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Time Spent, Time Invested, Time Wasted

Do your team love to complain about their never-ending to-do list? Do they humble-brag about their super full diary? Do they always seem to be sacrificing the important for the urgent? This retrospective is perfect for teams that need to take a step back and apply some lean thinking to their priorities and time management.Most Agile teams will utilise a Kanban board of some sort to visualise and prioritise all tasks at hand. An experienced Agile team will ensure all work is first refined and then prioritised by the product owner before it gets tackled by the team, and they know how to use estimation via story points to ensure their planned work is congruent with their velocity (Click here for our 3 step guide to understanding story points).So why do these teams still experience Tetris-like diaries, lack of focus on the truly beneficial initiatives, or at worst – stress and burnout?There’s always ‘fat’ around our day-to-day working lives. Things that fill our time, divert our attention or detract from our sense of clarity on the things that matter.This retrospective activity will help the team uncover where they’re spending, investing or wasting time (Ts/Ti/Tw) - then give them the opportunity to adjust the balance.

Tools Required

  • Post-its
  • Pens
  • A4 paper or notepads


  1. You can do this retrospective with more of a team focus, or more of an individual focus. First, explain the three categories to the team:Ts | this is time spent doing tasks that have an immediate benefitTi | this is time invested that will provide a benefit of payoff in the futureTw | this is time wasted that provides no benefit to your goals, now or in the future.
  1. If you want to place more focus on the team, simply put Ts, Ti and Tw on separate post-its up on a wall and ask the team to populate the three areas with tasks or activity that correspond to the output of that time.If you want to give the activity more of an introspective dynamic, ask the team to divide a page in their notebook into 3 sections and label them Ts, Ti and Tw, then begin adding their own activities to those three categories.Allow 10 – 15 minutes for the team to populate their Ts, Ti and Tw sections. If they get stuck, you could suggest they scroll back through the last few weeks of their diaries to help jog their memory on what’s filling their time (this should be broader than just the 9-5, think health and wellbeing too).
  1. Once the time box is up and the team have filled the Ts, Ti and Tw categories, you can begin to discuss the results.If you’re doing this as one team, you can facilitate correlation of key themes by matching similar post-its and asking team members to clarify their contribution so that the team are in agreement.If you’re doing this individually, ask the team to review their notes one final time and check they’ve exhausted their time-consuming tasks.
  2. Finally, we’ll look at each category and ask ourselves whether this is the optimum use of time (see challenging questions below).The goal now is to highlight 1-3 actions that would make the biggest difference to the team or individual. This could be one from each category or weighted towards one specific problem category. Either way, ensure that the action is clear.
  1. If done individually, ask that the team share their actions with one another for accountability before closing.

Challenging Questions

Ts | Time Spent"Do all of these truly add value right here and now?""Can any of these be optimised/automated for even greater time efficiency?""Who do these add the most value to?"Ti | Time Invested"If I actioned these today, how would my life look different in the future?""Is there anything else I should be making time for?""Do I give these actions the time they deserve?""Do I have a clear priority order on these based on the value they will add, and how quickly that will be realised?"Tw | Time Wasted"If these add no value to my life or my goals, what am I believing or assuming that means I continue to waste time on them?""How could I handle that so that I can stop wasting time here?""If these do have the opportunity to add value, how can I rework these so that they become Ts or Ti rather than Tw?"


As outlined in the final step, the takeaways here are the small handful of actions that will make the biggest difference in the quality of how we use our time. You could summarise this to the team in the following question:“Are these actions going to add more value to my life or to the success of the team, now or in the near future, in the same amount of time or less?”Enjoyed this retrospective? It is also available in our signature comic strip style for easy reading and sharing. View and download the pdf here.

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