Agile gives us complete freedom and ownership over the development process, but without a healthy measure of self-organization and management, all of that autonomy will not amount to much. Let’s take a look at the chaos and order aspect of agile and how you can embrace both.
In an agile development setting, there is no micromanagement. There is no excessive bureaucracy, no one breathing down your neck, and no one demanding you do something faster, better, or faster and better. You are the one in charge of your own work, your own time, and your own output. This means you can work when you feel your most productive and you can take that much needed break when you are feeling less than okay.
This is also what we love about agile. It gives us complete freedom and ownership over the development process.
Without a healthy measure of self-organization and management, all of that autonomy will not amount to much.
Let’s take a look at the chaos and order aspect of agile and how you can embrace both.
A Look into Chaos
The basis of agile development is quite a simple tenet: you as the developer are in charge of the project, you allocate your own time to the requirements at hand, and you are not accountable to a manager or a team leader. You set the priorities (based on what is needed of you), you set your working hours, and you don’t have to check in with anyone.
This places all of the accountability and responsibility for a project’s success in your hands, which is not a level of pressure everyone can reasonably take on. If you are bad at sticking to deadlines or simply bad at time management, you may find yourself taking time off more than you are working.
The beauty of the agile method lies in the fact that it has managed to eliminate micromanagement altogether. Given the fact that being micromanaged makes employees feel stripped of all control, like they are under a magnifying glass, and that all of their actions are being vetted and judged, we can understand why it’s a huge cause of workplace stress.
The more stressed out you are and the more you keep factoring in your manager and what they might think about your process and actions, the less you will be able to focus on your work. This can also lead to tardiness, compromised efficiency, and ultimately products that are not what they could have been in an agile development setting.
Another aspect of “chaos” we need to examine is the need for a developer to be both manager and maker. In other words, you need to be both the person in charge or organizing the work and the one doing the work. This venture into dual personality disorder can quickly backfire.
Makers need long uninterrupted stretches of time to be able to produce and create. You may need as much as 30 minutes to get into the flow of your work, and if you are constantly having to jump from one task to another, this flow will be additionally disrupted.
On the other hand, managers need to deal with emails, calls, and all other aspects of communicating with a client or other team members, and they need to handle all the reporting, planning, and analyzing. Their schedule is usually filled with shorter tasks and a lot of multitasking; however, this does not impact the outcome of their work as it does the work performed by the maker.
In an agile workplace, you need to be both maker and manager, which can disrupt you more than you could possibly imagine. This is where the chaos from the title of this article comes into play.
Unless you are able to stay on top of both of these personas and manage your time better and more efficiently, chances are you will be trapped by the one downside of agile.
The Case for Order
If we fail to stay on top of our own work, the agile framework will allow us to pinpoint the time and place where something has gone wrong, yes. But knowing what went wrong is not the goal of agile—developing high-performing and high-quality software solutions is.
Although the proponents of agile often refer to time tracking as the devil, it is, in reality, a useful tool that can help you objectively measure where you are spending your time. This will help you manage this valuable resource more effectively and efficiently.
Remember: the purpose of time tracking is to help you identify your weak spots and your Speedy Gonzales traits. It’s not to justify your time to a manager. In that sense, tracking time and analyzing it with your Google Calendar is all you need to be doing.
You don’t need to be spending large portions of your time tracking said time, either. Granted, this is often the catch-22 of the process. Logging hours and analyzing performance may lose all purpose given the demands it exacts on your time.
Find a simple yet effective time tracking process to help you figure out what you are doing well and where you may be procrastinating more than you realized. Use this information to help yourself out and reorganize your workday so you become the epitome of personal productivity.
Alongside time tracking, another practice that will bring a bit of order to your creative chaos is managing your sleep and other productivity-impacting factors. Sleep is directly linked to your levels of success—the more sleep-deprived you are, the more your work will suffer and the more prone you will be to burnout.
Instead of giving in to the hustle culture’s propaganda on sacrificing sleep in order to get ahead, listen to the cues your own body is sending you. Rest when you need to rest, get a fair bit of exercise every day, and fuel your body with the right nutrients. Soon enough, you’ll notice the quality of your work has significantly improved.
Productivity, especially in a self-centered agile environment, depends on your individual levels of well-being.
By allocating enough time off (and marking it in your calendar), you’ll be emphasizing the main premise of agile development: you are perfectly capable of managing your own projects and delivering stellar results—on your own terms and in your own time.