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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Paul Tevis

Entries in things i have learned (123)


Measure Before You Plan

So I'm standing in the shower this morning1 when I catch myself falling into old trap. I had been reading about the Pomodoro Technique, and it seem like a good match for my current organizational/productivity habits2. I thought to myself: "Yeah, so instead of allocating a certain number of hours per week for projects like I do now, I could use Pomodoros. How should I split them up? Hmm. Well, if I had ten a week for personal projects then I could..."

And that's where the trap was. Old me would have assigned a certain number of Pomodoros to each of the things I'm working on, and then tried to find time to get them done.

New me knows better. I've been immersed in Lean Software Development and Agile practices for the last several months, and as I've started to internalize their principles, I've seen how they apply to everyday life, too. The applicable precepts here are:

  1. You don't know what you can do until you measure what you are doing, and
  2. You have to limit work to capacity.

It's so tempting to construct an ideal plan that will let you get everything you want done and then try to impose that plan on reality. That's exactly what the old me tried to do. What I've learned that I know will work better is to start using Pomodoros to start measuring what I'm doing now and not to start planning with them until I know how many in a week I have to work with. It's like the old carpenter's dictum of measuring twice and cutting once. You need to at least measure once. Otherwise, you might find your board isn't big enough.

Let the measuring begin.


1  See, I told you.

2 It's an odd mashup inspired by Getting Things Done, First Things First, and Trickle Lists.


Things I Have Learned About Cocktails

I am still uncertain of the best way to mix a Martini, but I'm pretty sure it involves Hendrick's Gin.

Also, there's a distinct possibility that the best Martini is actually a Gibson.


Absorbing and Reflecting

The more I read, the more I need to write.

As some people are probably aware, I'm an external processor: I understand things by communicating them. Or, as I've put it before, I learn by hearing myself speak. It look me a surprisingly long time to figure this out, but I guess that's because I didn't talk to myself enough.

The upshot of this is that the more information I take in, the more I need to spit it back out. That's one of my primary motivations for kicking this blog back into gear. The problem, of course, is that the more time I spend digesting books, TV, movies, etc., the less time I have to reflect on it, write about it, and truly absorb it. This is frustrating to say the least.

I haven't come up with a perfect solution to the problem yet, but one that does seem to be working for me is putting limits on what I expect myself to take in. For example, I've set a goal of one chapter of The Civil War each week. Once I finish my weekly quota (which isn't too difficult), I've given myself permission to set the book aside, which gives me a chance to think and write about it. (The side benefit is that it also lets me fit in a few other projects in parallel, which is something I've always been bad about.)

I've been fond of the saying "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Now I have to learn how to talk with my mouth full.

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