Time boxing is the practice of placing a hard limit on the amount of time you devote to an activity. This is variously used as an approach to time management, productivity, risk reduction and work-life balance. The following are illustrative examples of time boxing.
Setting aside a day, morning or hour to plan your goals. It can be a mistake to put massive effort into planning end-goals as it is always possible to change your goals with time. For example, a student who spends a weekend thinking about what they want to do with their life may find themselves ahead of an individual of the same age who takes several years to decide. Even if the student makes changes with time, starting on something can be useful.
Producing value in time-boxed cycles such as the sprints of agile project management. For example, an ecommerce software development team that releases improvements every three weeks like clockwork. This forces prioritization such that you are always focused on shipping your best ideas.Time boxing meetings and tasks to eliminate the risk that they will consume too much time. This can create a sense of urgency for meetings and prevent a small task from becoming nonsensically expensive.
Setting a time limit on your work contributions in order to have a life. For example, a professional who works hard for 9 hours a day and then goes home at 6 pm as a matter of principle.Setting aside time to focus on an activity that is important to your quality of life without distraction. This can include time for sleep, rest, exercise, family, friends, hobbies, interests, peak experiences and personal reflection.
Beyond a certain point, time spent on decision making can become unproductive or perhaps counterproductive. For example, a process of deciding how to prioritize requirements for a software development process may become political such that it drags on for months without adding much value. Time-boxing decision making requires clear authority for the decision or a consensus building process with a clear end such as a vote.
Taking one approach to solving a problem for a predefined period of time. When the time is up, either you give up on the problem or take a completely different approach. For example, a mechanic who spends a maximum of 4 hours trying to fix an elevator component before replacing the entire unit. This reflects the reality that a path to solving a problem may consume significant amounts of time without any guarantee of a result.
Where time is constrained and outcomes critical, time-boxing may help to reduce risks. For example, safety procedures for dealing with a failed aircraft engine in flight that discourages spending too much time trying to restart the engine under certain circumstances.
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