Listen To Your Body

I was on vacation for the first half of the last sprint. For the second half, I powered through stories worth more points than I’ve done in a full sprint! But I almost didn’t.

I have this beautiful desk that was effectively inaccessible due to suddenly stackable mounds of stuff on top of and below my bastion of productivity – so you should now get a sense of the fire under my butt to make the space more livable. After work, I’d come home and attack post-move remnants of chaos – the refugee motif is charming for only so long. Every square inch of recovered surface was a win, an emotion stackable in its own sense, like the points of complete stories I was racking up through the week back.

Steamrolling towards a vision of a home where I’m not stepping over a box, I couldn’t help but notice competing motivations. My own medicine was dangerous: seeing progress in physical form and especially on a burn down chart was contagious. Although I was eating and resting enough, I felt like I was still running on fumes: fumes of will power. With blinders on, my body was trying to get a word in, edge-wise:

Dude, veg out.

“Don’t be weak!” I scolded myself, “Marvel at all this reconquered space!”

Dude, you suck. I require a break.

“Don’t be weak,” I whispered to myself through my teeth as I carried on. Yet, who was I kidding? I just wasn’t as efficient. You’d think this concept of taking a break is a no-brainer, but when you’re driven, slowing down represents a step in the wrong direction.

Unnecessarily long story short, I took a breather, recharged will power, and started back up again at a decent clip. This a great example of an idea in Scrum and moral of the story: work at a sustainable pace. So listen to your body and don’t get to the point where you’re body is talking to you in italics.

Dude, thank you.

You’re welcome.

Your Power Hour

Some people are night owls. Other people are early birds. I people am not a fowl of any kind, thank you very much. (However, I am a male seahorse named Spikey, but that’s a different story…)

Do you ever get that jolt of inspired activity, where you suddenly want to do this thing and then you do it? Well, capture the nature of that jolt and ask yourself if you have a time of day where you’re likely to be as productive, relative to this jolt. This is your Power Hour! Now, apologize to yourself for asking yourself another question, then ask yourself: When is your Power Hour?

For me, if I can plop myself in front of a computer from the moment I wake up, I am super productive. Also, between 8:30 and 9:30 before my first meeting seems to be when I get lots of stuff done. Such times are usually ones where I am least prone to interruption and have a strict deadline. In the latter example, that Power Hour ends with the morning Scrum at work, whereas in the former example, that Power Hour ends when I start getting hungry. These are moments of sheer focus and Matrix-like clarity.

These times of day may not happen every day, but I wager that more often than not, much like for night owls and early birds, there is a time of day where you’re naturally more efficient. If you don’t know this for yourself, find it, even if it is by process of elimination, e.g., you’re useless after dinner or before your third cup of coffee.

After determining your Power Hour (and this is more a time of day than a strict 60 minutes), think about which tasks/stories you would want to have done during this time. Also, think about this somewhat physiological logistic when setting the day’s game plan during the Scrum. Besides prioritizing to work with your natural inclinations, this visualizing of getting a set of things done during that magical time feeds the good kind of self-fulfilling prophesy, and I’ll take a positive feedback loop like this whenever I can.

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.

Short-Term Press Release

You have a direction in life? Holy cow! Congrats!

Wait, you don’t? That’s cool. Having a direction for life is pretty major. Let’s start with setting a direction for, say, the next two weeks.

Before I found my life calling, I had a large prioritized list of things I wanted to be and do. Spanning numerous aspects of myself (musician, ScrumMaster, runner, host, boyfriend, …), I had little focus to my stories within each two-week Sprint. At some point, I adopted something I read in ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, a couple of guys from 37signals: the concept of a short-term press release – What is the exciting new thing you will share proudly with the world at the end of your Sprint?

The Sprint Press Release became a focal point about which my stories would congregate and, in a sense, filter themselves. A theme would arise. The similarly-themed backlog items would, through the Sprint, help each others’ completion because they were related. They would all share the same spirit, that which is represented not by the sum of parts (functionalities of all stories, combined), but by the whole, an example of punctuated evolution where a new functionality emerges that is relatively large, possible only because the smaller stories were completed.

Thus, rally stories within each Sprint around a theme. They’ll be easier to get done, and because they’re along the same vein, that’s a sense of –

You have a direction for the next two weeks? Holy cow! Congrats!

Write Down Your Goals

Newbury Street had a friend in me on Saturday, ’cause man did I shop the hell out of it.

On a fact-finding mission for prices on snazzy shoes and blazers / sport coats (what’s the difference?), I’d briefly chat up the retail folk and then break their little hearts; I am not currently at a place where I can spend $400 to $600 on a jacket. I had always wanted to roll through the Back Bay with my homie named Visa, but you need almost a full day and the energy and… a reason. I had all three.

The reason came from writing goals down. This creates focus.

You may have lots of reasons to do things, but the ones you write down, and especially the ones you look at with some frequency, are the ones that get to the forefront of your unconscious. Napoleon Hill dedicates a whole chapter to the concept in ‘Think And Grow Rich’, where he says the subconscious mind first acts on dominating thoughts and feelings (like faith), so make your desires clear: reduce them to writing. He goes on to talk about the next step: flashes / hunches / inspirations. Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’ refers to these as inspired actions, where you are acting on instincts.

I could have (should have) dove into much delayed Spring cleaning, but instead I went with my gut and did something unusual, yet something in line with one of my goals: acquire a collection of jackets.

Mission accomplished. Thank you, Marshall’s. On Boylston Street.