Sum Of Your Parts

You’ve heard how something is more than the sum of its parts? Well, so are you; however, it helps to think about you in parts. So let’s think about your parts.

No! Not like that!

Last week (I’m shifting to blogging just once a week for hopefully more quality per post), I mentioned the idea of partitioning out areas of your life, and then changing these one or two at a time. These are the ‘parts’ of your life. All the things (ah, those abstract things) you want to do in life will most likely be associated with one of these life areas.

Using Scrum terminology, and some fancy footwork, replace ‘things’ with ‘Backlog Items’ and ‘life areas’ with ‘Products’. Poof. Magic. Tell him what he’s won, Johnny!

You can now be thought of as a package of products, each with its own backlog.

Or not. You can think of yourself however you freakin’ want. I recommend you try it, though. There are awesome payoffs, especially if you’re curious about the Scrum way of thinking of things. Let’s use an example. Take a guy. Random guy. Let’s call him… Merrill. He’s quite a number of wonderful things:

  • Merrill, the physical homo sapiens.
  • Merrill, the financially responsible.
  • Merrill, the musician.
  • Merrill, the ScrumOfOne thought leader. (Whoa! Were those angels singing…?)
  • Merrill, the home dweller.
  • Merrill, the guy who gets paid to break expensive things at work.

He’s oh so much more than the above, of course, but let’s treat each of these ‘life areas’ as a product. Thus, there is a Product Owner for each product, prioritizing stories based on a vision. Sure, Merrill could set a vision for himself as a whole person, but just as you might do that for yourself, I’ll bet this vision would end up being phrased in terms of some area(s) of your life. Thus,

Awesome Payoff #1: One awesome vision per product… many products per you… many ways you can be awesome!

Does this connote a lack of direction and focus? Nay, fair citizen. Dreaming out a better you is now not just dreaming big, but dreaming multiple dreams, and only the dreams you care about. Merrill, the watch-maker, isn’t exactly a Merrill that Merrill particularly cares about, especially not relative to the other Merrills listed above, so the direction is now better defined. We can now better address each life area, I mean, product, via some familiar Scrum-a-licious ideas.

Awesome Payoff #2: Grouping stories into releases per product leads to paths of punctuated evolution in each area of your life!

In evolutionary biology, as most memorable childhood stories begin, this is the idea that covers how phenotypic changes might be observed with relatively low frequency, even though genotypic changes are constantly occurring. In words a little less Grimm, you can continue putting in work, under the hood, although you won’t really see results until enough of these new pieces come together to ‘release’ a new piece of functionality. You keep evolving, with something novel punctuating the journey every once in a while: punctuated evolution.

Back to the example of the purely hypothetical Merrill, in this case, the martial artist, a release might be to achieve a yellow belt in the martial art of karate. This involves a number of steps (find a dojo, set aside funds and time, enroll, stretch regularly, practise that first kata without stopping, then with good form) that eventually, once all these stories are complete, unlock an achievement. Each ‘release’ for this product represents a punctuation in the evolution to becoming a fifth-degree-black-belt-super-dude, in line with the vision of being able to fend off enemies from attacking my Merrill’s village using a fifth-degree-super-stare. Now to find matching shoes…

I, I mean, Merrill can work on this while working on another product, say, Merrill, the home dweller. If that vision includes waking up to a cove in Maine, perusing Craig’s List’s Down East section may be a story. See how this works? All the things you want to do in life turn into stories onto backlogs of your ‘productized’ life areas. Have one area in life you feel needs some work more than others? You can manage this in the context of seeing the opportunity costs in front of you: the other stories in the other backlogs.

Awesome Payoff #3: Reduced overwhelm!

Or not. Maybe seeing all the things you want to do in life freaks you out, or as you’re working living through sprints, you feel you’re not moving fast enough. Well, you can only move as fast as you can (Merrill’s not cutting any corners by buying a yellow belt, especially without matching shoes…), plus, you’re the ScrumMaster role, too, in this ScrumOfOne model of personal development, so you can work on being more efficient (mastering the ‘how’) now that you’re more effective (mastering the ‘what’).

This is why I say there will be fewer feelings of being overwhelmed: your backlogs are prioritized so you know you’re working on the most important thing now or next, and that’s the best any one of us can do: knowing that all parts of you are taking up space on this floating blue marble in a way that is most aligned with how you want to deep inside.

Awesome Payoff #4: A more wholly enjoyable now!

Admittedly gratifying payoff: This post closes a loop opened about five months ago.