APPLYING AGILE TO YOUR DAILY LIFE
Chances are, at some point in your life you have heard about a “new” way of handling projects, which people call Agile. And you may have thought to yourself that it sounded like something you will never use or need. But chances also are that if you are like 90% of humans, you have a huge to-do list that is always getting updated, and you can’t seem to keep up with it. And you may have thought if only there was an easier way for me to keep track of all the things I need to do and not get demotivated because the list is so long! Today is your lucky day because with Agile, you can become a very productive human without the stress of feeling that you cannot complete your to-do list.
The first thing to do is a brainstorming session to write on a piece of paper everything you want or need to accomplish. Do not worry about the dates of completion at this point. Just write everything down, each thing you want to get done. Congratulations – you now have your personal backlog. Every single item that you have written is called a user story in Agile, you put what you want to achieve. Once you have done this, if you want to become a super-pro of Agile you can assign priorities to your items (user stories) and in case, somebody can or will help you with some items, you can assign the items to them (delegate). You can even try what Agile refers to as sizing. You can try and estimate how complex are the items you are trying to resolve or the time it will take you to resolve them. Agile mostly uses 2 methods: the Fibonacci scale (1-3-5-8-13…) or T-shirt sizes: small, medium, large, extra-large. No need to feel overwhelmed by that, the main reason you are required to estimate the complexity or time of the tasks/items is for you to plan better on how long it will take to complete them and see how many you can accomplish in a certain amount of time. If you feel stressed, just keep it simple and assign t-shirt sizes and not points.
Now, moving on to allocating these tasks or items into, what we call in Agile, sprint. Basically, it is a 2-week period (you can choose the duration of the sprints – 2 or 3 or 4 weeks, but no longer than 6 weeks). When using Agile to tackle your personal to-do list, I will recommend you go with a 1-week sprint. But hey, this is Agile, changes are encouraged! So, choose whatever feels right for you. Now you can think, from the probably huge list you have of items/tasks on your to-do list, and of course, depending on their “sizes” or points that you decided previously – how many items can you squeeze into your week? Make sure you add only the ones you are completely sure will get accomplished. And here you can make and go with any combination you want. For example, if you went with the sizes, you could say – I can fit 4 smalls, 2 mediums, and perhaps one large into my week. Or if you went with points, perhaps 20 points will be your choice.
What’s wonderful about Agile, is that same as life, it allows you to have room to change or re-plan or re-decide. Maybe you decided with 20 points, but something happened during your week, an emergency, or something unexpected that wasn’t planned at all, and you can only achieve 10 out of those 20 points. In such cases, worry not, carry them over and add them into your next sprint (week), only don’t forget to add those points or sizes before you plan that next week.
The next thing we do in agile is what we call a ‘retrospective’. It is an activity, where you reflect on your past sprint, in your case your past week, and think about what you did well (it’s important to celebrate your achievements), what could have gone better and any action item you may want to do in the next sprint or week, so your results are even better. For example, you forgot one item depended not only on you but on a third party and they didn’t quite deliver, so maybe for the next sprint, you will put it as an “action item”- send a reminder to this third party or request status to verify they are on track or if they need any help.
And how do we start our day to ensure you are on track to complete the items on your to-do list? Well, spare 15 minutes in the morning before your day gets started and with your action items, answer these 3 questions – what did you do yesterday, what do you need to accomplish today, and mark any blockers you may have going through the tasks of that day so you can start resolving them as soon as possible. And that is what we call a daily stand-up in Agile. Normally we have it with the entire team but go ahead and have it with yourself. Don’t forget your cup of coffee or tea!
If you are old-school, you can put your activities on an agenda or notebook and divide them into 3 columns, so you can keep track of all of them. These 3 columns can be ‘new – in progress – done’. If you want to keep it digital, there are a lot of free apps that help you set up your to-do list. You may want to try Trello or Notion. They are quite user-friendly and are a great way to keep your to-do list items in progress and check and see their status all the time.
Enjoy your new way of tackling to-dos and getting more productive. Hopefully, it will make you feel much more organized and less chaotic, and you may become adept at Agile as well and love it.