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What Is Timeboxing?

By Emma G.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Timeboxing is a time management technique that originated in the software development industry. It is used when meeting a deadline is more important than producing a perfect product. Features of the project may be cut if they are too complicated to complete in the time allotted. Many people use timeboxing as a way to manage personal and professional schedules.

The software development industry started using timeboxing to ensure that projects were released on time. The deadline was set and could not be moved. Out of necessity, software developers prioritized the functions of a piece of software. Essential functions were designed first. If the deadline came and some non-essential functions still had not been added, they were simply cut from the project.

This method of time management can also be used to keep perspective and maintain personal or professional schedules. It is especially helpful for people with perfectionist tendencies because it keeps them from spending hours or days on a project that could take much less time. Timeboxing may also help divide an overwhelming task into manageable parts. It prevents procrastination because it creates a deadline for a project even if no deadline previously existed.

Timeboxing requires nothing more than a clock and some minimal planning. First a person figures out how much time he or she has to devote to the project. This could be a couple of hours or a couple of weeks. If the deadline is more than a few hours away, it is a good idea to designate a certain number of hours each day to complete the project because the person presumably has other things to work on as well.

Once a schedule has been created, the person prioritizes elements of the project. The most important elements are worked on first to ensure they are completed. Less important elements may be cut as the deadline gets closer.

Writing an essay for a class is a good example of a task that can be managed using timeboxing. The teacher creates a deadline for the student. As the student cannot move the deadline, he or she must do the best possible job in the time allotted. The student may set aside a certain number of hours in which to complete the paper. That box of time may be further divided into time slots for research, writing, and editing.

The opposite of timeboxing is known as functionboxing. Functionboxing is best used when fulfilling all the requirements of a project is more important than meeting a deadline. When using functionboxing, a person creates a list of functions that must be completed, and the deadline is moved to accommodate the fulfillment of all functions.

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