I don't know about y'all, but the time change last week kicked my butt.
I'm really big on routines, so even though we "gained" an hour, the change in routine was hard for me, and I think for a lot of us. This isn't just me being a routine person; circadian and ultradian rhythms are a biological fact. Anyway, I'm definitely on the side of getting rid of daylight savings time. It's just bad science.
That said, sometimes being exhausted can lead to a breakthrough; After waking up at 4:22 a.m. yesterday, I was so tired by the middle of the day that I had to surrender to the fatigue. It forced me to do a bit of contemplation about how I spend my time and the things that I can control. I remembered an article that a social media friend had posted online with tips from Adam Grant on starting a to-don't list.
I wrote last week about my scrum board, and how I use it to prioritize projects. It includes an entire "TO DO" section which is already filling up with ideas. Sounds good, right? Maybe not. Grant says, "To-do lists are the human equivalent of a hamster wheel."
Grant identifies four things we should put on our to-don't lists.
I don't invest any time in online games, though now I'm kind of thinking about it. I'm much more likely to overextend myself in my work life. I'm pretty good at setting work aside in the evenings and most of the weekends, in order to spend time with my family, but I could certainly use some improvement here.
Points #1 and #2 are two things that I can definitely work on, and oh, what the hell, I'm going to add a "TO-DON'T" section to my scrum board.
Here are a few other TO-DON'Ts of mine:
Don't be afraid of resting. Don't be afraid that if you rest, you'll never start again. Everyone needs to rest. Rest doesn't stop you from doing what you love, it helps you stay active in the long run. Play chess, not checkers.
Don't try to do it all yesterday. Life is short, yes, but it's also very long. You've got time.
Don't worry so much about disappointing people, because as Seuss said, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. I was working on a team project last week, and realized we'd been trying to do too much in too little time. I spoke up, and guess what, everyone else was feeling the same way. Don't assume that speaking the truth will anger people; it might just do the opposite.
What's on your to-don't list?
Full disclosure: I'm not an expert on agile AT ALL. I hear people talking about it all the time, and I nod and smile. Best I can tell, agile is an approach to business that focuses on efficiency.
But what I am an expert on is washi tape and markers and stickers and buying office supplies.
In that vein, may I present to you, my scrum board! (I covered the details of the cards because they are top secret plans to save the world, and I don't want them falling into enemy hands. Sorry.)
If you want to connect with a real expert on agile, check out the work of Rebeccca Pope-Ruark. She wrote a book called Agile Faculty and she wrote a great blog post about scrum boards.
My blog post will cover Scrumming (verbified it) Karen Style.
My understanding of a scrum board is that it supports an agile work process. Whatever that means. Let's just get to the fun office supplies.
I scored a board at Michael's over the weekend for only $10 using a much sought-after 50% off coupon. I used my husband's tools to drill stuff into other stuff, strung a wire across the back of the board, and hung it on the wall in my home office.
There are typically three categories on a scrum board: TO DO, WIP (WORK IN PROGRESS), AND DONE. I decorated some paper with those titles using stickers, markers, and washi tape and pinned them to my board.
FYI: I've seen a lot of people using dry erase boards and post-it notes for their scrum boards. I've found that post-it notes fall off, and then my dog eats them, and that doesn't seem very agile, so I went with a cork bulletin board and push pins instead.
Then, I started filling out cards with tasks (I cut 4x6 pieces of cardstock in half for the cards). I used different color markers and my favorite Papermate Inkjoy pens to list my tasks on the cards.
Here are a few epiphanies I've had about scrumming:
1. Don't sleep on the DONE category.
When I first started researching how to set up my board, I couldn't understand the DONE category. Why take up space on my beautiful board with tasks that are DONE? Why not just throw the DONE tasks in the trash? Since then, I've moved five tasks from WIP to DONE, and it was freaking fantastic. I'm realizing that the DONE category is really about reinforcing positive habits and celebrating success. Rather than just staring at all that I have TO DO, I can remind myself of all that I've DONE. This helps to motivate me to do more. When I look at my board and imagine moving a task from WIP to done, or from TO DO to DONE, it inspires me to keep going.
2. The visuals are powerful.
It's really hard to make decisions about where to invest our time, isn't it?
I've caught myself, since hanging my scrum board, glancing up at the WIP (WORK IN PROGRESS) section. Right now, for example, I have eight big tasks that are WIP, including paid work and creative projects, both inside and outside of higher education. This is, of course, in addition to being a human who takes care of a little human and is a partner to a big human, and who has a canine shadow, and who needs to take care of her human body. Eight is great. Eight is more than enough.
Before agreeing to any additional tasks, whether they're my own or someone else's, I really need to look at that WIP column. Do I have room for anything else? If I add something to WIP, am I willing to subtract something else? I can also choose to wait, and take on that new task after I've moved something from WIP to DONE. Rather than just thinking this through in my head where things tend to spin around in circles, being able to visually see it is really helpful to my decision-making process.
3. My ideas are in one place.
Oh my ideas. I have a few. Thousand. What I love about my scrum board is that it's a safe space to store my ideas. I went through all of my notebooks and asked myself whether an idea was board-worthy. When in doubt, I put it on the board. It gives me a sense of peace to know that my good ideas won't get lost in the shuffle. When space opens up in the WIP section, I can look at all of my ideas in one space so that I can prioritize which one is most important to me.
I also much prefer having my ideas where I can see them rather than hidden in a notebook. Writing ideas in a notebook means they won't be completely lost, but it's so easy to ignore our notebook ideas. I see my TO DO ideas every day, and it helps me to feel closer to them, as if they're more likely to happen and it's just a matter of time before they come to fruition.
If you've been looking for a way to prioritize your projects, a scrum board might be helpful. My biggest tip here is to make it your own. Do you want a virtual scrum board or one you can touch? Corkboard or dry erase? I've also seen people getting creative with the three categories. My sense is that keeping the basic model in place and then making it your own is the way to go.
I write about higher education.