined limit in which you have to fit your tasks.

Once you’ve got that, add at least one block for high focus tasks. This block should take at least one hour, preferably more, and its purpose is to allow you to work on tasks that require a lot of focus.

Once you got that, add several blocks for low-focus tasks. These are tasks that need to get done but aren’t the most essential tasks that will truly move you forward in your job or business. The most common low-focus tasks are checking and answering emails and admin tasks.

2. Add Your To-Dos to Your Calendar Blocks

The next step is to add your to-dos to your calendar blocks. This gives you a great overview of what needs to get done that day. Plus, it’s a great way to store that information ahead of time. So, if you think of a task that needs to get done on a certain day, you can already add it to this block on that respective day.

Another great benefit of the calendar blocks is that you can make them recurring. So, have the general blocks set as recurring and then add the individual to-dos in each respective block.

3. Determine How Much Time You Need for a Task

Now, this is a very important tip: determine how much time you realistically need for a task.


In the beginning, this will just be a guess. Just determine something and then see how long it really took you. After a few repetitions, you’ll know how much time it will realistically take you to get that task done.

For instance, writing an article like this one takes me about two Pomodoros or 50 minutes. Preparing it takes me one Pomodoro or 25 minutes and editing it will take me between one and two Pomodoros.

Once you know how much time you need for a task, try to always go a little lower. For instance, let’s say an excel analysis takes you 2.5 hours. Once you know that, set your timer for two hours and 20 minutes next time. Always decrease it a little until you end up at a place where it’s virtually impossible to work even faster.

With this add-on to timeboxing, you’ll increase your productivity a whole lot!

4. Always Set a Timer

To track the time you really need for a task and to have a deadline, you obviously need a timer. I highly recommend always setting a timer, no matter what task you’re working on. Chances are that you’ll take longer if you don’t use a timer, simply because you don’t realize how fast time passes.

Plus, getting distracted is far easier if you don’t have a clock ticking that’s indicating how much time you’ve got left until your timebox is used up.

5. Don’t Allow Any Interruptions

As stated earlier, don’t allow any distractions or interruptions during a timebox.

To increase your productivity, you need blocks where you can work in a focused manner, and that only works if you get rid of all distractions. So, close your email inbox, get rid of all notifications, and put your phone on mute and in a different room when you’re working. Trust me, this will be an incredible booster for your productivity.


6. Get Started With the Pomodoro Technique

The best way to get started with timeboxing is to use the Pomodoro Technique. This is a very simple technique where you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Twenty-five minutes might not seem like much, but if you work without any interruptions, you’ll be able to get a whole lot done.

Plus, this amount is just perfect to push through even if you’d much rather go on social media or surf the web. It’s far easier to push through 25 minutes instead of a straight 8-hour workday.

This is why it’s best to get started with this technique. Make sure to get up from your desk in between the Pomodoros, and allow yourself a longer break after about 4 Pomodoros. Once you have no issues working for 25 minutes straight, you can extend your timer if you’ve given yourself longer time for a task.

7. Get an Accountability Buddy

The last tip for increased productivity with timeboxing is getting an accountability buddy.

Timeboxing, calendar blocking, and the Pomodoro Technique are great techniques to increase your productivity. But an accountability buddy can help you make sure that you actually put your good intentions to work and follow through with what you said.

Team up with someone who will kick your butt if you don’t stick to your timeboxes.

Final Thoughts

Timeboxing is a super simple time management technique that will increase your productivity tremendously. The best way to use it is to add blocks to your calendar. Then, add your to-dos to your work blocks to get a good overview of what needs to get done on any given day.

Determine how long you’ll give yourself for each task. Once you’re ready to start working on a task, set a timer. Either use the Pomodoro Technique and determine how many Pomodoros you’ll need for that task. Or set the timer for the exact length you’ve given yourself ahead of time, for instance, one hour.


Don’t allow any interruptions during your timeboxes. If you stick to that, you’ll get your tasks done as quickly as never before.

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Featured photo credit: freestocks via


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Caroline Dougoud

Productivity and Lifestyle Design Coach helping busy entrepreneurs and professionals get back control of their time and results

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Last Updated on September 9, 2021

The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

Everyone has their favorite habits for boosting productivity. Your desk setup, morning routine, and diet all play a role. But there’s one thing that everyone agrees can make a difference: focus music.

Soothing beats can keep distractions at bay, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re trying to drown out mowers or simply get into a groove, put on a pair of headphones. Music can make all the difference in your focus.

With that said, not all music is equally conducive to productivity. You need to be careful about what you listen to. Getting work done calls for very different sounds than getting a workout in.

If you need a little more help to get rid of distractions, check out Lifehack’s free guide End Distraction And Find Your Focus. In this guide you’ll learn the simple techniques to stay focused and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

This article will walk you through selecting the best music for productivity, as well as a list of tunes to help you get started.

How to Pick the Best Focus Music For Yourself

With so many genres and artists out there, there’s a lot of music to choose from. Before you press play, keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. Stick With Instrumental

Songs without words in them make it easier to focus. Lyrics can distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish because you might get the words mixed up with what you’re trying to read. If you’re writing something, you might find yourself typing the lyrics instead.

Intelligence and instrumental music are correlated, perhaps because instrumental music is less intrusive.[1] Instrumental music tends to fade into the background, giving you a rhythm without pulling your mind away from the task at hand.

Stay away from instrumental versions of songs you recognize. It’s easy to fill in the blanks with the lyrics if you’ve already committed them to memory.


However, some exceptions can be made. Creatives who produce videos or audio might prefer tracks that get their creative juices going, lyrics and all. However, if you find lyrics to be distracting, switch back to instrumental tunes.

2. Take It Easy

Not all instrumental music is calm and relaxing. Focus music should be, however. So, beware of instrumental songs that are too loud and stimulating. High volumes and tempos can work you up when you need to stay calm.

Again, some roles can make exceptions. Physical laborers can use more rambunctious tunes to keep them energized. While calm tunes work best for those in desk-based roles, don’t go too extreme. Something that’s too soothing might make you feel tired, and yawning all day isn’t exactly the path to productivity.

3. Pick Music You Enjoy

At the end of the day, the best focus music is what you enjoy. If you hate classical music, don’t put together a classical playlist just because you stumbled on a study about its benefits.[2] Your dislike of the music will take away the productivity you’d otherwise get out of listening to it.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’ve never worked while listening to jazz before, why not? Save songs you like for later listening. Over time, you’ll build a playlist of tried-and-true focus music.

4. Update Your Setup

Before jamming out to your productivity tunes, make sure you have the right equipment. Invest in a music streaming service so you don’t have to listen to ads. Purchase noise-canceling headphones to avoid distracting your co-workers.

Focus music is all about ambience. Anything that interrupts your flow—whether that’s poor sound quality or glitchy streaming—needs to go.

Expect to spend at least $100 on headphones or speakers. For the streaming service itself, Spotify Premium is the standard at $9.99 per month. Slacker, Apple Music, and YouTube Music are also popular.

Building Your Perfect Playlist of Focus Music (With Recommendations)

Now that you know what to look for in focus music and how to listen, it’s time to build your playlist. Get started with these smooth, instrumental genres, artists, and songs.


1. Chillhop Music

This YouTube channel has almost 3 million subscribers. Its music videos run 24/7 and feature driving yet relaxing beats.

Most songs on this channel fall into a category called “lofi hip hop,” a type of electronic R&B. Unlike traditional hip hop, lofi hip hop songs follow a slow, steady pattern that induces focus and relaxation.

Chillhop playlists can also be streamed on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. Popular artists include nymano, No Signal, and Sleepy Fish.

2. Andy McKee

Andy McKee is an acoustic guitarist who became famous after “Drifting,” one of his early songs, went viral on YouTube. “Drifting” exemplifies the creative, quiet guitar techniques found in the rest of McKee’s music.

Today, McKee has six albums of primarily acoustic guitar. One of McKee’s most popular pieces, “Rylynn,” is a perfect example of his soothing yet upbeat sound.

3. John Butler Trio

The band John Butler Trio became popular after releasing “Ocean,” a 2012 hit with more than 50 million listens on YouTube.[3] Heavy on acoustic guitar, “Ocean” is an intricate ballad that ebbs and flows like the ocean itself.


Known for flowing changes in key and mood, the John Butler Trio proves that fast songs can stand in as great focus music. The group’s long songs—“Ocean” is 12 minutes long—are less disruptive for long projects. Two other favorites by John Butler Trio are “Betterman” and “Spring to Come.”

4. Classical Radio on Pandora

Classical music has long been a staple for music lovers looking to get work done. Pandora’s classical station features a great mix, from Beethoven to modern artists like Maria Callas and Jorge Bolet.

Pandora has radio stations for every genre imaginable. You can generate playlists based on genre, artist, or even a specific song.

Other music apps offer similar playlists and radio stations you can turn to for your classical music fix. From piano-heavy tunes to violin concertos, you’ll find plenty to perk up your ears.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack

Movie soundtracks are full of amazing focus music. One of my favorites is the Pirates of the Caribbean series, which is lively and adventurous but not in your face.

If you like what you hear, Hans Zimmer, the mastermind behind the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, has worked on a huge array of films. Zimmer also put together the soundtracks for The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and Inception.

One thing to watch out for with cinematic music is associations. As iconic as the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack is, if you’re thinking about Jack Sparrow instead of balancing spreadsheets, you should probably switch to a new song.

6. Legend of Zelda Soundtrack


Another hotspot for instrumental music is video games. If you’re not sure where to start, check out selections from The Legend of Zelda.

Anyone who’s played The Legend of Zelda games will immediately recognize what they hear. The soundtrack is light, airy, and full of awe. Keyboards, harps, and flutes feature prominently.

Although you could spend hours listening to The Legend of Zelda music, don’t forget about fan-produced songs in this genre. The video-gaming community is robust, and instrumental re-creations of your favorite games’ soundtracks can be found all over the internet.

7. Nature Sounds and White Noise

This genre may be too relaxing for some, but others prefer less structured focus music. Sounds like thunder, wind, and rushing water can transport you to a quiet, idyllic place to get work done.

One type of white noise to avoid is city-related sounds. Even without lyrics, honking horns or chattering crowds can be distracting.

An advantage of this type of focus music is that it can be set on a loop. If you find a track you like, go ahead and put it on repeat. When it starts over, you won’t even notice.

Ready, Set, Play

The best part about focus music is that nothing is off-limits. Some people work better listening to Tom Petty tunes than instrumental music, and that’s okay. What’s important is that it’s motivating without being distracting.

To unlock your next tier of productivity, spend a couple of hours clicking around on your favorite streaming music site. You’ll get more done, and best of all, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

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Featured photo credit: Lala Azizli via



[1] New York Post: Smarter people listen to instrumental music: study
[2] Forbes: Does Classical Music Help Our Productivity?
[3] YouTube: Ocean – John Butler – 2012 Studio Version

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