Maybe you’ve tried buying a big pile of books, registering for online courses, or writing out a list of skills you want to develop but are still struggling to progress in your personal or professional development. If that’s the case, I think you’ll be interested to see how Scrum can help you.
Most people start the year making new years resolutions and begin with enthusiasm, only to lose steam by spring break and not even remember them by the summer.
Imagine what it might feel like to come to the end of the year and have completed your top 5 priorities related to personal or professional development.
That type of progress is achievable once you have clarity about your goal and a system to help you stay on track. In this article, I’ll explain how Scrum can provide this for you.
Here’s what I’m going to cover:
The past ten years have been a fun journey of learning new skills and leveling up current ones. I love to learn, so it was like being a kid in a candy store. I was exploring courses, training, 30-day challenges, mentorship, books, portfolio projects… you name it.
I wanted to learn so many topics, but when I tried to do all of them at once, I never made meaningful progress in any of them. I needed focus.
One of the subjects I was learning more about at the time was Scrum. So I thought, “Why not use Scrum to learn Scrum?”
As I mentioned, I was trying to do too much at once. I needed to triage my learning plans. I started by first setting a goal that could guide these decisions. I identified three areas I wanted to grow in and the level I wanted to attain for each.
To set meaningful goals, you need to know where you’re heading. What’s the long-term plan? What’s your vision for a future version of you? Take some time to work through this.
Clarity about the end will be essential if you want clarity about the here and now. If you want some help working through your priorities, try this 5-day priorities challenge.
I started by gathering all the development options I had considered and writing them on the whiteboard. I looked for ones that supported the three-part goal I had set for myself. These got prioritized and grouped together.
I went back and looked through each area one at a time and asked, “Will this get me to my goal?” and “What do I need that’s missing?” Once this was complete, I had a clearer sense of what I needed to do to reach my goals.
I added all these development opportunities to the backlog and ordered it by priority and dependencies. If I wanted to earn a certification that depended on another certification, then they should be prioritized in the order I can achieve them.
Most of these learning opportunities need to be broken down into small tasks so they could be completed in a shorter amount of time. Breaking them down gave me more granularity to prioritize tasks across different opportunities.
Now that I had clarity regarding where I was trying to go and at least initial clarity about what I needed to get there, I was ready to begin.
Scrum organizes time into sprints, usually one to three weeks long, to timebox the work you’re committing to complete.
I went with a two-week sprint because it gave me the best balance between focus and flexibility. I stayed focused for those two weeks on what was selected but could still have the flexibility to adjust as needs or opportunities changed.
Before the sprint began, I set a sprint goal which provided a picture of what I hoped would be the result of the next two weeks. The sprint goal guides what gets selected from the backlog. I focused on the top of the backlog because that is what I had prioritized, but the goal provided guidance and flexibility if something a little further down the list made sense to do now.
Once I had selected development items from the backlog, I would place them on my sprint board in the column labeled “to-do” I would then move one or two tasks to “doing” and focus on them until they were complete.
I kept my work-in-progress limit to two, so I could stay focused, maintain momentum and bring learning tasks to completion before beginning new ones. This constraint felt like a discipline at first, but over time I was motivated because I had the experience from the progress I was making.
Each evening I would evaluate and plan using the following three questions:
This daily cadence kept me focused and moving forward.
At the end of the sprint, I would evaluate what I finished and how things went. I discovered specific times of day or days of the week worked better for different kinds of learning. I took what I learned and applied it to the next sprint.
I’ve used Trello, Asana and Monday to organize my ongoing professional development, and they have similar feature sets and good freemium functionality. Right now though I'm using ClickUp and I really like it. It has the same functionality (and more) but at a lower price point. I also took advantage of several learning platforms, including Coursera, LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare.
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.