The Machine & The Agile Mechanic (2/8)

Not so long ago, I was struggling with some serious productivity issues:

  • Too many projects on my mind and no way to manage them all at once without going insane.
  • No visibility of my progress.
  • As result of not knowing where I stand, rapid decrease of motivation to continue.
  • Ideas waiting for days, months and years to be turned into an action, many never did.
  • Overwhelming number of to do lists (I had two in my computer, one in my smartphone, and one in my diary) and calendars (I had three).
  • A separate text document (or sometimes even a folder) in my computer for every single vision I wanted to work on.
  • No visibility of the priority of things, I wanted to do everything and did hardly anything due to the urgent nature of ad-hoc activities.
  • No organized approach to my plans and drafts of plans. Often when I got to them, I’d already lost connection with them. Getting back on track required additional effort.
  • Constant feeling of being overworked when out of work (!). My personal to do lists, unlike my job-related ones, were a mess that I couldn’t keep up with.

Does any of these sound familiar to you?

It took me a while to realize that the bunch above was a problem. I mistook it for the energizing heat of creativity. The more mess was there, the more ideas emerged from it. One topped another. But then there was the moment when I realized that nothing was getting done. Or that what was getting done was not quality stuff. Sometimes ideas stopped coming whatsoever. The writer in me suffered from this the most (the condition called writer’s block).

That’s when Agile came in for me. From my job experience with it I knew it had solutions for all the problems my productivity and creativity was facing.

Of course, there are many productivity tips and tools on the internet that are really great, and I will talk about these later because they are definitely worth the time. But I felt like I needed something different. I needed an approach – something that would give sense to it all, from the beginning to the end. Something that could embrace the complexity of my life, not just my individual cases, and make me see it through the eyes of simplicity.

I really liked the way Agile worked in the office and I wanted to try it elsewhere too. This was the perfect opportunity. I wanted to bring it out of the office, because it gave so much sense and I felt like it could do some magic if given the wings of non-business world.

To understand how Agile practices could work for me, first I needed to think about what exactly it was that I liked so much I would want it in my life. What was it about Agile that made me feel like it could help?

Here’s the list of what it has:

  • Discovery – time to sort out my thoughts and define my true goal/s
  • Backlog – a list of things I want to accomplish
  • Iteration Zero – time to prepare ground for the Backlog to happen
  • Iteration Planning – time to look into my wishlist and do a reasonable prioritization within the context of all existing and all new ideas
  • Iteration – a period of time dedicated to getting a piece of work done
  • Daily Stand-up – self-check on my progress
  • Retrospective – time to pause and think about how to get better
  • Big Visual Charts – the organized representation of the mess in my head, to-do lists, diaries and whatnot
  • Product Owner – the one who owns the Backlog and is the boss when it comes to prioritization (naturally, this would be myself)
I knew I wanted all these things, in one form or another. Especially the BVCs.

The idea of being the Product Owner was appealing – it gave me the feeling of being in control. When the Product Owner is dissatisfied, the whole process responds to meet his/her needs.

So the deal was done, and the first step that needed to happen was a Discovery.

A Question For You

What is blocking your productivity? What demotivates you from completing your plans and big ideas?


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