Save Your Money, Don’t Start With a Coach

Put your wallet down.

Look, I hear ya – you want to be better, but I bet you want to be sustainably better. I know your organization may want change, but I bet it wants lasting change. You hear good things about Agile or Scrum or Kanban or Kanscrum Scrumban, and you’re tempted to bring in an Agile Coach.

Here is where I try to convince you, counter-intuitively, to not hire me and my kind.

At least, not at first.

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Three-Minute Sprint

Try it.

And no, that doesn’t mean y’gotta be all strict-Scrum about it by having a Planning meeting, then standing up every 30 seconds, then Retrospecting at the end, followed by a Review session. Plan beforehand. Retrospect & Review afterwards. Sit down for the full three minutes.

Get yourself to focus for a full three minutes on something, where you may not have a potentially shippable output, but there is some micro-milestone you can claim.

Try it.

What you’ll find is this kick-starts your productivity. You’re giving yourself space to work towards something. Sometimes it feels silly, but at least for me, most of the time I blow past the timer and keep going.

This idea pops up when building habits. Pulling again from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, when implementing “The Third Law – Make It Easy”, he recommends starting with repetition over perfection. This is what is meant by the initially counter-intuitive phrase, “quantity over quality”.

Frequency builds habits. So make it easy by finding and doing the miniature version of the habit you really want. Want to do 10 push-ups? Do and be satisfied with 1 push-up. Want to focus on work for 30 minutes? Do and be satisfied with 3 minutes. It’s the frequency of the exercise session and the work session that builds those habits, so you might as well make it easy.

The book calls this the “Two-Minute Rule”. I like three. Partially ’cause I’m Merrill The Third, and partially ’cause my daughter has these hourglass sand timers. We don’t have a two-minute one, but we do have a three. This analog solution is very satisfying.

Try it.

Who knows. It might kick-start anything you tell yourself you want to do, like, say, oh, I dunno, write a blog post first draft in 30 minutes, just as an example. Insert winkie-face here.

Tracking the Habit Avalanche

When building a habit, don’t miss two days in a row. I got this from the “Atomic Habits” book by James Clear:

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.

My daily habit is really a set of habits, with a few new small ones added every other week. Thus, I gradually build up a sustainable daily system of habits. I mark every day, on a “cafes of Boston & Cambridge” desk calendar my wife gave me in my Christmas stocking, in the following way:

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