January: Way, Way too much WIP

Personal Kanban Calendar Lesson #1

This is the first “retrospective” post on my 2015 kanban calendar goal board, something I’m trying this year to make sure that I achieve specific life goals by breaking them down into smaller, discrete actions and tasks every month and quarter. If you haven’t read the original post, I suggest you do that now, before reading further.

How to interpret these retrospective posts

I’ll be following the standard agile retrospective approach of looking at what worked, what didn’t work and the new things I intend to do to improve the process.  A key thing to know is that each month’s post lags behind the actual use of the calendar by one month. That’s because I only started the goal board, and subsequently posted about it, towards the middle of January. The February post covers lessons from January, March will cover February, etc.

I haven’t decided yet how I will wrap things up over December and January. You’ll either get two posts, or a final wrap-up post in January 2016. I’ll see what feels right when I get there, okay?

So – let the lessons begin!

What did I plan to do in January? (Sprint 1)

  • Way too much, of course. For somebody who supposedly doesn’t do new year’s resolutions, and doesn’t expect change to all happen at once, I took on far too many tasks.
  • By mid-month, I found myself with 11 tasks in progress, out of a total of 35. Some were quite small, but they still rented head space and needed my attention.

What did not work in January?

  • The fact that I had started so eagerly, and added too many tasks to January, of course. I realized almost immediately that I had set myself up for failure. Seeing so many tasks in the January column was completely overwhelming and demotivating. The worst is, I should’ve known better. This is not my first Personal Kanban party. But just because you know the right thing to do, doesn’t mean you always do it, does it? Hmm.
  • There was one major benefit to this over-ambitious start, though. Upon reviewing the planned and incomplete tasks, I could see the beginnings of a pattern. There appear to be similar things I tend to put off and avoid: paperwork, returning phone calls and emails and setting up follow-up meetings. I had at least two cases of each that didn’t make it into Done January. Apart from the fact that these things are all forms of tedious admin that I simply don’t like, I do wonder if there isn’t another factor at work here? This bears some further reflection.

What worked in January?

  • I completed the first step needed to tackle a particularly challenging, and long-ignored issue in my life. The fact that I *took that first step*, after putting it off for so long, makes up in spades for the many tasks that were not completed.
  • Once I realized I had too many tasks already, I resisted the (very strong!) temptation to keep adding more Unplanned tasks. I was quite brutal and forced myself to create them in the February list if there was no specific reason these new tasks *had* to be done in January. And guess what? Only one of them really did need to get done in January. The rest could all wait to February without any specific consequences. Sound familiar? Very few things are really as urgent as we think they are.

What have I changed?

  • I went into February with far fewer Planned tasks. And I’ve re-assessed all the incomplete tasks from January and realized that not all of them need to roll over into February, either. Some of them can wait until March, really.

My most powerful insight this month

I can see that using the personal kanban goal board will likely enable me to actually do more of what I had set out to do at the start of the year. But I need to guard against overdoing it. My personal life goals shouldn’t become another stick I beat myself up with. Yes, I should not procrastinate on important things (working on that, I swear!), but life is there to be lived, enjoyed and savoured, not just to tick off goals. And yes, I did a lot of enjoying and savouring in January. 😉

Next Month – Expanding Projects & Unexpected Shifts

I’ve already started my notes for next month’s post, so I can share a little sneak peek with you … Starting the month with less Planned tasks has been a blessing. One of the February “tasks” turned out to be a project in itself, and has consumed most of my month. In addition, I’ve had to deal with an unexpected change in circumstances that will set a very different course for my year than the one I had planned.

Join me next month for Personal Kanban Calendar Lesson #2. 🙂

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One Response to January: Way, Way too much WIP

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