Quite a while ago I changed my approach slightly to facilitating a team’s daily stand-up meeting. Instead of going through the items on the board from left to right, I asked about them from right to left. Things towards the right are closer to done, so the idea is to focus on getting the “almost done” work actually done, and so delivery is more successful.
Of course, this lesson does not originate from agile software development, it’s just a general lesson about working life—“almost done” doesn’t count, only “really done” is useful to anyone. But I find it’s harder to apply that rule in everyday working life, perhaps because everyday working life isn’t as well-structured as a team that has tickets on a board and daily meetings.
Like everyone else I know, I’ve often got too much to do in any one day. And there are so many tasks on my task list that it’s too easy to switch back and forth between them. Perhaps this is to avoid the sense of being overwhelmed. Move this task a bit, move that task a bit, move a third task forward… everything makes progress, but nothing gets completed.
I find I really have to focus to get something actually done. But I’ve also found that when it does reach that “done” state it actually makes a noticeable difference. That’s not just because of the thing itself, it’s because I’m just one person contributing to a much bigger effort. The thing I’ve done enables much bigger things to happen. This shouldn’t be too surprising, because we’re all part of a bigger team and a bigger organisation, even if we may sometimes feel a bit isolated.
For example, if I have to review a management policy then my review—even though it’s just a review—enables that policy to become a reality, and suddenly people’s lives feel a little bit better. If I need to answer a difficult email then a clear and thoughtful answer will give someone direction, and that problems gets solved sooner.
It requires effort to get things over the line, and sometimes it requires putting time aside, closing a few apps, and switching off notifications. But the consequences are significant.