Ultra productivity and The Micro-sprint

10 months ago my wife had a baby. Everything changed as you can imagine. Now I have precious little time for doing those things I took for granted a year ago, like a little home coding, or playing with XBMC, or doing whatever I like on a Tuesday evening at home, while sipping a brew and lounging on the sofa after dinner!

I've spent the last few months working at becoming ultra productive both at home and at work to help me get stuff done while also having more time with my family. At Raised Eyebrow we adopt some agile processes and work in Sprints. We define a bunch of tasks that need to get done and sprint on them over the course of a week or two weeks. They have proven to be very productive.

I decided to apply this sprint methodology to other areas of my life. Mostly in tasks that involved some online work. Writing blog posts (like this one) for example, or preparing notes for an upcoming course I'm giving on Drupal. I commute to work on Transit every morning and noticed that I have at least 15 minutes with which I could be knocking things off my todo list.

This time seemed perfect for the creation of mini sprints, or what I call micro-sprints. The rules are simple.

  1. Define tasks that seem achievable in 15 minutes or less
  2. Identify those times where you could micro-sprint - for example, waiting at the passport office, which I had to do recently. :)
  3. Use a countdown timer like e.ggtimer.com and set it to 15 minutes.

The countdown timer for me is the real key to achievable micro-sprints. I set the timer up somewhere it's visible and I can see it counting down out of the corner of my eye. This gives me what I call the "focus enhancer". As I see the seconds draining away I am forced to reduce all noise and clutter from my mind and my workspace. I become intensely focused on the task at hand. I also make decisions rapidly in an agile manner. If I hit a snag, I either move to something else, refactor, or find a simpler way to do that task. Simplify or die!

That drive for simplicity has also allowed me to become a better developer and is also prompting me to work at becoming a better writer, by removing clutter and getting to the point quickly, you know what I mean by that right, no waffling at all on a topic!!!

Matt in our office informed me today that he has implemented Micro-sprints in his life this weekend and they've been productive and successful so far. I'm really happy it's working for him too but it's also important to realize that life does require some downtime and it's important to maintain that healthy balance.