Scrum is by far the most popular agile methodology. Why? Because it's a lightweight but effective way to develop, deliver, and maintain complex projects. With its focus on iterations, feedback, and collaboration, the methodology has significantly changed how software engineers develop their applications.
But the fundamental principles of Scrum are broad enough that they can be used outside the realm of software development. This blog post explores the idea of a personal Scrum, where you use the agile methodology for not just software projects, but for your personal projects too.
Why Use Scrum for Your Personal Projects?
Scrum offers four big advantages for personal productivity. Firstly, it's an iterative methodology. In other words, it breaks a large and long project into small, frequently repeated cycles called sprints. These sprints ensure that you're always making incremental progress toward your personal goals. This sense of progress makes it easier to stay motivated in projects that often have no externally imposed deadlines.
Secondly, Scrum is flexible and adaptable. Because you're working in reasonably short sprints and because you review and prioritize your backlog after every sprint, you can easily make changes when unexpected tasks pop up or when your priorities change. Life is unpredictable, and your personal projects will often change dramatically as you progress. Scrum allows you to stay on top of your tasks in such unpredictable environments.
Thirdly, Scrum encourages you to break down large tasks into smaller ones, so they fit neatly inside one sprint. This makes a large personal project feel much more achievable and makes it easier to both track your progress and manage your time. One small task at a time, that's the Scrum spirit.
Finally, the retrospective at the end of every sprint is an essential part of the Scrum process. In these reviews, you assess what went well, what didn't, and what can be improved. This way, you're not just moving toward your personal goals, but you're getting better at completing personal projects too.
How to Apply Scrum to Your Life
- Create your task backlog. For each of your most important personal projects, create a comprehensive list of everything you need to get done. Make it as comprehensive and exhaustive as possible. Break large tasks into smaller ones and include deadlines wherever possible.
- Prioritize your backlog. Now that you have your giant list, it's time to prioritize. Which tasks come first? There are many ways to prioritize, from the Eisenhower Matrix to a simple
High/Medium/Lowpriority system. Experiment and figure out what works for you. Revisit your prioritization system every once in a while, because you should never assume that your current system will keep working over time or across projects.
- Plan your sprint. In software development, sprints are usually between one to four weeks. Decide how long you'd like your sprint to be, but err on the side of them being too short. Then decide which tasks will fit into your next sprint. Be realistic and carefully consider the size of each task before putting them into a sprint. If you're new to Scrum, you'll probably overestimate what you can do in one sprint. Don't worry about this too much. Over time, you'll get better at understanding how long a task takes.
- Start the sprint. It's time to work. Begin your sprint and aim to complete all your assigned tasks. Minimize distractions, stay focused, and don't procrastinate. The aim isn't just to complete your tasks, but also to understand what productivity strategies work best for you.
- Hold the retrospective. Once your sprint is over, it's time to reflect on what you've achieved and what could have gone better. This step is crucial and should never be skipped. Examine each task individually to understand how long it took and what challenges you came across. The goal of the retrospective is to learn and improve, which should then inform your next sprints.
And that's it! Don't let the simplicity of this methodology fool you. Personal productivity needn't be complex. If it works for highly complex software development projects, it will work for your personal projects too. If you're a software engineer, you're probably familiar with Scrum. Try it out for your personal projects and see if it makes you more productive. Our guess it that it will.