I found the following paragraph from Mike Cohn’s “Agile Estimating and Planning”, a bit contradictory.
“You should re-estimate only when your opinion of the relative size of one or more stories has changed. Do not re-estimate solely because progress is not coming as rapidly as you’d expected. Let velocity, the great equalizer, take care of most estimation inaccuracies.”
I think Cohn actually meant to say that velocity would take care of our completion inaccuracies (progress not coming as rapidly as we’d expected), not necessarily of – as stated – our size estimation inaccuracies (our opinion of the relative size). To address the latter, as Cohn says, we might need to re-estimate.
By now you may have tried one or multiple systems for managing your tasks and your time. Still struggling? you are not alone. Surely you are being more effective than before, but now you want to keep improving, right? I personally use Getting Things Done (GTD) combined with ideas from How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life and Total Workday Control; I also reinforced some practices after watching this inspiring talk by Randy Pausch. Isn’t that enough? Well, it should be, but productivity topics keep getting my attention.
I recently came across with Getting Results the Agile Way, “a personal results system for work and life” by J.D. Meier. The title grabbed my attention immediately maybe because it contains the magic word for software engineers nowadays: agile. This word is typically associated with strategies like “ability to adapt”, “avoiding waste”, and “doing what adds value”. Although I have already drawn a parallel between GTD and an agile software process like Scrum I was interested in seeing what else I could add to my system from this approach.
My main takeaways from this system are:
- Focus on Value. Notice the emphasis on the title about “getting results”. It’s not about checking off a To-Do list, it’s about doing what adds value to yourself, employer, or other people. By thinking in terms of value you get in the habit of asking “What’s the next big thing to do?”.
- Fix Time, Flex Scope. Fixing time (timeboxing) shift the focus on results. That is, instead of throwing time to the tasks, we should decompose the tasks into tangible outcomes (scope) that we could get done in the amount of time available. We should fix the amount of time dedicated to work, but we also should fix time for eating, sleeping, working out, socializing, etc. I would add time for procrastinating as well… I know you like that; who can be happy without procrastinating a bit? 🙂
- The Rule of 3. Let face it, we cannot do everything without negotiating time or sacrificing quality of life. The Rule of 3 is a key part of this system that helps in prioritizing and scoping. The idea is to pick 3 important outcomes at different levels: day, week, month, and year. The outcomes at higher levels drive the action in the lower levels, e.g., your daily outcomes are aligned with your weekly outcomes. Although people have different bandwidth, I personally like setting the scope to 3 outcomes, which is the number of important tasks I have noticed I can get done consistently on a daily basis.
- Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection. This is my favorite guideline. Although I currently follow a similar pattern as part of my GTD system, I didn’t have a name for it. The idea is that on monday you decide 3 outcomes you want to accomplish by the end of the week and 3 outcomes you want to get for each day of the week. On friday you review your progress against these goals.
There are many other interesting ideas and principles in this system, but those above are the ones I have found complementary to my system and that I’m currently adopting.
What do you think? Are you using any similar techniques?