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Managing Self - Agile Techniques for Post-Pandemic Productivity

Just a few months ago, the vast majority of corporate workers were in a physical office for the full 5-day working week – a manager in close proximity, the buzz of bouncing every idea off your colleagues, seeing others succeed and climb the ladder…

There are many things about working in an office environment that inspire and facilitate focus, not to mention the office itself being a control mechanism for leadership. So how can we achieve our goals and succeed in our careers in a pandemic, and post-pandemic environment?

“Agile” in its most traditional form is a collective of software development methodologies focused on driving efficient delivery through self-organisation, continuous improvement and a flexible approach to change. However, more and more organisations are applying Agile techniques to non-tech business units as a way of delivering outcomes more efficiently. Evidently this means that Agile is not just an approach to delivering software, but a way of working – so let’s adapt some of the core Agile values and principles to focus on delivering a productive day of work instead of delivering a new piece of software.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools…

Agile is all about a collective trust within a delivery team… trust in each individual to deliver their part. Applying an individual perspective to this means to tweak the mindset to focus not on the day to day responsibilities listed in your job description, but instead to focus on end goals and what you were hired to achieve.

To give an example, if you were a restaurant owner and wanted to hire a chef, your goal would be for that person to deliver excellent food to your customers – would you want someone who could come in and perfectly cook the same recipes you’ve been cooking for 10 years or would you want someone to come in an use their expertise creatively to achieve that ultimate goal of pleasing your guests?

Trust your own expertise and be flexible with yourself to deliver the best outcomes in your own way.

Iterative and incremental delivery…

This Agile value is all about short, sharp bursts of effective incremental delivery. Legacy methodologies typically involved long and drawn out planning processes followed by over-complicated build phases, often only to result in critical failures in testing and the subsequent loss of significant investment. So how, as individuals, can we ensure that we are not wasting time overthinking our work or doing things that don’t directly contribute to the achievement of your goals?

The famous “Pomodoro” technique is an increasingly popular time management technique with many similarities to Agile in that it encourages “bursts” of delivery. Traditionally, the pomodoro technique involves working in 25 minute stints, followed by a 5 minute break designed to reset your brain ready for your next 25 minute iteration. The Pomodoro technique is very often used alongside Agile methodologies for sprints in software development. Obviously, 25 minute bursts will not always work due to meetings and other commitments, but the general principle of breaking up your time into productive timeboxes and short, regular breaks is still relevant.

Many of those newly working from home have adopted the Pomodoro technique as a means of staying disciplined and motivated with themselves as their main authority. The effect of clearing your head briefly before each task is brilliant for preventing procrastination and maintaining focus, but also the very act of implementing a structure for self-management carries huge benefits.

Daily Scrums

Scrum is a popular Agile framework typically used in smaller sized teams and is known for its namesake 15-minute daily “Scrums” (concise, stand-up meetings). These Scrum meetings are designed to track progress and highlight plans for the day.

To re-apply this to individual productivity, spend 15 minutes at the start of each day making sure that you clearly define what needs to be delivered. More specifically what needs to be delivered in each timeboxed iteration in the event the Pomodoro technique is applied. Having this time will reaffirm the important tasks on your to-do list, help you to prioritise and also reduce procrastination.

This article only really scratches the surface of how Agile techniques and principles can be applied to an individual’s everyday life & career - but the fundamentals of being deliverables-focused, self-disciplined and more trusting of your capabilities are vital to driving post-pandemic productivity. As a culture, we’re now much more self-reliant in our careers than we ever have been before and the journey to achieving professional success (whatever that may mean to you) now looks very different.

Agile techniques go hand-in-hand with self-management, especially when working remotely and not under the constant gaze of superiors. Many of those who are seasoned business owners or are long-term self-employed have been adopting elements of Agile in self-management for decades, but haven’t realised it. It’s time to make it official!

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