How Timeboxing Reduces Stress and Doubles Productivity
How Timeboxing Reduces Stress and Doubles Productivity

From a Harvard Business Review article through a viral TikTok video to a book translated into 30+ languages, the term “timeboxing” seems to have struck a chord around the world. Described by Marc Zao-Sanders, author of “Timeboxing – The Power of Doing One Thing at a Time” (out now in bookstores and online) as “selecting what to do, before the day’s distractions arise; specifying each task in a calendar”, this might be the change you need in your professional and personal life.

Marc is the founder and CEO of, a tech company that develops AI to understand learning content in order to upskill people. He is passionate about algorithms, AI, thinking differently, how brains work in general and in particular how his own brain works.

In his most recent MERIT webinar, Marc tuned in to share his proven tips and tricks for successful timeboxing and uncover how this easy practice can free up your time and help you release stress.


Whether you’re an executive managing projects and teams, or a parent balancing work and family, or both, it all starts with understanding that timeboxing can greatly benefit your life. While many professionals are used to working with to-do lists, the truth is that they can be too overwhelming to achieve anything meaningful. But once people put them in their calendars, the practice becomes more actionable and proactive.

The idea of timeboxing is that you extend that to more aspects of your life so that you end up leading a more intentional life,” Marc says in the webinar.

In his book, he explains that timeboxing is logical because it empowers us to systematically decide what the most important steps of our day are and prioritise them. It is also a natural extension of the way we already lead our lives both personally and professionally. To some extent, people already follow predefined schedules with a start and end time – what matters is how we make the most of it. Timeboxing is actionable and complementary – it can be combined with other approaches to time management.


How does timeboxing work in practice? A useful habit to develop and follow from the beginning is the 15/15 rule – or spending 15 minutes every morning to timebox the next 15 hours of your calendar. Making this into a recurring appointment and committing to it is an empowering way to start the day because it gives people freedom and control of their time. In those 15 minutes, you are the one deciding how you will be spending the next hours.

What’s important to remember is that we all have unique traits that will dictate how we practise timeboxing. For example, some people are more productive in the morning and are able to complete more tasks during that time. Others may need physical exercise to start the day. Or, as is the case with Marc, your energy level may drop a little after lunch and you might prefer not to schedule (and timebox) meetings for the afternoon. All of this will start coming naturally to you once you get into the habit of timeboxing every day.


Once you actually start timeboxing, you may still encounter some difficulties along the way and it is useful to know how to manage those. Marc particularly focuses on both external and internal distractions as potential challenges. What happens when you suddenly start thinking of that board presentation while trying to accomplish something else? How do you cope with feeling overwhelmed and distracted by other projects and obligations?

The solution is often as simple as going back to the calendar and reminding yourself to do one thing at a time. The more you practise this method, the more you will get to learn about yourself, what helps you be productive, and what gets you distracted. For many people, their vulnerability lies in the transitions from one task to another.

Think about when you’re most vulnerable to getting distracted and how you might counter it,” Marc Zao-Sanders highlights during his MERIT webinar.


Finally, in order for timeboxing to really work, people need to turn it into a habit and own up to it. Stick to timeboxing every week of every month and the results will follow.

According to experts and research conducted about habits, all it takes to enact a certain behaviour is motivation, the ability to do it, and some sort of prompt. “With timeboxing, all three are really easy,” Marc says. Since you’re reading this article or watching the webinar, you have the motivation you need – the benefits of timeboxing are also described in detail in Marc’s new book. In terms of ability, all it takes is making an appointment on a digital calendar – the effort is extremely low. And the prompt is timeboxing itself – it comes as a digital notification as long as it’s in your calendar. “So making timeboxing a habit is a lot easier than most behaviours.

Through commitment, self-awareness, and consistent application, timeboxing has the potential to transform how people approach responsibilities, ultimately leading to a more intentional and fulfilling life.

Are you interested in hearing other inspiring talks on leadership, culture, and skilling? The MERIT Summit & Awards is coming up soon on 23-24 May 2024 in Milan at the new campus of SDA Bocconi School of Management. The topic is “Building Sustainable Organisations”. Register now to secure your early spot for the 2-day learning event for HR, learning and development, and executive education leaders.