I have had an incredibly busy schedule of late, mostly self-imposed but busy nonetheless. Between taking piano lessons, trying to set up a couple of small businesses, and a few home organization projects, I’m having to manage my time pretty carefully to ensure that I still get the chance to exercise, relax, and unwind. I’m moving very quickly and I want to avoid burning out.
Deadlines don’t work for me
One of the first lessons I learned is that deadlines don’t work for me. I start out strong planning out exactly when I’d like to get everything done by. Then real life happens and within a couple of days the whole plan is out of sync; deadlines pass by and a backlog of unfinished tasks kills my motivation.
Leveraging the Backlog
Applying the lessons learned from the Agile development process, and more specifically Scrum, I have instead opted to put everything in a backlog. Essentially the Scrum process encourages you to put all tasks in a single backlog, accompanied by a coarse grain estimate of the amount of work involved. This backlog is then prioritized and work begins on the top task in the list. When that task is completed you move to the next one. As new tasks arise they are estimated and placed into the backlog according to their priority. By measuring the velocity of your work you can get a reasonable estimate of when a task might complete. This is different from setting deadlines because you are predicting when something might be done rather than drawing a drop-dead line in the sand. Real life interruptions are free to occur as all they affect is velocity. I find this system much more effective and far less demoralizing than a system where deadlines whoosh by.
So far I’ve been using ToodleDo to keep my backlog. However, I’ve had to shoehorn my system on top of it as TD is very priority and due date oriented. I’m considering instead moving to something like Pivotal Tracker or one of the other cheap and easy Agile management tools but I’m just not sure. I sense an experiment or two coming on.