Category Archives: product backlog

Mental Decluttering by Not Giving A

In the TED Talk “The Magic of Not Giving a F***“, Sarah Knight’s approach to minimalism is very… practical. And colourfully stated!

She covers her ‘notsorry’ method, which guards your time and treasure without you feeling like a… jerk. She ends her talk thus:

But mental decluttering: learning how to say ‘no’, set boundaries, and give fewer, better fucks? That lasts forever.

So decide what you don’t give a fuck about (know your ‘fuck budget’). Then don’t give a fuck about those things (honestly & politely). 12.5-minute video embedded below to better get this message. Enjoy!

Oh, and yeah, she audibly drops the F-bomb. A lot. But otherwise, it’s SFW!

To-Do Lists are Bad for My Health

Ever walk into a dive bar of just construction workers, meanwhile you’re dressed like a city slicker in a sport coat? It’s like the record player scratches to a halt. (Yeah, that totally didn’t happen to me when we got to the little town where we were getting married. Nope. Definitely didn’t happen.)

(Man, that’s gotta be one of my weaker blog post introductions, but it’s been a while, and I’m using my bus commute to be productive via my iPhone and foldable Bluetooth keyboard. So… hi y’all. Good to be back!)

Well, I recently read something that brought my literacy to a grinding halt. It was from a longer post by ‘The Agile Marketer’: Continue reading

Full Minimalist Life

I have been bitten.

By the ‘minimalism’ bug.

Now all my paragraphs will be one-phrase sentences.

Only kidding!

(I have a 1.5-year-old, so we borrowed Taro Gomi’s 1977 classic ‘Everyone Poops’ from the library. In it is one of the best-est two illustrated pages of human literature EVAR. “A one-hump camel makes a one-hump poop and a two-hump camel makes a two-hump poop. Only kidding!” You’re welcome.)

This is after reading ‘Simplify – 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life’, the wicked cheap e-book by Joshua Becker.

Much to my surprise, getting rid of stuff… to have less stuff… to start feeling like the toga partying Stoics of Ancient Greece… wasn’t the point. Neigh Nay, fair horse citizen! ‘Twas for the purpose of a higher ideal. Continue reading

Leave Cats Alone

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
- someone who walks around in a hand-made, cat-skin coat

Does that phrase give you paws pause? It should. It should get you to imagine a world where skinning cats was a common enough activity such that the variety of methods was contemplated often enough to drive to a conclusion that was shared widely enough to stake its claim in our indeed vulgar vernacular as an axiom. WTF.

Yet, I care about that world.

I want to live in that world.

I want to live in that world… with the small detail of switching out the skinning of cats with the living of life in an Agile manner.

There’s more than one way to live life in an Agile manner.
- someone who walks around in a hipster, vintage, upcycled, locally harvested, hand-made, cat-skin coat

Step into this world with me.

Step into a world where I pined to be a Scrum Master (I practiced with the team of me while documenting the journey on this blog), where upon becoming a full-time Scrum Master, I have written just 8 blog posts. I became a father. I landed my third full-time Agile Practitioner gig, now as a start-up’s sole Agile Coach. And looking back on my own ScrumOfOne, I wonder how Agile I really am.

Those close have heard me complain about how caring for a new life has reduced my capacity to engage in personal development. This is measured by, um, how many things I can cross off a “stuff to evolve Merrill” list, and how often I check in with myself regarding my ability to, um, check things off said list, and knowing that I am working on the highest-value activities.

Step into a world where I’ve been too sleep-deprived and/or on duty to do any of the above personal development. I used to have a detailed backlog, and now I don’t. I used to have regular planning sessions and retrospectives, and now I don’t. I used to walk around feeling in control of my purposeful path on this pale blue dot, and now I don’t. (I used to not complain, and now I do.)

All the markers of DOING Agile have disappeared… replaced by the markers of BEING Agile.

(This epiphany didn’t hit me until getting to this very part of the blog post, so please stick with me.)

Though not along a path set via purposeful planning, I know my hours are spent on the highest-value activities: what is needed now and next for my family.

Though not formal, I’ve learned to use the small gaps in daily activity to reflect and prepare, reducing feedback loops and extracting Kaizen where appropriate.

Though not detailed, I now frequently use Siri & dictation & the iCloud-backed-up Reminders app on my iPhone as just enough process to make me effective. The different lists in the app serve as different ‘product’ backlogs. Weekly to daily ‘Sprint’ backlogs are established via setting a date per reminder, so the highest priority items are visible on my lock screen. My working backlog is in my hand at the single push of a button. With ‘the next’ literally at hand, my focus is freed to embrace ‘the now’.

Those close will now hear me contemplate how caring for a new life has increased my capacity to engage in the present moment.

And, uh, I guess that still counts as personal development after all. Hm. Well then. Just goes to show there is more than one way to skin a cat live life in an Agile manner write about the latest stage of my ScrumOfOne journey skin a cat.

Plan For Less

Lately, I’ve pulled off this seemingly impossible goal: complete all the things I planned to do per Sprint! My secret? Plan for less.

By planning for less per Sprint, yes, I leave myself open to do more and to go with the flow …of the day. This means a couple of things, and I think of it like an equation:

My Sprint Backlog = low number of planned stories + high number of unplanned stories

To get the most out of the planned stories, I have them associated with my Sprint Goal, which used to answer the question, “What is the exciting new thing I will share proudly with the world at the end of my Sprint?” and nowadays answers the question, “What do I want to make sure I get done by the end of my Sprint?” This sentiment is more practical, more self-serving, and way less stressful, ’cause all I have to do to accomplish this declarative Sprint Goal is one or two small and specific things. A few hours of focus effort, et voilà, I can proudly wave the flag of the Republic of Productivity (I hear David Allen is the Prime Minister).

To get the most out of the unplanned stories, I look in two places.

First, I’ll look at my Product Backlogs. I just look at the top, ’cause that’s where the high-priority items are. If there’s something there that is convenient to do, or that I’m particularly inspired to do, voilà, I cherry pick. These Product Backlogs then serve as reminders of all the cool and/or important things I want to do.

Second, I’ll look… around. I’ll look at anything that is not a list. Whether it is doing something spontaneous or living like a millionaire, most of my Sprint Backlog stories end up being emergent stories as of late. As long as I check in with myself often enough, I can maintain a level of strategic personal growth while embracing… life.

Folks, this is the most empowering version of my ScrumOfOne experiment I’ve found for healthily balancing the Agile constraints of personal development through Scrum, with the dynamicity of daily life.

I’m hesitating to press the ‘Publish’ button. This post just ain’t that funny… it’s not inspiring… it’s not captivating. While it’s unsettlingly dry, I write this because it is settlingly culminating.

Since I cut my Sprintly time-box in half, I’ve had more practice with performing the Retrospective and Sprint Planning per Sprint ‘turn-over’: it takes an hour and change. From the more opportunities to adapt, I’ve removed how I used to feel like a bum for not getting done the things I’d ‘commit to myself’ to doing, and actually get more stuff done. And I’ve been punting on this particular post for a while because this is effectively a report on research.

I used to do shit like this, and it’s been kinda sucky. Now I do shit this other way, and things’ve been way more rockin’.

Oh, that’s right. That’s what this blog is about. Where’s that ‘Publish’ button…