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The Art of Maximizing The Work Not Done

The Art of Maximizing The Work Not Done

How often are we happy when we are busy and time flies by. After a few minutes of retrospective however, you come to the realization that doing lots of things at the same isn’t actually the most valuable things to deliver value. Productivity is only one measure for your output, but what about effectivity? 

During one of my study sessions for my SAFe certification, I came across the principles of the Agile Manifesto. Here it states that simplicity is essential. What is meant with simplicity is the art of maximizing the work NOT done. Sounds crazy, right! But also, totally true. In the Lean-Agile SAFe principles, this art is translated into three concrete tactics, which we will be discussing with you in this blogpost. Also, we will give examples on how to implement this beyond software development and in your personal life.

Visualize and limit WIP

Determine what your maximum amount of work in progress aka WIP limit is. At first it is hard to determine how much time you’ll need for certain tasks, so what I like to do whenever I have a new kind of task is to make a time estimation and check this with the actual time (yes, I put on the stopwatch). By having insight in your realization time, it’s a lot easier to assign tasks and plan them in the right amount of time. Even more important: limiting your work in progress will help you to finish your to do’s rather than be intimidated by the amount of it (and ending up doing none of them, like me). 

Visualizing tasks has two big advantages to me. One, it will clear your mind as it has been given physical space in which you will be reminded. Two, it makes it easy for you to oversee what you are progressing with, what you’ve checked off and what is still left to do. It will also allow you to check if you’ve been keeping to your WIP limit.

Reduce batch sizes

Funny thing is that I got reminded by one of my close friends (while I was complaining about studying for this same exam) that I had to reduce my daily goals. It wasn’t realistic to think I would study 344 slides after a ten-hour workday and going to the gym. Instead, reduce the batch sizes to make it more manageable. Obviously, this is not a new insight, but it can be helpful to be reminded of this. I know I had to be reminded of it!

Manage queue lengths

With managing queue lengths is meant that you’re not supposed to take or even think of new tasks and projects until a certain amount is done. I am very guilty of not managing queue lengths, especially when it comes to my personal projects. Every time I get a surge of inspiration I immediately convert them into tasks to fill up my never ending to do list. The result? Similar to not limiting your WIP, it gets overwhelming. The new agreement I made with myself is that I can think of new personal projects if I want to (not allowing myself is only making it more tempting). However, I need to remind myself that I can only take on as much as I am handling right now, and it will have to wait for another time in the future.

So, that’s how I try to integrate the art of maximizing the work not done in my life. What about you? Let me know. I promise not to peek until I have stopped my study procrastination!

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