A Guide to Agile Writing

Just enough process to keep you flowing

July 31, 2023
Writer using scrum to create content.

Do you have a side hustle? 

Maybe blogging or writing on Medium

It can be hard keeping everything organized. You need a system to stay focused but don’t want so much process that it stifles your creativity. I get it. 

Imagine you sit down already knowing what you’re going to write about and just let it flow. Halfway through, inspiration for a new content idea hits. You quickly capture the idea and dive back into your initial writing. You write, edit and publish your work. Done.

Sound nice, right? This type of focus is possible with a bit of pre-work to sep a process that supports you as a writer. 

Currently, I’m using Scrum to organize all my writing projects. I’ll walk through my setup so you can see it’s not that complicated. 

Earlier this year, I was using Asana, which is a great app, but recently I’ve started using ClickUp. They have a fantastic free version, and even if you want to go the paid route, it’s only $5 a month. But you could use almost any project management tool for this setup. 

In this article, I will walk you through five habits of agile writing and then show you my personal implementation of this approach. So let’s start with the four habits.

  1. Capture your ideas.
  2. Set your rhythm.
  3. Find your focus.
  4. Deliver your content.
  5. Evaluate your process.
Full disclosure. For a Scrum purist, what I do is not technically Scrum, as one person is not a Scrum team. What I am doing is applying the principles of Scrum to the work of a solopreneur. 
Sometimes you just have questions about key Scrum terms. Download the Scrum terminology cheat sheet.

Agile Writing Habit 1: Capture your ideas.

You’ve got ideas. Let’s organize them.

In Scrum, the backlog holds all the ideas but then orders them by priority.

What to do:

  • Create a card for each idea.
  • Write the title you might use for the article.
  • In the description, capture who you’re writing for, what problem you’re solving and the big idea.
  • Then write down general content thoughts or maybe even an outline.

Here’s a recently ideated article on a card in ClickUp

Capturing a content idea
Capturing a content idea

You want to capture enough so when you look at it later, you know exactly what you were thinking when you created the card. Sometimes I'll re-read something I wrote and have no idea what I was thinking at the time. You don’t want that. Take the extra 30 seconds to write enough so you can come back later and get writing.

A couple of tips for organizing your ideas:

  • Try gathering your future articles into a backlog.
  • You can use tags to manage your cards if you write about different topics.
  • You want to order your backlog by priority, with the most important at the top. 

Alright, you’ve collected all the ideas, and it’s time to create.

Agile Writing Habit 2: Set your rhythm.

You need a writing cadence to establish your rhythm. 

I started off with two weeks because I wasn’t giving as much time to writing, but I found it hard to stay focused with the longer time. 

I switched to one-week sprints and wouldn’t go back. When applying Agile methods in real life, I find it helpful to synchronize timing, and most of my life runs off of a weekly cadence.

So let’s assume you’re doing a one-week sprint. Now you will select articles to complete during your sprint. 

How many to select? This depends on two factors

  1. How much time do you have?
  2. How fast do you write?

So let’s say you decide three articles a week is right for you. You are committing to focus on these articles for the next week. You must protect your week from additional work, so no adding more during your one-week sprint. 

Agile Writing Habit 3: Find your focus.

It’s Monday, and you have selected three articles and are ready to start. Before you jump in, take a few minutes to plan the sprint. 

You need a system to stay focused but don’t want so much process that it stifles your creativity.

The plan doesn’t need to be elaborate, but working through these questions will go a long way.

  • Which article will you focus on first? 
  • What days of the week and times of day are you protecting for writing? 
  • Are there any resources or people you need help from to finish your writing?

Staying focused can be challenging. Here are three factors for you to consider as you begin doing the work and writing.

  1. Environment
  2. Time of day
  3. Daily Focus

Let’s look closer at each one.


The environment significantly impacts creativity, and setting up your space might make or break your writing experience.

There’s no perfect environment, and most of it is personal preference. But you need to identify what works for you and make that happen. Are you a music or no music writer? Do you need absolute stillness or a little chaos around you like at a coffee shop?

Here are four tips for creating a good writing environment.

  • Silent mode. Put the phone on silent and hide it out of sight. Also, turn off notifications on your computer.
  • Consistency. As much as possible, keep a consistent location and time for writing.
  • Do the pre-work. Set up the coffee maker the night before. Charge your headphones
  • Routine. A routine automates your focus. When it’s time to write, I go through the same pattern. Sit down, pour the coffee, take a deep breath with my eyes closed, put on headphones, start the playlist, and write.

Here's a look at my current writing environment.

writing chair
my writing corner

Time of day 

Not all hours are created equally. We each have times of the day when our energy is higher and focus becomes easier. Are you an early bird or night owl? 

I find the early morning is the best time to write for me. But I’ve known people who like an afternoon at a coffee shop or find their flow late in the evening. 

The key is to understand what works best for you. If you’re not sure, try keeping a journal for a week. Every hour write down what you did and how you’re feeling. Review your notes at the end of the week to see if you find patterns that reveal what time of day is best for you to do creative work.

Setting up your space might make or break your writing experience.

I’ve tweaked my schedule multiple times over the past few years to better take advantage of using my best times of day for the right types of work. It’s taken some experimenting, but I can’t argue with the results. 

If you want to dive deeper into understanding how the time of day impacts your effectiveness, two beneficial books are When by Daniel Pink and At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof.

We all have different schedules. 

Maybe you're working a 9-5, or perhaps you work the early shift at a bakery. In some parts of the year, I have the early morning to write; in other seasons, I take kids to basketball practice in the morning. 

Work with what you have, but be creative. You’ll find the right writing rhythm.

Daily Focus

The environment is set. You’ve made time to write, so what do you focus on?

Each day you will hold a stand-up with yourself, answering three questions.

  1. What did I complete yesterday?
  2. What will I focus on today?
  3. Is there any obstacle holding me back?

Because I write in the morning, I like doing this at night to set my focus for the next day. When I wake up, I already know exactly where I will start.

Not all hours are created equally.

Notice the second question isn’t, “what are all the things I need to do today?” It’s what you will focus on. As hard as it will feel, just choose one action as your focus. If you finish it and have more time, great, choose the next thing. But don’t let low-priority work take you prime time because they’re more convenient or more accessible.

Only focusing on one thing might feel limiting. But imagine the feeling at the end of a month knowing you have completed 30 top priorities. Focus can compound over time, delivering high returns.

Did you know Scrum applies to more than just developing code?

When you understand the essentials of Scrum and the nuance of how to apply it, you can use it to level up aspects of everyday life.

Agile Writing Habit 4: Deliver your content.

It can be so easier for work to stay at 80% done, and you just have a little more editing to do before publishing that article. But then that tweaking the content goes on forever.

Your content might not be perfect, but it can be done. It’s time to deliver. 

Build a habit of delivering content that’s ready to publish. You might wait to post it because it’s part of a larger project, but at the end of the week, what you’ve created should be publishable. 

I find it helpful to have a definition of done for my writing works. Here’s my list:

  • Clear audience
  • Apparent problem to solve or task to be done. 
  • Copy edited
  • Cross-linked with related content. 
  • Anchor links for major sections.
  • Images with necessary attribution.
  • Three sharable pieces of content (quotes, infographics, charts).
  • Clear CTA(s) to help people apply the content.

If I have these, then I can call it done. This agreement with myself keeps me disciplined to cross the content finish line.

There are seasons where I’m batch creating more content, and I’ll take a week and write ten rough drafts just to dive deep and explore how I can engage a topic. These need editing and final production before publishing. But this isn’t my usual writing cadence. 

Agile Writing Habit 5: Evaluate your process.

You’ve reached the end of your first sprint. How did it go? 

Maybe it was a mixed bag. Some days were terrific, but others were full of snags. The habit of reviewing at the end of every sprint will allow you to grow and improve over time.

Some questions you can use include:

  • What did I like?
  • What did I learn?
  • What was I lacking?
  • What do I long for?
  • What should I start doing?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I continue doing?
  • What am I thankful for?

You can hold a review on your own with a journal or sit down with a friend over coffee and process the week.

Your content might not be perfect, but it can be done. It’s time to deliver.

You will likely identify some simple changes you can make for the next sprint. Take action and implement them the following week. One of my favorite aspects of an agile approach is that I don’t have to get it perfect the first time, and you don’t either. You can learn and adapt as you go.

My Agile Writing Setup.

I’m going to share my process for using Scrum to blog. You’ll see these screenshots are actually from me working on my What is Scrum? A Guide for Everyday People to Learn Scrum.

And I changed both methods and tools halfway through the project. Remember what I said about not having to be perfect when you start :)

So I will share both approaches, and you can take what you find helpful from either of them.

Again these are not exactly pure renderings of Scrum. I might call them ScrumBan, as a combination of Kanban and Scrum.

Approach 1: Batch Creation

I mentioned this approach above. It’s not my usual way of writing, but I wanted to try it, and I did find it helpful early in the process of a larger writing project.

The big idea is I would choose many content pieces and nudge each of them forward.
batch creation in Trello
batch creation in Trello

You can see I’m using Trello, and I have many columns; let me walk you through them.

  • Content Idea: This is where I collect possible writing prompts for my What is Scrum project.
  • Selected: These are ideas I’ve prioritized from the first column and are eligible to be chosen during a sprint.
  • Needs Editing: These are posts I’ve created rough drafts of but still need editing.
  • Initial Linking: Because I was creating so much content all at once, cross-linking was a bit of a nightmare. So I broke the linking process into two stages.
  • Fully Linked: All the links are in.
  • Active: These are to posts I selected for the current sprint.
  • Ready to Publish: These posts meet the definition of done and can be scheduled or published.
  • Published. These posts are online and ready to share

In the screenshot above, you can see I have five articles in the Active column. In that sprint, I was creating rough drafts. When the sprint was complete, I would move them back to the Needs Editing column. 

Everything to the left of Active is essentially the backlog. In the next sprint, I would decide if I would focus on writing, editing or publishing and then select accordingly.

This approach worked because I was trying to parse a broader topic into bite-sized pieces, but for me, it felt like I was sacrificing focus for volume. After several sprints worth of retrospectives, I decided it was time to change.

Approach 2: From idea to done.

I wanted a cleaner process that kept me focused on fewer articles but finishing them quicker. I also was switching from Trello to Clickup (with a brief stop in Asana), so it seemed like a good time for a change.

The big idea is to focus on just a few content pieces and move them to completion.

I split my process into two phases:

  1. Content Ideas: This is my content backlog.
  2. Active Posts: This is my sprint backlog

Let’s walk through the whole workflow.

Content Ideas

My Content Ideas board represents my whole content backlog (similar to a product backlog) and contains all the content ideas I’m collecting. So when I have an idea pop into my head, I capture it on a card here.

content backlog in ClickUp
content backlog in ClickUp

You’ll see multiple columns on the board:

  • Ideated: These are content ideas like I described in the capture your ideas habit.
  • In Review: Here I’m looking closer at what I would create and how it helps my audience.
  • On hold: Sometimes, I’ve reviewed and clarified an idea, but it’s not where I want to focus for now. I'm converting most of what you see in this column to FAQs rather than entire posts. Maybe someday, they’ll grow into posts.
  • Information Needed: Topics I need to do some further research on before I can select them for writing.
  • Approved: These posts are ready for me to select in an upcoming sprint.
  • Selected: At the beginning of the sprint, I drag the posts I want to write into this column, and I have an automation that moves them to the next board. 

These different categories within my content backlog help me parse it all and not keep those details in my short-term memory. 

About once a week, I will review it for a backlog refinement session to add new topics and develop or prioritize current ones.

Scrum is flexible and should serve you rather than you serving it

Active Posts

This board is my sprint backlog and holds the content I focused on for the week.

sprint backlog in ClickUp
sprint backlog in ClickUp

Let’s walk quickly through these columns as there pretty straightforward.

  • Selected: This is where the articles I’ve chosen for a sprint begin.
  • Writing: This is what I’m actively working on. I try to keep this to just one article at a time.
  • Editing: Posts go here when the rough draft is done, but editing is still needed. Shorter content sometimes skips this step because I do it all in one sitting. 
  • Media/Links: This is when I look for graphics, create sharable content and add helpful links. I’ll also keep an eye out for good pull quotes or infographics and worksheets opportunities.
  • Scheduled: These posts are completed and scheduled for publishing. At this stage, I also write the copy for when I share the posts.
  • Published: Posts are live on everyday.design.

Keeping the two boards separate helps me focus. I like that my active posts board only has what I’m working on this week, and I don’t need to consider all those other posts.

Setting all this up may seem like a lot of work, but ClickUp has some great templates, and I just adapted their “Blog Management” template. They also can migrate your cards from another app, saving me a TON of time.

Choosing your approach

As I mentioned, I changed halfway through creating this guide. Early on, I wanted to make a lot of progress in the drafting phase to test if it was the most helpful way to organize the content. If I could get rough drafts done, I could share them with others I’ve helped learn Scrum to get feedback.

Later once more content was settled, I took a more sustainable approach to content creation.

One of my favorite aspects of an agile approach is that I don’t have to get it perfect the first time, and you don’t either.

Scrum is flexible and should serve you rather than you serving it. As a Scrum Master, I’ve seen changes like this come up during our retrospectives as we evaluate what’s working and what could be improved?

Whether you take one of these approaches or another route, keep the habit of evaluating your process, and you’ll fine-tune what works best for you.

I’ve shared my process for creating content, and it’s working well for me. I hope you’ve found it helpful whether you want to copy what I’m doing or just take some ideas and apply them to your workflow.

There are a lot of new terms when learning the Scrum essentials, and this post probably introduced you to some of the vocabulary. If you want to learn more about Scrum as a whole, check out my What is Scrum? A Guide for Everyday People to Learn Scrum to get a fuller overview.

Action Plan

If you want to learn more about specific Scrum topics, below are a few to choose from or check out the scrum FAQs.

If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.

Still not sure about your next step with Scrum? I offer a couple of free coaching sessions each month. You can signup for a free 30-minute coaching session, and we can work together to identify a good next step for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Scrum?

What is the definition of scrum?

Scrum is founded on three essential pillars leading teams to ask the following questions:

  1. How does this make things more visible? (Transparency)
  2. Where does this create space to evaluate? (Inspection)
  3. When does this encourage growth? (Adaptation)

Further explore the definition of scrum. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Is Scrum hard to learn?

This is because Scrum’s simplicity makes learning easy, but Scrum truly changes how you work, and that adjustment can be difficult. It changes power dynamics and expectations within the team and between the team and the rest of the organization.

You can explore further is Scrum hard to learn, along with the pros and cons of Scrum. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

When did Scrum start?

Scrum was initially used as a term related to project management in 1986 by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in their paper “New New Product Development Game” In the Harvard Business Review. The first recorded Scrum project came a little later in 1993 from Jeff Sutherland.

You can learn more about Scrum’s backstory. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

What do all the scrum words mean?

Learning Scrum for the first time can be overwhelming. There are a lot of new terms and concepts in Scrum. I’ve listed the most common terms in a Scrum glossary.

Learning to apply Scrum

How to choose between Scrum and Kanban?

Important factors include your team size and the type of work you do. Kanban is very process-oriented, so you should consider how defined, static, or long your process is? 

You can explore Scrum and other agile approaches. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

How does scrum help an organization?

Scrum forces clarity and prioritization, which are critical to organizational effectiveness. It provides a competitive edge by allowing teams to adapt as the market or priorities change. Teams operate more effectively because Scrum combines empowerment of the team members with alignment to top priorities.

Learn more about scrum’s impact on organizational culture. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Is scrum a methodology or a framework?

Scrum is more of a framework than a methodology, and it helps teams adhere to Agile principles and get stuff done. Scrum provides basic rules but doesn’t prescribe how to do the work. It provides principles, values, rules, and some core structure but still leaves a lot undefined.

Learn more about scrum as a framework. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

What’s the difference between scrum and agile?

When people say “agile,” they usually refer to it as a mindset. Scrum is a framework for how to organize people and work in an agile way. If you’re practicing Scrum, you’re working in an Agile way.

Learn more about the relationship between scrum and agile. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

How to use Scrum

Why use Scrum?

It forces clarity and prioritization, which provides the focus necessary for teams to be effective. Scrum embraces complexity and change by keeping many things simple and iteratively evaluating and adapting. 

You can learn more about why to use Scrum and three challenges Scrum solves. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

When does Scrum not work well?

Scrum isn’t always the best option for teams. Scrum can fail when there is a substantial mismatch between organizational culture and the Scrum values. It also depends on the nature of the work you do. If you work if very linear, predictable and tightly defined, you may not experience many benefits Scrum provides.

Find out more about aligning your organizational values with Scrum or how Scrum might fit in your context. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

How do I know when to use Scrum?

Scrum functions at its best when you have a dedicated team focused on developing a singular product. Its agility shines when there are time constraints combined with uncertainty. 

Explore the pros and cons of Scrum along with expectations vs. realities with Scrum. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Scrum design

What are the three pillars of Scrum?

Scrum is founded on three essential pillars, and each leads the team to ask a critical question.

  1. Transparency. How does this make things more visible?
  2. Inspection. Where does this create space to evaluate?
  3. Adaptation. When does this encourage growth?

Learn how to apply the three pillars of Scrum and then explore the most common terms in a Scrum glossary.

What are the values of Scrum?

There are five values critical to the practice of Scrum: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

  1. Commit to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team.
  2. Courage to do the right thing and work on challenging problems.
  3. Focus on the Sprint's work and the Scrum Team's goals.
  4. Open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work.
  5. Respect each other to be capable, independent people

Learn how to align Scrum values with your organization and then explore the most common terms in a Scrum glossary.

What is the sprint goal in scrum?

The sprint goal encapsulates the product owner’s vision into a concrete statement for the development team to measure the sprint against. The sprint goal provides a theme for the sprint’s work helping the team see how all the parts come together. 

Learn more about the role of the sprint goal in scrum and explore the essential Scrum glossary.

Scrum roles

What are the roles in scrum?

There are three roles in Scrum:

  1. Scrum Master 
  2. Product Owner
  3. Development Team

Learn more about the scrum roles. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

What if I don’t have all the scrum roles on my team?

You really can’t run Scrum without a product owner or scrum master, so someone will likely have to wear multiple hats. Here are some recommended combos:

  • One Scrum Master for multiple teams
  • Scrum Master + Development Team member
  • Product Owner + Development Team member

A combo you want to avoid is being both the Product Owner and Scrum Master at the same time.

Learn more about what to do if you don’t have all the scrum team roles. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Who are the stakeholders in scrum?

A scrum team has stakeholders on two sides.

  1. Organizational leaders.
  2. Customers or end-users.

Success depends on identifying and serving the goals and motivations of both groups of stakeholders. The product owner is responsible for harmonizing and prioritizing the needs of both.

Learn more about the different scrum roles. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Is an agile coach a scrum role?

Often an agile coach serves as someone who can come in from the outside to help an organization evaluate their practice of scrum or implement it for the first time. 

An agile coach should also have competency around agile practices beyond just scrum.

Learn more about the roles in scrum or the difference between scrum and agile. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Scrum events overview

What are the Scrum events?

The rhythm of scrum consists of various events.

  • Sprint planning
  • Daily standup 
  • Backlog refinement
  • Sprint review
  • Sprint retrospective
  • The sprint

The last on the list is sometimes debated as to whether or not it’s actually a scrum event. I include it because it's critical to creating a cadence of work for the team. 

Learn more about the rhythm of scrum. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

What scrum events are timeboxed?

Most scrum events are timeboxed relative to the length of the sprint:

  • Sprint planning: 2 hours / sprint week.
  • Daily standup: 15 minutes.
  • Backlog refinement: 2 hours / sprint week.
  • Sprint review: 1 hour / sprint week.
  • Retrospective: 45 minutes / sprint week.

Just because an event has a timebox doesn’t mean it needs to be that long. The timebox is the maximum time allowed for the event.

Learn more about the different scrum events. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

When should scrum events be held?

Scrum events are generally held in the following order

The backlog refinement session is unique in that it can be held anytime. 

Explore further the events of scrum. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Which scrum event is most important?

I included this because it is frequently asked, but the question misunderstands the importance of the scrum events. It’s like asking which of your limbs is most important. You may be able to answer, but they are really all critical. 

If pressed for an answer, the daily scrum probably has the greatest impact on the team's effectiveness. 

Learn more about the events in scrum. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Ready to level up your company? Get in touch today!