Personal Overhead

This is the post where I share my ScrumOfOne existential doubts.

Do I doubt this whole “Using Scrum for Personal Development” idea? Yes I do, yet I think it’s somewhat healthy. It is very encouraging that Scrum encourages critical thinking by building in a time to be retrospective and thus adapt: choose to amend the set of processes I’m imposing upon myself, which includes killing off all that overhead altogether! There is a question from ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Timothy Ferriss that fits this all too well:

Am I being productive or just active?

Rephrase:

Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?”

I’ll admit that I feel this ScrumOfOne idea is kinda my baby; I really like the idea and have found it key to managing how I purposefully get things done. So that I can analyze if these ‘Scrummy’ practices are a good return on investment, I have turned to these existential questions from ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson:

Why are you doing this?
Is this actually useful?
Will this change behavior?
What could you be doing instead?
What problem are you solving?
Are you adding value?
Is there an easier way?
Is it really worth it?

Man, those questions are straight-up down-right (left hook?) harsh! And I like ’em. A lot. They bleed with the spirit of Getting Real. I had huge plans: waking up at 5:31am to step through the three questions (I even convinced a buddy to be a part of this pre-dawn Scrum), stepping through and documenting a formal Retrospective, writing a PERL script to manage a text-based Product Backlog, reading weekly a set of quotes & phrases & book notes I’ve collected over the years as my personal set of Psalms. These weren’t just plans… I actually did them for a while!

So do I still do all this? Hellz no! These ceremonies were just not sustainable for the long term. My commute schedule changed, so 5:31am turned into an ungodly hour to be awake, although I still have the 531am.com domain name. My Retrospective currently covers what happened over the past two weeks, how process adaptations fared, and what process tweaks to adopt. My Product Backlog is a Google Doc with the Sprint Backlog at the very top – a text editor in the cloud suffices. My hours-long re-centering read now happens monthly. I pared down the personal overhead to manageable levels based on fruitful returns.

Sure, ScrumOfOne takes discipline, which connotes a struggle, though what I’ve found as I’ve been massaging this system of processes is you can change the nature of the motivation when you see the fruits of your labor. The morning stand-up has turned into 15 minutes of alignment, mental prep, and a generally feel-good start to my day. It’s a trigger to personal finance documenting, reading a few fruity-sounding affirmations, and walking into the day with a purpose. When I do this, I literally walk differently. (I do!) This whole Scrum business is just that transforming.

Thus the system continues, yet only because it started with a habit: a small step: the seed of a fruit I hoped would work out. Upon processes that proved their own worth, I added, modified, and removed (…mostly removed) as I evolved this personal overhead, like trimming a fruit tree.

Alright. Seriously. What’s up with all the fruit in this post? I think I’ll grab a pear…

Two Metrics At Any Time

The last post talked about measuring life and how ScrumOfOne can do this to manage life, in a sense. The morning Scrum allows for a granularity of a day, but what about a measure with higher resolution? And would you even want one?

In ‘The $100 Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau, he proposes that in the monitoring of your business, select one or two metrics and be aware of them at any time, such that you can determine ’em in very short order. Examples include sales, cash flow, and incoming leads. To balance out the monitoring overhead, any other metrics would be subject to a biweekly or monthly review.

From a Scrum perspective, the burndown chart could be a visual representation of one of these metrics: how many hours left to complete all tasks associated with Sprint stories. For myself, I don’t have stories that I need to break into tasks quite yet… nor do I have a means to track this at a low enough overhead that I care to use.

The metric in this category that I do follow is how close to my Sprintly (financial) budget I am.

What would yours be?

Don’t Have A Fine Day

Don’t do it. Just don’t. Whatever it takes.

If somebody asks you, “Greetings, citizen! How fares your day?” and you say, “Fine!” …then… think about that.

Fine? Do you really want a fine day? Just… fine? It’s your day, so if you could chose an adjective to be associated with it, would you really want it to be ‘fine’? Come now, fair citizen, surely you wish this not.

This line of thinking comes from ‘Tribes’ by Seth Godin, where he says that if you are having a fine day, then you’re not leading, because leaders are the heretics, out causing trouble, passionately speaking out against the status quo and creating change because the marketplace demands it. To be a leader, I can see this definitely applying.

To be a living human being, I can’t see why this shouldn’t apply.

If you’re having a fine day, then it is not an exciting day. Could you have an exciting day and honestly say it was just, well, y’know, fine? This echoes a definition of happiness from ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss, where he equates happiness to excitement. If you are doing things that excite you (excites you to your core), then you are living life happily.

Let’s take this a step further and rock the boat a little: If you’re having a fine day, then you are not happy.

Ending on a lighter note, I challenge you to not have a fine day. Ever. Fo’ realz. Don’t float along the currents of everybody else’s life. Wake up every morning and tell yourself to make waves. I make this a part of my morning Scrum.

Stay in trouble, citizen.

One Daily Thing

My Scrums (daily stand-up meetings) now incorporate this little question from ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss, highlighting a couple of Scrum principles:

If this is the one thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?

On the outset, I know I am pretty ambitious about what I plan on doing per day, but framing the daily list in this way not only sets a clear priority as a tactical Product Owner, but also stresses that something is getting done. At the end of the day, it is not left in progress, it’s… done!

If I can’t see myself getting the one thing done that day, it might be due to impediments, or the task/story is just too large. (Hmm… really? Can’t get one thing done? Let’s address this or, heck, just accept this…)

If I can see myself getting the one thing done that day, the question not only leads to a visualization, but also to a sense of future satisfaction. (Hmm… yeah… I can get that done, I can see it now… and it’ll feel good, maybe even awesome…)

Discipline of Sleep

I find I am less likely to execute a 15-minute stand-up meeting with myself in the morning if I’d rather be lying in bed because I am tired.

Solution: commit to getting a decent amount of sleep every night. It starts with going to bed at a consistently decent time.

This is what I am working on.