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What is a Timebox?

Scrum relies heavily on the concept of Timebox. Timebox is setting a fixed time limit to any activity and letting other characteristics such as Scope vary. A time box could be

  • A Meeting
  • A Sprint
  • A Test activity
  • Development Activity
  • Or Practically anything such as you chatting with your friend on social networking site

The fact about timebox is that the time is limited. You can adjust other parameters such as

  • How much you can get done
  • Which item you must prioritize
  • However, deadlines cannot be moved.

In Scrum, all the project iterations, meetings must be timeboxed and time limits be respected. This is very important and non-negotiable aspect of Scrum.

Lets look at how a timebox actually works.

  • Timebox can be of any duration – hours, months, years
  • It is essentially a control mechanism to ensure how much time you wish to devote to certain activity.
  • Timebox is done at lowest level so that we can achieve timeboxing at the right level
  • If it so happens that the activity cannot be completed within the timebox available, the remaining items can be deferred to subsequent timebox. E.g. the way we plan the work in iteration is to limit the tie available and figure out how much functionality can be delivered within that timebox.
  • Timebox can be used outside our project activity also to improve our personal productivity and time hygine. For e.g. A person may find that he/she is spending too much time on Social Media. One way to control this would be to limit how much time to spend on Social Media. i.e. limit the time say ½ hour a day. Initially you may feel very restrictive and you may feel that you are not able to achieve everything you wanted to achieve, but then, you will automatically focus on “What are the most important things to achieve” in the timebox. This focus will help you speed up, focus and complete all important things quickly at higher priority.

Advantages of a Timebox

Timebox is very important principle in Scrum and it works. Here are some of the reasons why timebox is so important.

  • Focus : Helps one to focus his attention on the job at hand for specific period of time.
  • Increased Productivity : Productivity increases because you end up working smarter to make most out of the time available to you. It helps get away from “Parkinson’s law” that work expands to fill up time available and the “Students syndrome” which is tendency to delay studies to the last possible minute.
  • Realization of time Spent : Because time limites are decided upfront you know how much time is spent upfront on an activity.
  • Time available : Helps you to become acutely aware about the time available for activity