How to Be More Productive

My wife and I are less-than-stellar at planning.  We went to wonderful east-coast of Canada for our honeymoon some 14 years ago and the only thing we planned was the flight there and back.  We landed, found a rental car and started driving.  We stopped when we were tired and found somewhere to stay, usually B&B’s and followed the highway signs.  I don’t remember us even having a map.

We almost had to sleep in the car our last night before our morning flight because there was a telecom conference happening so hotels were booked but we ended up finding, apparently, the last hotel room in Moncton which was a ‘spare room’ with a couch and table, no bed.

Planning has always been challenging for us as we share the same natural preference for keeping ‘things’ open-ended and not worrying about stuff before we need to.   It isn’t all unicorns and sunshine though.  Many times lack of planning bites us in the butt from simple things like “oh crap, we have no more milk for morning breakfast” to “oh crap, I forgot to pay our property taxes for the last six months

She’s an extrovert and I’m an introvert so I get tired quicker doing too much stuff at the same time.  She tends to want to cram as much as possible into each minute of the day because “it has to get done”.    Usually what happens is she gets distracted, switches tasks frequently and accomplishes less and is then frustrated by it.    Last Saturday we decided to have a birthday party for our now-seven year old and she was frazzled.   I suggested a simple task board (which we used to use a few years ago but stopped ) and we grabbed some stickies and made a simple to do, doing and done board.

We then wrote down everything we needed to do and prioritized the list and started working.   By the way, she’s an Zumba Fitness instructor (shameless plug: if you’re near Milton, check out a class! You might see me there!), never worked in an office setting or IT and all she knows about what I do is that I help companies adopt ‘Agile’.

Today we had a quick retrospective and this was her un-edited feedback:

1) What did you like about what we did?

“It helped me organize to get stuff done faster without forgetting stuff.  Less confusing to work, didn’t feel as overwhelmed.  I don’t know if that’s the right answer or not!”

2) What didn’t you like about what we did?


3) What would you want to change next time?

“Nothing, it worked as I was able to get stuff done.  When I got sidetracked I looked at the list and got re-focused on what I needed to get done.”

I observed her working on one or two things at a time instead of starting and stopping many.  When I saw her start something that wasn’t on the list, I asked her if it was important or not.  That helped her re-focus as well.  The interesting part, for me, was that never did I use the terms ‘agile’ or ‘kanban’.

Based on her feedback, she was more productive by working on fewer things at a time, being visible about the work to keep herself honest with herself and being disciplined (with some help from me once).  That’s what Personal Kanban is and it’s not necessary to use those terms

I’ve always felt retrospectives are the simple most important aspect of Agile, the rest, while important, focus on process over progress even though that’s the opposite of what the manifesto intended.  There’s more power in creating a sense of urgency for change by exposing a system to itself through discussion.  The trick now is, can we keep this up?