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Time boxing decisions like a DJ

I'm a DJ. I've been DJing parties, weddings, events, and good times since I was a student and I love it. It's taken me all over the country and even as far as Finland, Italy, and Brazil. I have a big ole sound system in the garage that produces trouser flapping bass lines and puts a smile on your face. Combining my creative urge, technology, my love of music, and (let's face it) putting on a show, has been a great outlet. 

DJ Tom Styles
In many ways DJing is the polar opposite of my day to day work and yet there are some things that link the two worlds aside from the laptop. There is of course the relentless focus on user needs, with the constant feedback loop of the dance floor as barometer for performance. 

My focus for this first blog post is the power of imposing a time box on your decisions. We all like to be confident when we decide something, a personal purchase, your next holiday, or a decision about your team or project.

Particularly when you want to ensure you've covered all the angles and included everyone's ideas it can take a long time to actually decide. What we rarely factor in is the cost of the delay in deciding, "let's park that for now, we'll decide next week (month, quarter or year)",  or the fact that the additional analysis is unlikely to improve the quality of the decision

While DJing you have a rolling 3 minute time box to decide the next track. There are multiple things to consider but the cost of not making a decision is the dreaded "dead air". So you have to decide. Sometimes you make bad choices, you learn from those, sometimes you come across incredible mixes and moments that are unexpected and could never be planned. We learn by doing. 

Scrum and most other agile frameworks include an element of time boxing. They act as an enabling constraint, they force action and decisions just like ABBA singing the last chorus of Dancing Queen. 

I've found imposing a time box on many of my other decisions has also helped me to prevent analysis paralysis. I once spent 3 nights browsing for a desktop speaker for my home office that eventually cost £30. The decision should have taken 30 mins max saving hours of opportunity cost. 

It's a pity I didn't time box the decision to start blogging many years ago and just done it. Thanks to Giles Turnbull and Mel Ross for getting me over the line. 

Time to publish. ABBA are here.

You can dance, you can jive
Having the time of your life ...

About the author

Tom Styles

From over 20 years of crafting digital solutions in both the public and private sectors, Tom has a wealth of experience at delivery and leadership level. Tom’s passion for human-centred innovative use of technology and his ability to communicate with both a technical and business audience help maximise value from technology investments.

Tom blogs about agile, technology, and occasionally DJing or Ultimate Frisbee.