How will living an Agile Life benefit you? I hate to say it, but it depends. It depends on how serious and committed you are to the process. The Agile methodology does require discipline and daily/weekly focus and if you follow it, the rewards can be swift and significant. Teams in professional work environments tend to become high performing and there’s no reason why you and I, on a personal level, can’t live life with increased levels of happiness and satisfaction. We can have more sense of accomplishment, less stress and dare I say, more control over our destiny.
Both Dale Carnegie and Stephen Covey have agile principles incorporated in their best selling books, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Mr. Carnegie sought to reduce worry by living in “day tight” compartments and focusing on the “tasks at hand”. Mr. Covey’s first three habits are completely in line with Agile’s backlog creation and refinement processes:
- Be proactive
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
To live your life in an agile way, we need to understand and implement 4 key concepts:
- Timeboxing (Sprinting)
- Backlog Creation
- Backlog Refinement
- Retrospective (Review)
In Agile, a timebox (sprint) is a previously agreed to period of time during which a person or team works steadily towards completion of some goal(s). The duration of this timebox can be set to whatever you want or agree to with your team but it should remain consistent from sprint to sprint. Most Agile projects have sprint durations of 2, 3 or 4 weeks.
For our Agile Life sprints, I think a 2 or 4 week timebox could work well. Pick an interval duration you feel comfortable with and go with it. Since I like more frequent check ins and reviews, I’m personally planning to go with 2 week sprint cycles for my life.
Now that we have our sprint time intervals figured out, let’s talk about the fun stuff -our Backlog, our wish list, our bucket list on steroids!
The first step is to write down all of the things you’d like to do in the next year. These things can be goals, actions, achievements, travel plans, household tasks, personal improvement, professional development, financial results or healthy lifestyle changes. Anything you want should be added to the list. These backlog items (User Stories) should be broken down into small enough chunks so that they are “Sprintable” i.e. capable of being completed during the time interval you determined for your sprints (2- 4 weeks). In addition, the completion of these items/actions should be in your control (or that of your team). If your Stories can not be achieved in a sprint, they need to be broken down into smaller chunks or phases. For example, if one your backlog item’s objective is to lose 10 pounds in 6 months then you could create multiple User Stories which state “Lose 2 pounds”.
Once you have a good draft of your Backlog completed, you’ll need to order and prioritize the User Story items. Which items are most important? What things do you want to accomplish first? Then you need to divide up the items into your sprints. For Sprint 1, include the 2-5 items that you can realistically accomplish during the time interval set. If the timing is off for a Story and it can’t be done yet, just move it down the list and you’ll get to it later.
The process of Backlog creation is fun, rewarding and sometimes eye opening. Brainstorming ideas and sharing with your friends and family can also help to clarify your goals and desires. Give this phase some time and effort and then next week I will conclude the Agile Life series with Part 3 and we’ll dive into the final two components of the process : Backlog Refinement and Retrospectives.