The Agile principles (mentioned in the first part of the article here) are absolutely relevant in a household, from multiple perspectives:
- to manage all the recurring things to do
- to move forward the household’s projects
- to keep everybody happy
Let me tell you how the Agile principles fit into your home
Action is superior to non-action : stop delaying your projects
The Agile approach encourages us to get started even when not all the information is available. That’s because it is usually impossible or too costly to obtain all the information without actually having started the actual work, as a lot of new information pops-up along the journey. At work, sooner or later, you usually end-up getting started, because waiting has a cost for the business, which is not sustainable.
At home, though, the cost of not doing something is different, as you are the only one to bear this cost : if you don’t start, you don’t get the benefits related to the goal that you would like to achieve. It’s an opportunity cost more than a tangible cost. And this opportunity does not pressurises us enough to convince us to get started.
For example, a few months ago, I wanted to re-build our household’s filing system. A massive task, as it contains all the paperwork for my wife and I (and our cat) for all areas: housing, car, banks, insurances, utilities, education, purchases and subscriptions receipts and invoices, warranties, various guides and manuals, employment information, but also letters and cards we receive, memories etc. well to sum-up: a lot of stuff. I knew, before even starting, that it would be a long task, maybe 10 hours in total. In my mind I had a high level idea on how I wanted the new system to be, but every time I was about to start, I was pulling back in front of the size of the task – What am I going to do with this specific item? With that one? Well… I certainly need to think about it a bit more. Maybe if I do a spreadsheet?
That’s how it all got delayed for another few weeks (all the more that I didn’t do the spreadsheet)
I had not understood the fact that all my ideas would come into place if I was just starting! They would become clearer, stronger, and richer, even though they’d certainly be a bit different from what they were in the first place.
Getting on helps clarify and substantiate ideas, no matter good or bad ones. And as you get on, you get new ideas, even better than the first ones. And no matter how long you spend on thinking about your approach in the first place, it’s often after starting that you get the best ideas. And that’s why action is superior to inaction. And in a household, it’s an absolute truth, because you are the only one accountable to yourself on what you do.
Real progress is made step-by-step, not in one shot.
As we saw on the article about time management, we only got a couple of hours per day to spend on our personal stuff (taking my life as a benchmark). With only a couple of hours per day, you’re never going to make a revolution in your personal life on one day: you just don’t have enough time!
And to be honest, when it comes to your dreams and passions, that may be a good thing: spending 10 hours a day on something you love is the best way to be disgusted from it within a few weeks or months.
What you want is working your way towards that objective in a sustainable way, without losing your sanity and your motivation. And that can be achieved only through the step by step approach: what is the natural next step in your journey to reach your dream, and what can you do today to reach that step?
Whatever is your personal project you want to work on in your free time, if you try to reach the end goal only every day, or even a few steps ahead, you’re gonna lose faith in yourself and in something that is important to you. Whereas identifying and working on the next step will provide satisfying result and keep up your motivation to go on. And your end goal will become more and more achievable every day, without you even realising.
You can do anything but not everything
Clean the house, Get a new filing system, tidy-up the admin stuff, go to the hairdresser, call your relatives, book your next holidays, practice the violin, go for a beer with a friend, send greeting cards for the new year, write a post for your blog, finish yout book, decorate the Christmas tree, iron your shirts, prepare the dinner, play some football etc
And… only a few hours every day to do all of that.
Option1: You can rush and and do everything fast and badly: The likely result is that you won’t even do everything, and you will be frustrated with the poor quality of the stuff and with the fact you still have things on your plate. Rushing will also have made you stressed. In terms of output, most things will have to be re-worked soon anyway as it was badly executed. It’s a clear lose-lose situation.
Option2: You prioritise:
- Call your family
- Prepare Christmas tree
- Writing on blog
- Send greeting cards
How much you do in one day doesn’t matter, because you will have done the most important stuff first. And what is not done tonight will be done the day after, if nothing more important came at the top of the list in the meantime. That’s a win-win: you get the important stuff done and you take satisfaction out of the benefits of what you achieved. Also, you are not stressed because you spent the exact effort and focused required on each time and you didn’t try to fit more in your schedule than the time you actually had. It’s a clear winner.
In your household, this exercise is all the more important that priorities are always conflicting: what you have to do (chores etc), what is important for your couple (spending time together, plan common projects), and what is important for yourself (personal projects). And a balance is found between those three components only by constantly working on defining the priorities.
The most important item comes first: don’t leave what matters for the next week-end
When it comes to personal life, importance matters more than urgency. Why? Because missing something important may cost you, even if it’s not so urgent. However, missing something urgent that is not important doesn’t really matter. Very often, important things are not that urgent, because they are important to you, not intrinsically. Therefore, it is critical to make time for them.
At work, I put the most important stuff first in order to give the most value to my client as soon as possible. At home, I try to put the most important stuff first in order to give myself and my household the most value: writing on my blog, spending quality time with my wife. This is more important than ironing my shirts, right?
Ok, we all have a lot of have to’s in our lives, and this is absolutely normal. But too often we turn into have to’s things are rather could do’s, but we just don’t have the courage to question them and just remove them from our schedule. Especially our jobs contain a lot of could do that we consider as have to’s, and it ultimately takes a lot out of our personal time.
Putting what is important to you at the centre of your have to’s and subsequently putting them at the top of your to-do list is a critical step towards achieve more in your personal lives.
Short cycles of work allow continuous improvement
This is something that many people do at work but don’t at home, whereas it is usually recognised as one of the best moments of a work week (for a working team): the weekly team meeting. You congratulate each other on the job done, you agree on the next steps, and you discuss what we could do differently from now on. Simple, logical, and easy.
At home, couple and then married life introduce a dynamic of team in your household – sort of. And working together on a same goal because you love each other doesn’t mean that you are gonna work easily with each other or in the most productive way. That’s why introducing the idea of having regular sessions to discuss, catch-up, share feelings, concerns and ideas about your life together may not be a bad thing at all.
When you love each other, it seems so obvious that you know each other that sometimes you actually forget to talk to each other. I mean talk properly, and open-up a bit to the other. As a consequence, it is a good thing to have as a last resort some pre-planned time in order to discuss how life projects are getting on and if there is anything you could or should change.
In the household, improving is not so important from the perspective of achieving more, but it is critical in order to feel happy at home with each other.
Priorities can change, it’s no big deal
Imagine that you had planned to clean the house before dealing with your invoices, but actually you realised that you absolutely have to pay your bills by midnight, otherwise you’ll have to pay an extra fee… But it bothers you to change your plan because… that’s what you planned…!
Honestly, who cares?
Your job = their priorities (your manager, your client, your shareholders etc)
Your life = your priorities, full stop.
Priorities change because life moves on. The approach is called Agile, therefore if we are stubborn without any rational reason, we’re not gonna make it through.There is no big deal to change a plan, if the revised one is in your best interest. Don’t forget that in your personal life, only your and your household’s interests only matter.
Pull, don’t push: the secret to avoid stress at home
Limiting your Work in progress is a critical success factor in any industry, but it is also highly relevant at home. As all of your tasks are prioritised based on the degree of importance, you just move on to the next one once you are done with the one currently in your plate.
What is time-dependent is in your calendar, and you don’t have to worry about it. The rest (=time neutral tasks) is just prioritised, the only thing you have to commit on is not to move to the next one until you’re done with what you’re doing. And at home, it is important because as I mentioned earlier, priorities conflict: personal projects, house projects, stuff to do, and I can’t imagine with kids on top of that.
It is very tempting to take on everything at the same time in order to keep everyone happy and have the feeling that all the areas of your life make progress. But that is an illusion, because the best way to keep everyone happy, included ourselves, is to spend the effort, attention and focus that a task requires in order to make it valuable. No more, no less.
Avoiding multi-tasking avoids stress and increase the quality of the output, and it increases the degree of enjoyment of doing that single task. No doubt it will benefit to yourselves and to the people around you.
For all the reasons stated above, and also because my wife and I have many projects in life we are trying to move forward despite both working full time, we decided to build, step by step (we haven’t forgotten the lesson…), an Agile household.
And you, are you ready?