7 secrets to master timeboxing - Deepstash
7 secrets to master timeboxing

7 secrets to master timeboxing

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7 secrets to master timeboxing

There are two types of time boxes: „hard time boxes“ and „soft time boxes“. The terms hard and soft refer to how you handle the end of a time box:

  • When a soft time box ends, you allow the current point in discussion or the current task at work to finish.
  • When a hard time box ends, you drop everything, stop doing what you do and take a break or move on to the next point on the agenda.

Both types are useful.

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The alarm at the end of a soft time box gives you a hint that you should come to a conclusion, a result or the end of a task.

It brings the focus of the group back to the point in questions and reminds everyone, that the time scheduled for this point or task is up.

The drawback of a soft ending is the danger of continuing the discussion or work far longer than what is sensible.

The soft way works well when first establishing the idea of time boxing with a team, because it allows them to adjust to this new tool without being forced to cut discussions short in a rude way.

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Make the time box visible! Use a kitchen timer or an iPad app so everyone in the room can see it.

Use countdown timers instead of a regular clock to make the time remaining easy to grasp.

The best timers use visualizations instead of raw numbers to clearly communicate the time left.

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It is not the length of life, but the depth.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Is there a maximum length for a time box? Yes. I believe, a time box should not be longer than 45 minutes. This interval fits with our biological rhythm and is also supported by psychology. There is a reason why many schools around the world have kids take breaks after 45min. A longer stint would drain the team’s energy in the long run. Go for 45min max and take short breaks of 5–15min in between. If you need more than 45min for a topic, simply break the topic down into two or more time boxes.

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Take short breaks every 45min. I would also advice you to take slightly longer breaks (e.g. 15min) every 90min. We often structure workshops by giving each agenda point 60 minutes: 45min work + 15min break. This also makes planing with full hours very easy.

If possible, move around or get outside every 90min. Don’t just sit around and check your emails during breaks. Moving, fresh air and seeing something different (even if it’s just the bathroom) keeps the brain fresh and ensures enough energy for a full workshop day.

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Make it clear to everyone when the break will end! Do this before everyone leaves the room.

State the end time of the break, not its duration! Instead of announcing „5min break“, phrase it as „break until 11:48“. This works, because many people don’t look at their watch once the break starts. Then one of two things happens: they either fall back to „feeling“ when the break is over or they measure the length of the break from the point they first looked at their watch (this is why such breaks often take exactly double the time you’ve given them).

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Some argue that there is one even bigger and very effective time box given to us all: life and death.

But the bigger the time box, the less it serves to help us focus on the important stuff. Steve Jobs really felt the pressure to focus when his time box shrank dramatically due to his illness.

Some people benefit from visualizing this large but nontheless endless timebox in a life calendar . It’s certainly interesting to look at life as a huge time box.

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The pomodoro technique is a great way to stay productive throughout the day.

I work for 25min straight and then take a short 5min break to get up and relax. I can manage to stay focused for 25 minutes without taking calls, going to the bathroom or checking twitter — almost everything can be postponed for 25 minutes. My brain has enough energy to really be productive during these 25min. The days when I use the pomodoro time boxes are the ones I am most productive overall, still feel fresh in the evening and look forward to tackling the next work day.

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😃

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

― Napoléon Bonaparte

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  • Focus: stay focused and do the important stuff
  • Stay fresh: stay innovative and productive, even on the next day
  • Breaks: time boxes allow to have regular breaks
  • Measurable progress: have clear results
  • Predictability: ability to have appointments right after a meeting, because you know when it ends
  • Everyone is a leader: time boxes are an „excuse“ for anyone on the team to cut a fruitless discussion short and get back to the point
  • Results: time boxes force results
  • Liberating: when you got used to it, limiting time feels liberating instead of limiting

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