2020. A year I can’t wait to see go and never return. In 2020 most of us spent an enormous amount of our time thinking about other people; trying to understand them, change them, help them. It was clear this year that no matter how right you may be, spending your valuable time trying to […]
2020. A year I can’t wait to see go and never return. In 2020 most of us spent an enormous amount of our time thinking about other people; trying to understand them, change them, help them. It was clear this year that no matter how right you may be, spending your valuable time trying to change other people is a waste of time and energy. So, how about some resolutions that focus less on the “we” and more about the “me.” How can we improve our own lives when it’s more critical than ever to take care of ourselves?
So, for 2021, resolve to apply the following four simple Agile concepts to your work and your daily life. If you do, 2021 may be your best year yet.
It’s in the Agile Manifesto. It’s the Lean concept of “waste.” Every day, you spend time doing things that don’t add value and aren’t even necessary. And while you’re doing these non-value tasks, you end up with less time and energy to work on the important things.
If you want more time to do the things you love and the things that bring value to your company, go through the following exercise:
Step 1. Figure out and write down the primary objective of your organization and for yourself.
If you work in a commercial industry, that objective is easy to pinpoint and measure: increase profit.
If you work for the government, your goal (hopefully) is to protect the citizens and to help them live better lives.
For your private life, defining a primary objective is more varied and may contain more than one objective (e.g., “be happy,” “contribute to society,” “live a long and healthy life,” “have fun,” “make and keep good friends,” “continuously learn,” “change the world,” etc.)
Whatever your perspective, first define the overarching objective(s).
Step 2: Make a list of all the things you do day to day. This could be a single list combining work and personal life or two separate lists.
Step 3: Go through each item on your list and ask yourself the following two questions (be honest with yourself):
Resolve in 2021 to identify and eliminate work you do that doesn’t add value and isn’t necessary. Non-value add work tends to creep in continuously. Go through the steps above once a quarter to continually catch those insidious timewasters!
Stop multitasking. There is a significant cost to context switching. Contrary to many of our beliefs, when you multitask between items that take concentrated thinking, the overall work will take you at least 20% longer to complete. Additionally, the output will be lower quality than if you’d single-tasked. Multitasking also leads to feeling stressed out: check out this Psychology Today article to understand why.
So, for 2021, commit to starting one task and finishing it before you start another. If your tasks are huge and can’t be completed in a single sitting, split the task into smaller tasks and complete one smaller item at a time. You will be amazed at how many more things you accomplish in less time. And bonus: you will feel continually satisfied in your ability to get things done.
2021 is all about you (as declared by me)! If you don’t look after your needs, who will? Life is hard enough. You have to get the right equipment and working environment for you to succeed.
First, take a moment and think about how the tools you don’t have are contributing to decreased productivity. Is your computer as slow as turtle in a tar pit? Would a second monitor increase your efficiency? Would an ergonomic chair alleviate your neck and back pain?
Back in the day, we were told to just “buck up” and stop complaining when we didn’t have the right work environment. But in reality, if you don’t have the right equipment, it doesn’t just hurt you, it deprives everyone around you of the more amazing things you could produce. Good grief, these are easy and fairly inexpensive investments that will increase productivity. Give your company a good case, and chances are they will pay for them. If your company won’t pay for your needs, figure out a way to pay for the essentials yourself. Your neck will thank you even if your boss doesn’t.
Regularly meet with yourself and assess how well you are doing at making 2021 the year of you. Then, based on your feedback, adapt accordingly.
Short feedback loops are the key to continued success. You could make these four agile resolutions on January 1 with the best of intentions, but if you don’t evaluate them and adapt throughout the year, 2021 may be just another one of your meh years (don’t feel bad, a lot of my years have been ‘meh’).
According to the internet, most people drop their New Year’s resolutions by February. Clearly, relying on sheer willpower isn’t enough to sustain change. To sustain change, we need to create and participate in frequent, regular check points. Schedule regular retrospectives with yourself and honestly evaluate how you are doing at meeting your primary objectives for 2021.
Remember, the real data points to consider in these retrospectives shouldn’t be whether you are doing the Agile practices I suggested. It should be an evaluation of whether you are getting better at reaching your primary goals.
Practice the W. Edwards Deming’s PDCA cycle and continuously plan, try, validate, and adapt. All life is an experiment. Try new things AND validate that those new things are supporting your primary objectives. If not, stop doing them (or modify them). If so, keep going!
There is no one size fits all for creating a better ‘you’ in the new year. You are in the driver’s seat. Keep the primary objectives in mind, use and adapt these four Agile concepts to fit you and your work. That is the whole point of Agile!
Focus on yourself and reach your goals using Agile’s practical tools. By maximizing your awesomeness, you will automatically produce awesomeness that benefits all of us. Commit to at least one of these Agile resolutions and you will get significantly closer to meeting your primary personal and professional objectives. Plus, you will be less stressed and have more time to do the things you love. 2021 is going to be a great year!