Agile is a process we use at Overlap to create structure, adaptability, and accountability for our work. But this process can also be applied to planning and managing ourselves and our households.
As we transition to working, studying, playing, and relaxing at home, we think Agile might be a helpful tool to support planning for yourself, both personally and professionally, and with your household. Whether that’s with a partner, roommates, children, extended family, or a pet, Agile can support you in creating some structure, clarity, and even help you come up with more creative ways to use your time at home.
1. Generate ideas about things to do
Start by coming up with as many ideas as you can about things you need to do, things you want to do, and any other topics on your mind. Some of our colleagues have included meals or TV shows as prompts in this step.
Give yourself time for this step–you want to get as many ideas out there as possible. It’s also important to separate generating ideas from prioritization. This helps us be more creative in generating ideas, while not becoming overwhelmed by how many things we could or should be doing.
One Overlapper has created an Agile-inspired wall on their fridge with their family to help them organize meals, chores, and fun activities. All family members are involved in coming up with the ideas that get added to the wall.
- Be clear about your timeline. Are you generating ideas for today, this week, this weekend, or this month?
- If you are planning with other people, make sure to start solo! You want to make sure everyone has a chance to think about their own ideas first, before starting to share as a group. (If you want to learn more, read our blog on why you should always start solo.)
- Once you’ve generated ideas, it’s probably helpful to group these into categories that make sense to you. For example, you might include categories like: chores, activity/exercise, social time, etc.
- You can add to this as you think of new ideas or get recommendations from other people.
2. Prioritize tasks and activities for your day or week.
Next, spend some time prioritizing tasks and activities for your time period (day, week, month). Use the following questions to help you think about which tasks and activities you want to pull from your generated lists to work on soon. Don’t throw away the ideas that don’t make the cut! You can keep them for when you get bored, need some more inspiration, or the next planning cycle.
Questions to ask when prioritizing:
- Is there an order certain tasks need to follow?
- What’s feasible with the time and capacity you have?
- What do you feel like doing in the near future?
- What is both important and urgent for you to do today/this week?
3. Plan your tasks and activities.
Get clear on who’s going to work on what tasks or activities, and when your timeline is. Talk about who is responsible for the task or activity, who else needs to be involved, and when it makes sense to do this. Think about if there are any special considerations for timing or skills required.
- For doing this with yourself or your household, this doesn’t have to feel regimented or like a business meeting. You are just aiming to feel clear about what your next step is, and feel confident that others are clear on their next steps, as well.
- For tasks and chores, it’s helpful to discuss what “done” looks like, instead of figuring out how the task will get done. The goal here is to create a shared idea of what is required to complete this task, while still giving people the freedom to figure out how they’re going to do it. For example, what does “doing the dishes” look like when it’s done? Does this include drying and putting away all the dishes, or wiping down the sink?
- Figure out if any additional information or skills are required for any tasks. Some tasks might require multiple people, depending on the situation. Other times, you might need to add a task to complete before you can do another task. For example, you may need to make a grocery list before you go out to shop.
4. Reflect on how it went and what you learned.
Take time regularly to reflect on your plans and experiences. This is an essential part of an agile approach, and can really help us get a better understanding of what is feasible and realistic. Reflecting can also help us understand what activities help us feel good, what tasks or activities we want to repeat, or what activities need to be pulled into the next planning time because they did not get done.
Questions to ask when reflecting:
- What did you plan to do, and what did you actually end up doing? It’s not inherently bad to not do something that you planned to do, but you can probably learn from it. Maybe your plan was unrealistic or maybe something unexpected came up that changed your priorities. Maybe you didn’t like doing something and you were able to adapt your plan.
- What went well? What was challenging?
- What did you learn that you want to apply in your next round of planning?
- What was not completed, that you want to plan for again?
5. Make it visible and create a routine.
Find a spot on a flat surface where you can keep all your ideas (probably in categories), the things you’re working on during this period (day, week, month, etc.) and a spot for “done” items. When you do your planning, checking in, and reflecting, go to this space and move stuff around or take notes.
The simplest way to create an agile working space is to create 3 columns or boxes and label them: “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” You can do this with post-it notes, a whiteboard, a notebook, or a simple piece of software like a spreadsheet.
To keep this momentum going, create a regular time to check in with yourself or your household–a standard is once per week, but you could adapt this to your needs and routines.
This regular rhythm of planning, checking in, and reflecting creates structure and support. It can also be especially helpful at a time when we are transitioning into new routines of working, studying, playing, and relaxing at home.
Learn More About Agile
It’s safe to say that adapting agile to our needs and using it to support our project management at Overlap has been transformational. Many of us have also been so excited about the power of agile principles that we’ve applied them in our personal lives.
If you’re interested in learning more about agile, watch the recording of our recent webinar: Adopting the Agile Way.
Ready to get started?
- We offer a full-day HCD: Agile course for teams to get moving with our support. Contact us for more information.