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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?

    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.

    (Photo credit: Old Compass via Shutterstock)

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    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

    The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

    Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

    In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

    When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

    Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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    1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

    When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

    As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

    That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

    The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

    What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

    Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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    There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

    So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

    2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

    When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

    No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

    3. Move Your Body

    A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

    It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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    So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

    4. Connect With Another Person

    Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

    One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

    Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

    5. Use Your Imagination

    When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

    That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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    And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

    Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

    Final Thoughts

    Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

    Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

    More on the Importance of Taking a Break

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

    Reference

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