3 Life Saving Productivity Tips You Can Learn from SCRUM
As some of you may already know, I recently read the book SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland and JJ Sutherland! Now, this is a productivity book that has been suggested to me many many times, and I’m glad I was finally able to fit it in because it really is quite a gem of a book. In my mind, SCRUM picks up where my perennial favorite Getting Things Done by David Allen leaves off. Where GTD is all about organizing tasks and being efficient, SCRUM focuses on teamwork and project management. Now, while not everyone works as part of a team (myself included) their are a few strategies found in SCRUM that I think should be used by EVERYONE who is trying to move projects and goals forward- no matter what type of work you do. Let’s review:
Concept #1: Inspect & Adapt
In scrum, the concept of Inspect & Adapt is used almost like a mantra for checking your work. In the book, the author describes previous methods of project management used within the technology sector that essentially ignored the concept and led to project management disaster. When you check your work as you go, insuring that what you are working on it is functioning and still part of the goals of your project plan, you know you are moving forward and have little to tweak or go back to once you reach the end of the project. No matter what work you do, this concept applies because we should always make sure that what we are working on is actually functional and still necessary so we don’t waste our time on tasks that don’t matter or don’t work! Every time you complete a task, make sure the next item on your list is still relevant as well and you will avoid doing more work than necessary.
Concept #2: 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is a concept that I’ve relied on for a long time and it’s an essential rule for various businesses and situations. The 80/20 rule means that 20% of your effort will end up producing 80% of your real results. It’s interesting to think about, isn’t it and almost unbelievable but true! When I worked in sales and marketing we learned that 20% of our products drove 80% of our sales, and 20% of our customers did 80% of our total business. So it makes sense that most of what we do to achieve a project or goal really doesn’t have a heavy weight on the outcome. Instead, it’s the essential 20% of tasks that really achieve our ends for us. Now, this is something that fascinates me personally because I am always striving to understand what exactly the 20% is in my business so I can cut out the excess fat of the other 80% of my work that is really either a waste of time OR just minimally moving the needle. In order to evaluate this for yourself, when you start off with a project plan, I suggest identifying the key tasks that need to be completed in order for your project to come to a minimal form of completion that fulfills the basic goals of your project. Then make a weighted list of other tasks that would be nice to complete if you have time once the minimal work is complete. That way you focus your time and energy on the essential parts of your project and set aside tasks that you would like to do if time permits!
Concept #3: Impediment Removal
The final concept of SCRUM that I think is essential for anyone to use in their own work is impediment removal. Meaning that as soon as you see or experience a roadblock to your work, an issue, a setback, that you deal with it as soon as possible. In the SCRUM framework, the manager has the responsibility to remove this impediments, so if you do work for someone else, make them aware of issues immediately. But, if you work for yourself, you are going to have to get your hands dirty and deal with the problem. That doesn’t always mean that you will have a perfect solution for it- I think it’s reasonable to evaluate your situation and decide to sidestep the issue completely if it doesn’t have any bearing on your project (sometimes issues come to us as distractions, not actual problems), but taking action immediately means you can move quickly through your tasks without having this issue hanging over your head or having to make accommodations for it.
I hope you found these tips insightful for your productivity! If you haven’t read SCRUM yet, I would recommend checking it out, here is a link where you can get it online and if you want to get it as a free book on tape from Audible, here is that special link I used to get 2 FREE audio books instead of their normal offer of one! Let me know what you thought of the book and these tips down in the comments.