Applying Scrum to self-education

I’ve been reading a lot in the last couple of months about self-education and in particular how to overcome procrastination. I realised I was making great plans to “learn X” or “build Y”, spending ages planning it all out but not following through when it came time to actually do it. Sound familiar?

Research

One of the first things I read about was what Scott Hanselman calls Analysis Paralysis or basically over thinking. That label can be applied to the “build Y” things, but surely it can’t be the reason for failing to “learn X”?

I kept reading and found a couple of other ideas, but even when I followed the advice, I couldn’t maintain any momentum I gained. That was until I read “You are not so smart” by
David McRaney, and in particular his piece on procrastination. I recommend you take the time to read that link, but for me it boiled down to taking the decision making away from “future me” so I can’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow”.

The trick is to accept the now you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future you – a person who can’t be trusted.

Extra Complication

Like most techie people, the list of interesting things I want to look into is huge. Lists upon lists upon lists. Some people say concentrate on one thing at a time, some say learn several things during the same period. I’m not going to add fuel to that debate, but I prefer a blend of that, i.e. focus on one topic but not for too long.

How?

I thought about this for a while and realised it was all about setting a sustainable pace. There’s no point in “now me” over committing “future me” and causing burn-out. Does that sound agile to anyone else?

Applying Scrum to self-education

I currently “practice what you preach” by doing 2 week sprints, where each sprint alternates between my two main topics of focus. Each topic has a backlog and at the start of each sprint I commit to what I think I can do. I’m not having daily stand-ups with myself, but I certainly run planning sessions and retrospectives.

To make it accessible, I use Trello to manage all of this. So far it’s fantastic and I’ve found I’m able to concentrate on the one area of focus at a time, rather than doing lots of little bits of everything and not really making any progress.

I’d love to hear from anyone doing similar stuff in the comments below, or catch me on twitter.

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