Using Scrum to Improve your Everyday Time Management

Scrum is a framework that’s mostly known for its use in Agile software development. In this article I show an approach how to use some of the ideas behind Scrum to manage your everyday activities and tasks, no matter if they are related to product development or not, no matter if they are work related or personal. It can also be a good introductory tool, if your are planning to introduce Scrum in product development, to practice Scrum and develop the discipline to follow the framework on an individual basis.

At first I’ll show some basic concepts of Scrum and then how you can use the information you get to improve your personal planning and time management.

The Backlog — Your List of Things to accomplish

When Scrum is used to develop products you would create a list of product backlog items, also known as features or user stories. This might not directly apply to your everyday activities. For your personal time management I suggest you create a backlog with all the “small” and “large” things you want to accomplish. Things that have some value to you or your organization.

The Sprint — Your (Work) Week

Iterations in Scrum are called sprints. They shouldn’t be longer than four weeks; shorter is better. For your personal time management I would recommend a one week sprint duration. Taking a calendar week seems natural to me.

Oh, don’t let the name “sprint” fool you. It is not about constant rushing. Scrum is all about developing a sustainable pace, which is called velocity.

Sprint Planning — Looking 5 Days Ahead

The first hour of your week you use to plan your sprint. To do so take the top items from your personal backlog and assign them to your sprint. At latest at this moment it should be clear to you what it means for you to call your backlog item “done”. Then break down your weeks goals into tasks. Ideally tasks shouldn’t take longer than a day, but definitely should fit into your sprint..

All your tasks should have durations in hours associated by now. Again, it’s about developing a constant pace. Let’s say you are planning a 40 hour work week, but maybe you have to go to a bunch of project meetings. In this case plan only 35 hours worth of tasks. Don’t overthink how much time you will spend on “your” project at the beginning of your sprint. If you use it in a more constant pace, you will be able to identify you average time after a few sprints. But even, if your effort varies a lot per week, e.g. you use this for a project at home and family activities don’t allow you to put the same amount of hours into your project every week, this is more about your time management and (short-term) planning.

The Daily Scrum — Your Minute to reflect

Agile teams get together in the daily scrum to briefly talk about their accomplishments since the last daily scrum, the plan to the next daily scrum, and their impediments. Of course I’m not suggesting that, you stand up and talk loud to yourself. But I suggest that you spend a minute or two at the beginning of a day or work session to review your past tasks, ensure your upcoming tasks are lined up properly, and that you identified any possible impediments, and you have a strategy to overcome them.

The Backlog Grooming — Review your next Goals

Once during your sprint, maybe roughly in the middle, you could go through your backlog and review the priority of the items in the list and maybe break down larger items into smaller chunks that can be accomplished within on sprint.

The Sprint Review and The Sprint Retrospective — Recap your Week

While Scrum teams present their accomplishments at the end of the sprint the their stakeholders and review the sprint to improve their processes, in this adoption of Scrum you are your own stakeholder and your own critic.

This is the moment for you to learn and improve. A few questions that might help are:

  • How long did it take me to complete my tasks compared to my original estimates?
  • How many tasks was I missing?
  • Did I clearly understand what “done” meant?
  • How many hours was I working on tasks compared to other activities like meetings or training?
  • How much time did I have to work on unplanned “emergencies”?

Looking at these questions can give you a better understanding of how well you estimate your work. Over time it might enable you to get better with your estimates and allows you to improve your commitments. Working of a prioritized list gives you focus and can help to meet the right objectives.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article it was targeted to your personal work or activities. If you use this in a business and you might be part of Agile project teams, you don’t need to manage your activities double. You can use this, if at all, for your commitments outside of the project, e.g. Department related work, or to manage your continuous learning objectives.

A last comment is towards tools. For yourself you don’t need difficult or expensive tools. A few simple lists in a text or spreadsheet application can do the trick. Even a piece of paper that puts your weekly objectives and tasks in front of you will work. But if you want to use special software that can help you with managing the above mention activities, you can find some that offers these and other tools for free for small teams.

I hope you liked this article. In any case, I would like to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *