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By Jared White

Pygmy Nuthatch

Go Beyond Timeboxing with Spaceboxing

As a freelancer, I’ve long been a huge fan of timeboxing as a technique of managing workflows and creating a rewarding and productive schedule. But one thing I’ve noticed with that approach is you can grow dissatisfied with the routine.

You know what I’m talking about. That feeling that you’re just doing the same sequence of things over and over again. You enter your home office or cowork space and get a sense of déjà vu. While there is be a certain degree of comfort in having the same routine each day, for more adventurous souls the monotony can become palpable.

What I’ve started to to do with my schedule is not just break up each day into timeboxes but also spaceboxes. Ever hear of the spacetime continuum? (That thing Doc Brown always tell us to protect?) Well that’s exactly what I’m referring to. Just as a timebox is a scheduled change of the type of work you’re doing, a spacebox is a scheduled change of place in the course of a day’s business.

Maybe you need to dedicate four hours to work on a particular client project. Rather than spend all four hours at your desk, take a pause in the middle and bring your work at your favorite coffee shop. Or perhaps you start off your day by driving to a cowork space in an adjacent town for the morning and then come back to your regular office in the afternoon.

Even if I plan to work solidly at my desk for several hours, I try to get up and go for a fifteen minute walk every hour or two at most. On my walks I try to vary my routine even then. Don’t just walk down the same street every time because it’s the obvious path. Mix things up!

There’s an art to a great work schedule. Play your days like Jazz. Improvise in the mix of a creative structure so you avoid that sense of monotony.

This can even extend to the most simple things like eating lunch. Plan on getting lunch from a wider variety of places. Try new foods you haven’t been interested in before. Maybe you don’t even have lunch at the normal time…have a big brunch and then an afternoon snack instead.

It’s not bad to have a regular routine. To a certain extent, having an improvised day is actually scary! It means more stress and more chance of not getting the work done that you intend to do. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about intentionally and deliberately scheduling your days in advance to incorporate “planned improvisation” and flexibility of routine. You’re not bucking the system to try something different. You’re building something different into the system at the start.

And if you’re really lucky, you can schedule timeboxes and spaceboxes during the week that don’t even have to be work projects/billable hours! I absolutely love this quote by Matt Gemmell:

“Somehow, you’ve earned the fantastic modern convenience of working from your own home (or office): it’s the dream! It’s OK to enjoy it a bit. Those leisure breaks and walks I mentioned are just the beginning. It’s fine to schedule a half-day off for the launch of that new game, or take advantage of cheap daytime movie tickets once in a while. Otherwise, why bother at all?” Matt Gemmell

So go forth and build a bit of adventure into your day. As a “free agent” you have the freedom to orchestrate when and where you work. Take advantage of that freedom. I’m definitely grateful for it!