Aug 222019

I have recently brushed up on some basic Agile training, it mostly applies to teams and, at least the literature, is focused around software development. I am not a software developer, and I work on my own for a large part of the time. That makes it sound like the training was a waste of time, but it wasn’t.

There were a few useful and interesting points that came out of it. One is the idea of limiting your Work-in-Progress, setting a WIP limit. Multi-tasking is not the wonderful productivity booster that we have been led to believe over the last few decades. I have seen several articles recently that point to better productivity when we focus on one thing at a time. With that in mind, setting a personal WIP limit seems very sensible. The more things you are trying to do, the more you will be distracted.

There is no one right way to manage your time, or your personal productivity. We are all different, and the only system that really works is the one you are comfortable with, that fits with your way of thinking and working. I am very analogue with a fountain pen and good quality paper for my notes. I relate to the handwritten word better, I remember what I wrote, which pen I wrote it with, and the colour of the ink. I have a colleague who types notes, she goes clickety clack on the keyboard, and in a long meeting she will reach for the power socket, as I reach for a fresh pen and a change of ink.

Regardless of your system, finding a way to park all of the distracting list of things to be done, and bring to the front a small WIP list is useful. Three seems to be a good number to start with, everything else goes into your personal backlog.

This concept is something I have been working in to my personal productivity set up for many months. I read a book called “Personal Kanban: Mapping Work / Navigating Life ISBN:978-1453802267. This takes the concept of a team Kanban board and highlights the benefits of having a personal version. My implementation is still in flux, it needs to be portable, in my trusty notebook, and it needs to fit with the rest of my note taking and planning. Every iteration of my system is a small improvement over the previous one, and that too, is in the spirit of Agile.

This is just one aspect of Agile practice, one aspect of team productivity tools, that can be applied at the solo, personal level.

  4 Responses to “Agile Solo”

  1. Good Post Hazel! Thank you very much for sharing!

  2. I implemented something similar on top of the bullet journalling system, limiting to 3 MITs (most important thing) per day. PAPS only!
    However, as you say, my working system is also in continuous change and improvement,a continuous experiment…

  3. What’s that quotation about eating an Elephant in small bites? I think it’s the same philosophy !

    • Eating the elephant in small bites would be an iterative approach, and yes, can be used to limit your WIP. Eating the Frog is also related, where, according to Mark Twain, if you have to eat a frog then it is best to do it first thing in the morning. It sits well with David Allen’s Getting things Done, and with Bullet Journaling.

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