Structure: A time-limitable event, such as a meeting or project, will have a backlog of items for actioning. A team will plan to action certain items from the backlog in an iterative manner. Each iteration will be time-boxed to be of a certain length. At the end of the time-box, the success of the iteration can be reviewed, and the process followed can be retrospectively adapted. Each time-boxed iteration will produce metrics that can be inspected and compared for this purpose. The early delivery of value does not shorten a time-box; it will terminate at the predetermined time. Note that it should only possible to abandon a time-box in very exceptional and clearly defined circumstances.

Intent: Limit the time that is available for a task in order to avoid procrastination


  • Work expands to fill the time available (Parkinson’s Law)

  • Time is not so important as making time count

Also Known As:

  • Time Limited Activity

Motivation: Work that does not have a clear deadline is likely to be delayed, while focus on the completion of core requirements may be lost. If the time available is limited, it helps to provide a focus, and increases the chances of essential scope being addressed within the allotted time span.

Applicability: In agile practice, time-boxing is appropriate for any activity that is expected to deliver a result of value. It would be highly irregular in any agile way of working to conduct an activity that is not time-boxed.

Consequences: The time-boxing of an activity can increase focus on the delivery of value. However, it also incurs the risk that not all planned items will be actioned within the allocated time. The prioritization of backlog items is therefore important.

Implementation: In Scrum, Sprints are time-boxed to a length of no more than one calendar month. Reviews, Retrospectives, Planning Sessions, and Daily Stand-ups are also time-boxed.

See Also: