Tricking yourself into doing work

I’m a big fan, historically, of productivity hacks, or whatever we called them before we called them hacks. I was a Franklin Planner guy, then a Seven Habits guy, then a Getting Things Done guy, then an Inbox Zero guy. Nothing has stuck better than agile scrum.

Wait, what? Isn’t that a project management methodology for software developers? Aren’t you in marketing?

Well, yes. But agile marketing is a real thing, and it’s proven remarkably helpful in dealing with both routine and unusual work. Here’s why:

  1. Visibility. You go from systems that encourage personal to-do lists to systems that encourage shared backlogs, and the consistent maintenance of the same.
  2. Prioritization. The backlog becomes a tool for discussing and communicating priorities.
  3. Discussion. The best practices around “story grooming” encourage you to discuss what has to be done for a piece of work with the team. I find that in talking out loud what has to be done, I often discover new tasks or dependencies, and new ways forward.
  4. Limited work in progress. Boy, this is important. We all have to spin plates sometimes, but the emphasis on finishing what you start, as much as possible, before starting something new really makes it possible to focus on a task and see it through to completion—and not to sit on something indefinitely because there are improvements you might want to make before you are “done.”
  5. Retrospective. This is the hardest thing, but building in time for review of the work already done means you force yourself to look back and figure out how you might do better the next time.

We’re about five months into our agile marketing experiment and so far we’ve learned a lot. Can’t wait to see what happens next.