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How Agile software development can make your personal life more flexible, even if you're not a nerd like us

How Agile software development can make your personal life more flexible, even if you're not a nerd like us

Set a goal, break it down in tasks, fulfil all tasks, and eventually you will reach your goal, right? Reality however, might be somewhat different. Goals and objectives change, so does the world around you. To deal with change and even embrace it, Agile product development was invented in tech world. There are many forms of Agile product development, but for this article we are going to focus on Scrum.

Scrum is a product development method that revolves around a self-managing team that works in two to four week Sprints. A Sprint is a cycle after which an elaborate feedback session, the Sprint Review, takes place. During the Sprint Review changes are made and goals are adjusted if necessary. The focus of this method is on quick task fulfilment, while at the same time leaving room for changes and communication. For the ones interested in more in-depth information in regards to Scrum as a development method, The Power of Scrum by Jeff Sutherland, Rini van Solingen and Eelco Rustenberg is a nice and light novel to start. Now, being Agile is about prioritizing the tasks at hand whilst being more flexible when changes interrupt along the way and even be able to anticipate on them.

In the last couple of years Scrum has gained popularity in its application outside of the software development industry. It can even be applied to get more agility in your personal life. Here’s how applying the principles of Agile and Scrum can help you reach your personal goals with just three small adjustments.

Make a personal backlog

To do lists, we all know them and have a love-hate relationship with them. Love the feeling of accomplishment when tasks are ticked off and hate the way the list often goes on and on. One way to change this up is to make a backlog instead of to do lists. This way it is not an ongoing list of everything you need to do, but it is also prioritized by importance (to you). The best way to visualize your backlog is with a kanban board, which is just a fancy Japanese word of a board where you can keep track of everything you still need to do, what is in progress and what is done. My favourite (free) ones are kanban flow or taiga tree. We have reviewed even more planning tools, so there's a lot of options for you to choose from.

Sprints for personal projects

Do personal projects in two-week Sprints. Start the two-week cycle with a Sprint Planning in which you fill your backlog with your personal user stories. From your backlog, choose the actions that you will take on the upcoming two weeks.

Make sure to perform a daily stand up with yourself and I do not mean that you have to stand and talk to yourself. The daily stand up consists of three important questions that are useful to keep track of progress and adjust along the way. These questions are: what have I done yesterday, what will I be doing today, what is standing in my way to do my tasks in order to reach my goal?

In my case, I always have ongoing goal of being fit, my user story. Unfortunately, this is something that just is not concrete enough in terms of objectives. Therefore, I started doing two-week Sprints, where I translated being fit into incorporating more healthy habits and try them out without having the burden of a lifelong commitment. In several Sprints I have tried eliminating bread (which I still love to have every once in a while), added sugars and fried food. Other Sprints, I try out yoga and other types of workouts to see whether they work for me. Why two weeks you might ask? According to Tim Ferriss, two weeks is just long enough to experience something and short enough to not waste any more time that required when it comes to personal experiments. After a few of these Sprints I can confirm this. Of course, it is possible to adjust the length of the Sprint between two to four weeks, whatever floats your boat.

Sprint review of your week

Evaluation is not only important in work projects, but also in our personal life. How else are we making sure that we are spending time on those things that are important to us? In this Sprint review try to include the question WHY you are doing something. As Simon Sinek elaborately describes in his bestseller Start with why, asking why is the most important question to ask yourself. How and what to do will follow automatically.

By using this method every two weeks on Saturday morning, I make sure to prioritize everything in my daily life and spend only time to that I feel is important to me and that I actually enjoy, like spending quality time with my family and improve my writing game. It also helps me to stop being such a people pleaser.

So here were a few tips and tricks, borrowed from the Agile and Scrum development method to improve your personal life. How do you make your personal life more Agile? Let us know in the comments below!

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