Time Boxing Experiment

Four members of the Reify Media team attended the Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC this week. Using a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, we were able to attend a wide variety of sessions and identify a number of strategies that we will start using right away for our team and for our clients. At the end of the conference, we met to share our take aways and develop action plans for implementing what we had learned during the two days. This accountability meeting is one way that we can ensure that the excitement, ideas, and plans actually come to fruition.

How many times do you leave a conference bubbling with ideas only to get bogged down in getting back to work? It is easy to forget those lessons learned if you don’t make specific plans and execute them.

One of my big take aways from the conference was the idea of time boxing. This was not a topic of a specific session; however, it came up in conversation with Eric Morrow. Eric had delivered an engaging and informative talk about Lean Market Demand Testing. I am especially interested in finding more ways for Reify to implement principles of Lean, Agile, Scrum, and Kanban. And after my conversation with Eric, I decided to try an experiment with time boxing.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, time boxing is simple: dedicate a short amount of time to focus on one task or small set of related tasks. The goal is to set a time limit on the task and eliminate other distractions. No multitasking! Once the time is up, reflect on the progress and make improvements for the next time box session.

So, for me, that means:

  • Turning off my wireless connection so I don’t get notifications of incoming emailsTime for Action
  • Putting my phone on Do Not Disturb
  • Setting a stop time
  • Writing, writing, writing…
  • Reflecting/Evaluating

As an experiment, I wrote this blog post using time boxing. I pounded out a decent rough draft in a relatively short amount of time. Unfortunately, I went over my intended time of 20 minutes. During reflection, I identified three errors that I made that I plan to eliminate in my next attempt.

1. I turned my wireless connection on so that I could verify the name of Eric’s talk and include some additional resources.

Even though “turning off my wireless connection” was the first step in my time boxing plan, I thought I could resist multi-tasking or the distraction of having the resources of the world at my fingertips. One little click and all of a sudden I am reading about certification programs for Agile, Lean, and Scrum. How long would it take me to get certified? How expensive is it? What are people on LinkedIn saying about the different certification options? Do you really need a certification? What about just reading a book? What are the top rated books on Amazon about Agile, Lean, Scrum? Oohhh.. look at that book about motivation. What about the Myth of Multitasking? Maybe I should look at the research about how we learn and work? Should I look at some more academic research and resources?…

WHAT I WILL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME: I will turn off my wireless connection. After finishing a draft and reflecting, I will go back through my rough draft and add the links, verify titles, and add resources. The urge to just “look it up quickly” sent me tumbling down the rabbit hole. I had fun clicking around and since I was still on topic, I felt justified that it was ok. But, the truth is, I am still typing and my time limit was up 10 minutes ago.


2. I did not set a firm time limit.

I thought I would write for “about 20-30 minutes.” I had a general idea of how long it would take me to write a blog post of less than 1000 words. I figured a rough draft would take me about ½ hour and I assumed I could hit that 20-30 minute estimation.

WHAT I WILL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME: I will set an actual timer. In fact, I plan to set a 2 minute warning and then a final alarm.


3. I edited as I went.

I tend to write, re-read, edit, write, re-read, edit. As a result, the initial draft was not completed in my target time. Even a sloppy sketch of the entire post was not done because I kept going back to refine a sentence or reorganize a paragraph.

WHAT I WILL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME: I will use the time to just write and perform a brain dump. I will save the re-reading and editing for after the reflection. I will use the next time box for the editing and refining part of the writing process.


I will try time boxing again. I can see how we could use this approach with completing projects for clients and for efficiently using our time as a team. Thanks to Eric for encouraging me to try time boxing. It will take more practice until I can be as efficient as he is with writing blog posts using time boxing!



Additional resources relevant to this blog post: