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Personal Agile

As you go about your day-to-day life you can use Agile methods to be more effective. Here are some thoughts to keep you Agile, flexible, and successful:

1. Flexibility in your goals

As you set your goals, start by building in some flexibility in your goal setting. Let’s consider a case where you may be considering expanding your business into a new market. While it makes sense to set some milestones to achieve market entry, it also makes sense to leave room to be flexible in your market entry approach.

For example: It may make sense to set up a new business entity in the market, but it may also make more sense to work with local partners already in the market. Leaving yourself some flexibility in achieving your milestones and goals increases your likelihood of achieving your goals and resolutions.

2. Adapting and adjusting your personal backlog

Just like the way we set up a Scrum Product Backlog or in an Agile scaling context a Program Backlog in planning to meet your goals and resolutions create a personal backlog. This builds on the first point as it helps you to visualise your goals and prioritise them. Having a personal backlog in place also allows you to prioritise your goals and make trade-offs if you aren’t able to achieve everything according to your initial plan (and of course plans do change).

For example maybe you want to gain a new professional certification, start exercising again, and travel more to a new region. Two month’s into your plan you may realise that you won’t be able to maintain your exercise routine and increase your travel to the new region. In that case you may need to update your backlog to incorporate a new type of exercise that you haven’t done in the past. Or you may need to look at the priorities in your personal backlog and decide whether travel to the new region is as important to you as being able to continue your exercise program. Having a personal backlog enables you to be flexible.

3. Limit your WIP

Limiting Work in Process (WIP) is a Lean principle that we see in Agile in the form of the sprint backlog (which limits the work in process every 2 – 4 week time box / sprint). Limiting your personal WIP will help you to focus on what is really important. Do you have new family commitments, broader responsibilities in the work place, and want to continue your education. These are all great goals, but trying to do everything at the same time makes it unlikely you will do anything very well.

So you may choose to focus on those new family commitments during the next month or next quarter (we can think of this as a sprint goal or in Scaled Agile a Program Increment Objective). During the next month or next quarter you may increase your focus on executing on those new workplace responsibilities (of course you will have probably done some initial planning during the previous month or quarter). Finally you may tackle that goal of continuing your education by enrolling in a Masters Programme in the second half of the year.

By limiting WIP you are able to focus on a limited set of things (stories) in your backlog. By doing this you can benefit from reduced task switching and achieve some early wins in key personal areas that will help to encourage you to continue in other areas. Limiting WIP is a key approach to help you to achieve your goals!

4. Use a Kanban Board

A Kanban board is something that allows you to visualise your tasks and activities. There is an example below, but you can name the columns whatever you like.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.11.23 pm

For example when I moved from the US to Asia, I used a Kanban board to coordinate all of the activities. The columns were Ready/Blocked/In-Progress/Done. Using this method I could visualise all of the activities I needed to do like packing and shipping, finding housing, and updating mailing information. Using the Kanban board allowed me to effectively manage a complex move, and I actually still use one to track my day-to-day activities.

In Summary

Applying a few Agile principles to your planning can help you to be more successful in achieving your goals. Namely, by maintaining flexibility in your goals, creating and adapting your personal backlog, limiting WIP, and visualising your tasks with a Kanban board, you will be well on your way to a successful and happy life.

Until next time, Stay Agile!


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Note:  A useful reference on Kanban, and the original book on Kanban in technology is by David Anderson –

 David Anderson on Kanban – the seminal book on this topic (Affiliate)

24 pack of Post-it notes (Amazon)

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