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Space Rockets and Agile Programmers Are Doing It…Why Aren’t You?

Space Rockets and Agile Programmers Are Doing It…Why Aren’t You?
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    Are you like everyone else when it comes to setting goals? Do you define what you want to achieve and then start working towards your big goal?

    You work hard on a daily basis to reach that goal, but at some point you start to feel frustrated, because you’re not making any noticeable progress after all.

    This makes you very confused and angry, yet you can only blame yourself for this situation. You have made a classic goal-setting mistake.

    Do you know what it is?

    You know your destination…but you are still lost.

    Let me tell you about a real experience I had couple of years ago. This happened when I was competing in a national level triathlon race.

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    A triathlon consists of three different sports (swimming, cycling and running) and every race starts with the swimming part. As soon as the start signal goes off, all the contestants run into the water and start swimming.

    After myself and the rest of the contestants had swam for some time, I realized that this one guy was swimming in the wrong direction. He kept going and going, until at one point he stopped. He realized that he had swam in the wrong direction and now everyone else was in a completely different place. Naturally, he had to change his course and catch up with the rest of us.

    This kind of scenario can happen in your life, whether you are a triathlete or not. You set a goal and start taking action on it, but unfortunately this is not enough. If you don’t know your current position in relation to your goal, then you are going to be like the triathlete I just mentioned; you will keep going and going but your actions will only take you further from your destination.

    When you get further away from your goals, most likely there is one critical piece missing in your goal-setting process. Eventually, this missing piece might get you lost — and even make you quit on your goal.

    Now, you don’t want that to happen, do you?

    Space rockets and agile programmers – you can learn from them

    When a rocket is launched into space, do you think it just follows a straight line from earth to its destination in space?

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    Nope, it doesn’t.

    It makes small adjustments to its course along the way. This is how it stays on track and reaches a very specific but distant destination in space.

    It’s the same with agile programmers: they know exactly where they are in relation to their end goal (a finished application). They make necessary adjustments to their actions along the way if they find that they are on the wrong track.

    Back to you: do you know why you get lost so easily? Well, it’s because you are not adjusting your course like that space rocket, or not following procedures like those agile programmers.

    In both of the previous scenarios, adjustments are made all the time. In contrast, you just set your goal and take action on it, without stopping to correct your course. If you don’t reflect on your current progress and just keep doing your work, then the confusion is inevitable.

    Finally, you should also pay close attention to your attitude.

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    You might think that pausing to reflect is a waste of time (it’s slowing you down), even if you understand the need for it. If you think like this, you clearly need to change your attitude towards the reflection time and understand its true value. Stopping down for a moment could save your whole project. Instead of just blindly taking action, you’ll start to see where you have deviated from your goal and you’ll be able to take corrective action immediately.

    When you are on the right track, you are more motivated to keep on working towards your goal instead of quitting.

    15-minute time block to the rescue

    Let’s talk some Scrum. It belongs to a family of agile software development methodologies and one of its characteristics is a daily 15-minute time-boxed meeting called The Daily Scrum.

    Every day during the 15-minute period, the team has a meeting stood up, where everyone reports their progress by answering three questions:

    1. What have you done since the last meeting?
    2. What are you planning to finish by the next meeting?
    3. Is there anything standing in your way?

    With these questions, it’s easy to see what everyone has been up to, what’s going to happen next, and if there are any issues that might be stopping the developers’ progress.

    “Ok, so this stuff is for software developers,” I hear you say. “How does that help me?”

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    This is exactly what we are going to find out next.

    Reach your destination – by slowing down the smart way!

    Daily Scrums can be applied on your own work as well. Let’s see how to do it:

    1. Know your goal and sub-goals. It goes without saying that you should have a clear and explicitly defined goal, as well as milestones related to your end goal. If you don’t have this plan set, then do it now.
    2. Schedule and location. Schedule a 15-minute block on your calendar, which occurs every day, at the same location, at the same time. To make sure you don’t exceed the 15-minute limit, get a timer, set it to 15 minutes and start it as soon as your meeting starts. The best time for this is before the end of your working day. This way, you have some kind of idea what you have done, if you have encountered any issues and what you  want to do next. The fixed location helps you to form the Daily Scrum habit.
    3. Have your meeting. Answer the three Scrum questions I mentioned earlier and write them down in a document. Then, spend some time figuring out if you are on the right track in relation to your goals.
    4. Take action accordingly. Once you have had your Daily Scrum, form a plan for what to do next. Do you need to do something differently? What does it take to remove the obstacles in your way?

    Take a moment to think about the best answers to these questions.

    Conclusion

    As you can see, daily reflection is very important so that you can see where you are in relation to your goal. Otherwise you could be working hard for nothing. In a worst case scenario, you may have to start your work all over again.

    With a 15-minute daily meeting, you can stay on track and take corrective action right away, instead of doing it weeks or even months after starting your work.

    Over to you: how do you keep track of your current situation in relation to your goals? Do you review your work in any way? Please share your comments and experiences on the comment area.

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    (Photo credit: Old Compass via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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