I have a problem. Despite teaching people and organizations how to organize their work effectively, how to prioritize, about the evils of multi-tasking and the importance of sustainable pace, I have never been able to get my own to-dos under control. By extension, my life has never really been under control either. So I often work late into the night, almost every night, and on the weekends as well.
I have experimented with the Pomodoro (I could never get myself to stop working after 25 minutes. I want something done before I can put it down) and Personal Kanban (post-its with waiting-working-done around the screen of my notebook (the problem wan’t the WIP but the length of the backlog). The results of my attempts was always the same: I worked very hard, getting things done one after the other, but my work schedule always extended into the night and over the weekend.
Two weeks ago, a read an article on linked in, Critical Things Ridiculously Successful People Do Every Day, by Travis Bradberry. His first recommendation: “[F]ocus on minutes, not hours.” Enter your program in your agenda. A light went on. If I am going to do something, the first question I must answer is when am I going to do it? Then I block the time for that activity. What happens if I don’t have time for it? Either postpone it, don’t do it, or cancel something else.
So I decided to try an experiment. For one week, I would schedule every major activity I needed to accomplish. From Sprint Planing for the SBC website, to quotes I needed to send customers, a talk I needed to prepare, to packing for my trip to the Scrum Gathering. Everything went into my calendar. Looking back on it today, I see that I had 30 individual items over five days. Only once did I schedule work into the evening.
What happened? The good news: Friday morning, when it came time to leave, my wife said, “it’s time.” I said, “OK,” put my suitcase in the car, and off we went. On the way, she said to me, “I have never seen you so organized and ready for departure before a trip like this!”. (And I hadn’t even told her about my experiment!). I accomplished every major goal I set for myself that week (except one). And I had time to watch 4 hours of amateur Star Trek videos on you tube without feeling guilty! Wow.
The bad news. My estimates suck. It starts with the assumption that 30 minutes every morning is enough to deal with routine emails. So I had to deal with that.
Having a schedule in my calendar, and new goal starting half an hour from now, has proven to be an interesting attractor. It reminds me to focus my attention on the right thing. I can look at my calendar and see what I should be doing.
If I get to the end one time box, and the goal has not been achieved, I have to ask myself the questions, what do I do now? Do I keep working on my current goal? Or do I schedule the remaining parts for later? Or do I cancel or postpone the next goal?
Depending on the situation, I have already done all of these. Remember, I said there was one major goal I did not accomplish? Well, I got to the time when I was supposed to start it, but I was nowhere near finished the previous goal. I evaluated the importance of the two goals and decided that it was more important to finish the goal I that I was working on. So I finished it and dropped the other one (urgent but not important). So timeboxing individual goals enables me to prioritize and ensure that the most important things get done. After a week of this, I was pretty happy with my results.
For me, Scrum consists of 6 essential patterns:
How does planning my time on my calendar in this detail get me closer to doing Scrum? Let’s look at how this implements the patterns: