Why am I discussing timeboxing and goal setting? Well… it’s because I realized one is superior to the other. How so? We’ll go into that a little later. Let’s discuss goal setting.
Goal setting has been the idea of setting something to achieve in the future. For example, I want to get an A+ on my film and arts course, or I want to write a novel by next August. In contemporary management, the framework for goal setting is based on the SMART criteria. It propagates that a goal should be
And there are other frameworks that go beyond this set, such as SMARTER, where evaluation and reevaluation are included. I won’t be getting into.
The problem I see with SMART goals and more generic SMART goals is that there is only a single path. This being the only path to the goal. Let’s use an example of losing 10 pounds by next month. In this example, there is a goal of losing 10 pounds and a time period of finishing the goal in a month. But how about if I don’t achieve the goal? What if I only lose 9 pounds? What if I don’t lose any but instead I actually gained 2 pounds?
Don’t you feel angry at yourself if you were to gain weight instead of losing weight which was your intention? I definitely would! I would feel like sh#t. So, is there another way to achieve something in a certain time period without the negative reaction when we don’t achieve our goal? Yes there is.
What is Timeboxing? Timeboxing is much like a scientific experiment where you come up with a hypothesis and a null hypothesis. In terms of achieving something, think of goal setting but with 2 additional branches after having reached or failed at reaching the goal. Let’s look at the picture below.
We can see that A is where we are now and B is where we want to be. Up to this point, this would be the SMART goal setting technique. So you either could be successful or a failure. Instead, what we use in timeboxing is Success or Alternative. You see, the alternative for the not losing 10 pounds could be to reevaluate your diet or just stop the regimen, because it may not be working for you. It’s an alternative and it can become its own timeboxing until you have succeeded.
It’s less stressful on the person because if we don’t succeed something then we have another choice, whereas, traditional goal setting only gives you one choice. And only that choice.
Another benefit of using timeboxing is the recovery from failure is much quicker. You won’t be thinking about how shitty you are for days or even weeks for not achieving a goal. You can proceed on to the next experiment to attaining the goal.
Why have all this pressure on yourself? When you could just have another alternative if you don’t succeed? Well I think it’s because of the Western culture we live in, where we work for that one thing because it is all it matters. It assumes whenever we goal set, we will achieve it. But the reality is that… we don’t always! I’m talking about the vast majority of the population, the average person. I’m not talking about the outliers who seem like they just keeping winning because no one wins in everything they do. There will always someone bigger, greater, more powerful than you.
A third benefit is that timeboxing has a time constraint that is explicit compared to traditional goal setting. For example, you have one month to lose 10 pounds, or else you stop. This deliberate choice to choose to stop is something you can control. I only realized this the other day when I was talking with my friend.
Example: Project Manager
Let’s work on using timeboxing for a goal. Say you want to get promoted from a junior project manager to a project manager role in one year. You now have the outcome for success, but what about the outcome for failure ? You could have the alternative be, “To look for jobs outside the company.” This takes us back to the picture I showed you before.
Think about it this way. You want an alternative when you fail, so have an escape route when you fail. How do you set goals?