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What is Timeboxing?

Timeboxing is allotting a fixed, maximum unit of time for an activity. That unit of time is called a time box. The goal of timeboxing is to define and limit the amount of time dedicated to an activity. Scrum uses timeboxing for all of the Scrum events and as a tool for concretely defining open-ended or ambiguous tasks.

Estimated time for this course: 15 minutes
Audience: Beginner
Suggested Prerequisites: Scrum Fundamentals, Product Backlog Item

Upon completion you will:

    • Have a clear definition of timeboxing
    • Understand how timeboxing is used in the Scrum framework
    • Understand how timeboxing can be used to give context and limits to ambiguous tasks
    • Qualify for Scrum Alliance SEUs and PMI PDUs. See FAQ for details
Definition of Timeboxing:

Timeboxing is allotting a fixed, maximum unit of time for an activity. That unit of time is called a time box. The goal of timeboxing is to define and limit the amount of time dedicated to an activity.

In Scrum, timeboxing is a critical component of all five events. Some Scrum teams also use timeboxing during a Sprint to concretely define open-ended tasks. An example of an open-ended task might be conducting research that is necessary for the team to reach a decision or to estimate the size and complexity of an upcoming story.

Timeboxing is a common feature of many project management methodologies because timeboxing keeps teams focused on accomplishing the task at hand by providing a clear definition of done.

Timeboxing also encourages teams to start getting work done immediately. Temporal Motivation Theory shows that time constraints are a critical component of getting work done efficiently.  In Scrum, the sooner you can inspect a deliverable, the sooner you can adapt it.

Timeboxing is a critical component of good Scrum

All five events in Scrum are timeboxed.

Sprint: Timeboxing is used to define the length of the Sprint. The Sprint is a timebox of one month or less in which the scrum team will deliver the Sprint goals. At Scrum Inc., our Sprint timebox is one week and this is what we recommend to teams that we coach.

Sprint Planning: When a team launches, they establish the timebox for the Sprint Planning meeting. As noted in the Scrum Guide, a Sprint planning meeting should be timeboxed at 8 hours or less for a one-month Sprint. The shorter the Sprint, the shorter the timebox should be for Sprint Planning. At Scrum Inc., we recommend one-week Sprints and a two-hour timebox for Sprint Planning.

Daily Scrum: The Daily Scrum is a timebox of 15 minutes for each 24-hour period that helps the Scrum Team synchronize activities and make visible any impediments to achieving the Sprint Goal.

Sprint Review: The Sprint Review is a timebox of four hours or less for one-month Sprints. During the Sprint Review, Sprint Backlog items delivered during the sprint are demonstrated and inspected. It is also a time to adapt the backlog based on feedback.

Sprint Retrospectives: The Sprint Retrospective is a timebox of three hours or less for a one month sprint. This is an event in which the team inspects itself and identifies a process improvement that the team will implement in the following sprint.

Related Research & Definitions

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