How the agile approach helps me keep fit and stay healthy

Agile Project Management: A method of managing your project work in small, incremental segments that can be easily assigned, easily managed, and completed within a short period of time called an iteration or sprint.


Yes, I find ways to incorporate my project management skills into my personal life.


I can’t help myself.


The techniques I’ve learned and in turn train others have proven to be successful in my professional work as well as in my personal life.


With agile, this is about taking small incremental steps to see what adds value and prioritize the work.


Take exercising for example.


With the new start of the year, there is a tendency to start with a bang only to fizzle out by February.


Rather than take the ambitious route and sign up for a gym membership (I abhor the gym) or download some snazzy online dieting app, I have made incremental changes in my routine where I have seen results in my health and well-being.


I have adapted agile project management concepts like incremental changes, backlogs, and releases.


Below is my agile approach to keeping fit and staying healthy.


Incremental Changes


When I teach – On average I teach twice a month at local hotels for eight hours a day, 4 days per week. I get up at 4:45 am to get ready and hit the road because traffic is outrageous in the metropolitan Washington, DC area.  I use my lunch break or time after class (while traffic dies down) to get in a 30-minute walk. That one change in my routine has wonders for my attitude and of course my health.

Working from home – My dog is the ultimate accountability partner. At 12 years young, he still loves to go walking. Because of his age, I’m mindful of making it an easy walk, but every little step helps. And since I’m an early riser anyway, I’ll also squeeze in a quick 15-minute circuit 3 days per week.


Nighttime routine – Thursday thru Sunday evenings are dedicated to resting my mind for 15 to 30 minutes before getting ready for bed. I turn off my phone and I either read a novel for 30 minutes or I have my husband tell me bad dad jokes (I got him a box of dad jokes for Christmas—they are terrible!).  I attempted this routine as a daily habit and I failed miserably.  I was trying to do too much.  Incrementally picking the Thursday thru Sunday has kept the goal realistic and manageable.


Answer my email in batches – I’m not going to fib: I have a terrible habit like everyone else to constantly check my email.  The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real.  However, I don’t always have to respond at the moment.


When I answer email in batches (i.e. scheduled times), I actually get into a flow and I’m able to knock out more emails and respond more efficiently (I’m a fan of the five-sentence email).  This strategy may seem controversial for some, but I’ve found it essential to be in “email mode” rather than respond to email as they come.  If a message is an emergency, I am always available by phone or text—usually I do receive a call asking, “did you see my email?”


Going out to lunch/dinner – One simple change I’ve made is to look at the menu before I go to a restaurant.  Selecting what I will eat ahead of time helps me to make good choices—even when I’m hangry!


Backlog


In the agile approach, a backlog is a list of features (or to-dos) waiting to be implemented. Keeping in mind, the backlog may be refined (i.e. changed) to meet the changing needs of the organization.  For my personal health, I have quite a few incremental changes I want to make in my routine to lead a healthier lifestyle. But I can’t do it all; here’s my backlog:


  • Park farther from the building (keeping in mind any safety concerns).

  • Use less salt in my food.

  • Go to bed 30-minutes earlier three nights a week.

  • Make more meals from my Eat This, Not That magazine subscription.

  • Stop checking email / social media after 7pm.

  • Don’t check email / social media (i.e. LinkedIn) until 9am. 

  • Meeting up with friends over an activity rather than over a sit-down meal.


Releases


Since I can’t do it all and doing everything at once is a recipe for failure, I have committed to implementing these changes at different points in the year:


Release 1: Jan – Mar

I have a hectic travel schedule planned and with the cold weather, some things are easier to implement now.

  • Use less salt in my food – I’ll start with my evening meals.

  • Go to bed 30-minutes earlier three nights a week.

Release 2: Apr – Jun

Warmer weather, less hectic travel schedule, and farmer’s markets make the tasks below easier to implement.

  • Park farther from the building (keeping in mind any safety concerns).

  • Make more meals from my Eat This, Not That magazine subscription.

  • Meeting up with friends over an activity rather than over a sit-down meal.

Release 3: Jul – Sep

By now, I should be in a rhythm, plus this is a time where my clients and I take vacation.  I find this time a great time to reset.

  • Stop checking email / social media after 7pm.

  • Don’t check email / social media (i.e. LinkedIn) until 9am. 

Release 4: Oct – Dec

I don’t have anything planned. And that’s ok. That is the beauty of the agile approach. When I get closer to that time, I will have something to add. Who knows, I might have “join a crossfit class” on the backlog.


Nah.


I’m a project manager, so I couldn’t help putting on my project manager’s hat to break down small, manageable ways to implement healthy habits into my schedule. Remember, small changes make a big impact so don’t be overwhelmed. Start small.


The benefits of an agile approach is that the small changes allow me to quickly and continuously assess the true value of my efforts and to measure results.  This approach also gives me the opportunity to adapt and make any adjustments rather than give up.


Has this article interested you in adapting the agile approach in your lifestyle?  Or perhaps you are interested in learning more about agile in general for your organization.  Contact me for more information.

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” - John Maxwell

Resource: Project Management JumpStart 4th Edition by Kim Heldman.


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