joonian.media

Notes on media, productivity and money

Timeboxing consulting hours

Wong Joon Ian

I spend a lot of time consulting on projects these days. One of the perils of the job is budgeting sufficient amounts of time for each client.

One heuristic my colleague Nolan Bauerle suggested, which I like, is for every unit of time spent talking to the client, you should reserve the same unit for ‘homework’.

So if you do a half-hour meeting with the client, you should reserve a half hour before or after the call for research, follow-ups or other administrative tasks generated by the call.

I think this method deals with the main risk, which is under-budgeting time for a client, and ending up with not enough hours to spread among clients.

So the no-code way I thought of automating this was to make each consulting appointment on my calendar generate a proportional calendar item after the event to take care of the homework.

The most annoying part of doing this process manually was setting parameters and pasting in info in the Calendar interface. So I did a no-code automation with the following:

1. Google Calendar
2. Zapier


Set up your calender In this case, I created a new calendar in Google Calendar and labelled it ‘consulting.

Create your Zap Set up a zap that connects Google Calendar with Google Calendar. Your trigger should be ‘New Event’ and your result should be ‘Create Detailed Event’.

Set up a Filter The above Zap creates a neverending loop. A new event creates another event, which would trigger the Zap again, and so on. (I found this out the hard way, lol). So insert a Filter that will break the loop. In my case, every event created by the Zap contains a ⚙️ emoji in the title. This is because I am using a loose version of the Work Clean timeboxing technique (it’s a cool idea using tactics from professional kitchens). For me, anything with a ⚙️ denotes it’s a ‘processing’ task.

Set up your timeboxed event Now you can specify what your timeboxed events look like. The Google Calendar API has some nice things like “Pretty” times, which are just dates and times formatted in a more readable way. This is what mine looks like.

And here’s the result:

And in Calendar:

And that’s it. A simple two-step Zap that removes some of the friction in timeboxing your calendar as a consultant.

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