How I use SCRUM and Getting Things Done to reach my goals

I want to talk to you about actually getting things done.. about ACTION. There are so many different systems that you can use to manage your time and projects in your business.

I've found though that no one system works really well for me and so I take bits and pieces from systems I like to manage my work and my day to get as much done as possible.

There's a caveat though - I don't want you to think that I'm just killing my work every single day - somedays I get LOADS done and some days I don't. We're all human here.

Sometimes I stick to my to-do list like glue and barely look up for 10 hours and other days, I take a long lunch, an extra walk and stare at my white board like it's hypnotizing me.

We're not meant to be work-producing machines.

However, we are meant to be creative and innovative and I find that the more I stick to my systems, the more space I have. The more space I have, the more time I have for the things that make life so great.

So, with that said.. let me talk about two systems that I use to take day-to-day action: SCRUM & Getting Things Done.


What is SCRUM?

SCRUM, loosely, is an agile project management approach or framework. Project deliverables are broken down into "sprints" that are flexible and allow you to start and finish mini-projects each week.

I read Jeff Sutherland's book: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time earlier this year and gleaned a few concepts that I wanted to use in managing my own projects - more like a SCRUM for ONE approach.

Now, it's actually an approach that's used widely by software development companies and when used in a team environment (as it's designed to be used) it looks very different than how I use it.

Here are three SCRUM concepts that I use in my business:

1. Take big goals, prioritise them, and create "sprints"

Every week I have ongoing client work, project work, and ongoing business activities like marketing, financials, networkings, etc. So, it makes it really difficult to move the needle on bigger goals like: update website, create new online course, launch partner giveaway.

I use SCRUM for projects that are outside of my regular day-to-day, week-to-week work and I break each project down into action items that I complete over the course of a week.

You may be thinking... "I have so many ideas, I don't know what to do first."

Whenever I have an idea of a project or initiative I'd like to run, I create a task in Asana in a project called "Sprints".

Any new idea gets put there but I make myself decide how important it is right then and there (usually prioritized in terms of alignment with the top three goals I set for the year). The ideas, then, are listed in order of importance from top to bottom.

The idea/project at the top of the list is the next sprint I'm going to do and I reconcile the rest of the list as I add new ideas. (The goal for next year is to have my sprints laid out 90 days at time.)

Each Friday, I set up the sprint for the coming week.

Let's say "update website" is the next sprint. The first thing I do is ask myself if updating my website in a week is a reasonable timeframe if it feels too big, I break it down into two or three sprints - whatever it takes.

2. Break down each "sprint" into actionable bite-size tasks

Since website update in my case is a reasonable sprint for one week, the next step is to break it down. This is actually what I find to be so magical about this because if I have "update website" on my to-do list - it's just so overwhelming. Where do I start?

But, if I take the time to break it down ahead of time then on Monday when I sit at my desk, I have a list of bite-size tasks in order of importance and whenever I have a spare 30 minutes, I can usually knock a task off.

3. Assign time frames to each task

This was a crazy eye opener. When I set up the tasks in each Sprint, I put a note about how long I think things will take. When I first started doing this, I thought writing a new email sequence took an hour - it's more like 5 hours. Yikes!

By continuing to estimate how long things take and then recording how long they ACTUALLY take, our estimations get better and better and our planning gets better and better.

So, my sprint might look something like this:

  • review google analytics for trends in user engagement and drop off | 20 minutes
  • on-page SEO optmization for home page | 30 minutes
  • on-page SEO optmization for about page | 30 minutes
  • optmize CTA's on blog posts | 2 hours
  • source and change home page header image | 1 hour
  • change h1 font and paragraph font | 20 minutes
  • change favicon to transparent background | 20 minutes
  • site wide copy edit | 2 hours
  • update work with me page with new offerings | 2 hours
  • add new testimonials | 30 minutes

Side note: while I was breaking down my website update sprint, I realized that I need to change my main optin but that's actually it's own sprint since it has to be researched, created, and a sequence written. So, I added that to my "Sprints" project. Also, any task that takes longer than two hours should be broken down (I try to keep things to an hour max actually).


What is Getting Things Done?

Getting Things Done (GTD) is a complete system of managing ALL of life's inputs, tasks, and action items in one place. It's a system designed by David Allan and is widely accepted as an effective time management approach. I find the complete system is a bit too involved and tedious for me but there are a few concepts that I LOVE and use every single day.

Here are three concepts from Getting Things Done that I use in my business:

1. Get everything out of your head

David Allan says: "Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them." and I couldn't agree more. We get so bogged down with all life's things spinning around in our brains that we don't have space to be creative. The minute I started dumping every little thing that was clogging up my thoughts, I found a little piece of freedom.

I use Asana and absolutely everything goes in there and I live it in. Anything that requires detailed planning or notes, I put in Google Docs and link to it in an Asana task and then use Asana like a searchable portal to my whole business.

2. Centralise your To-Do's

I've talked in detail about the advantages of centralising to-do's and this a central and crucial theme from GTD. When you have inputs from your email, your agenda, your calendar, some notes in Evernote, a few to-do's in ToDoist - it's impossible to know what you should be working on at any given time. Sure, if you're in your email - you might be responding to the most important email but there's a really important thing over in your to-do list app that is much more important than that email.

When we centralise our to-do's, we can prioritise everything among everything else so it's easy to see the most important thing. As I'm sure you've guessed, I use Asana and work from the "My Tasks" section to keep everything in one place and in order of importance.

3. Create follow ups

David Allan talks about open loops - our brain hates them. If we write something down on a piece of paper, it's no longer in our head but our brain still can't let it go because there's no plan to action it or follow up on it. For every single thing I drop into Asana, I assign a due date to make sure that it's brought back to my attention at the right time - which allows my brain to rest.

I know it's a lot but, making sure we are getting the RIGHT things done is so so important to making sure that we're doing work that matters. That's really the point of all this, isn't it?