Focusing Your Energy through Lists

Photo by Kyle Steed

Photo by Kyle Steed

My husband and I first met in college, and when I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I had to do, he would tell me, "sleep is for the weak."  It didn't give me much comfort, but I survived college thanks to the occasional all-nighter and power nap.  When my husband was in graduate school and tired, I reminded him of his "sleep is for the weak" motto, but he didn't buy into it.  Clearly it wasn't something he truly believed.  Lots of people have similar mottos, like "you can rest when you're done," but such thoughts only encourage us to do more than can be reasonably expected and push us beyond a sustainable pace.  They're harmful.

Now that it's 2013, many people have created resolutions for the new year.  I identified some things that I wanted to focus on in January, and admittedly, I've done a terrible job of following through on them.  Why?  Because I didn't specify what I would stop doing.  My To Do list increased, but my To Not Do list did not.  

Lots of managers have busy schedules and full plates, often reacting to their boss's and employees' needs instead of being proactive and shaping the organization.  More than perhaps any other group, managers need To Not Do lists.  Teams achieve focus through the use of backlogs and timeboxed iterations, but managers typically lack such tools.  I suggest implementing them to create just enough structure to inspect and adapt more effectively.  Using a backlog (a.k.a. a To Do list) is a great way to achieve focus on the highest value items, and the visibility of requests for time can help identify items for the To Not Do list.  The use of a backlog and timeboxed iterations requires discipline, but the results often speak for themselves, and it'll build more empathy with development teams.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.