Procrastination — Agile to the Rescue

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Procrastination — Agile to the Rescue

Being an avid learner of agile and a procrastinator, I compare agile methodologies that have possible maneuverability to bypass procrastination.

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Being an avid learner of agile methodologies and master at the art of procrastination, I couldn’t stop comparing how agile methodologies have certain possible maneuverability to bypass procrastination.

Procrastination example — When I started writing this article, my brain prompted “where are nuclear missiles stored?” After reading few quora/Reddit answers and browsing related answers, I came back to this article. My brain again prompted “How many stitches are present in a football?” I am quite hopeful I am not the only one in this mirage of endless thoughts. We subconsciously reach for our phones to see if someone irrelevant tweeted something irrelevant, or if a social media queen posted another photo of her nails.

The eventual cost of such mental wandering is unnecessary fatigue, guilt, or lack of self-control and inability to give our best to the intended work.

Over the years numerous scientists and psychologists have written tonnes of articles on procrastination and I happened to read a few of them. The following are some of the most important causes of procrastination and how agile helps solve them.

Abstract Goals

For some of us, a vague goal is not good enough. Without a definitive description of what needs to be achieved, we keep juggling with several tasks. The continuous shift of focus from a task to another task makes the brain tired and tricks it to assume that goal is not achievable. This increases our likelihood of procrastination as limited progress is being made.

Agile to the Rescue

  • Agile teams have goals at different stages. An agile team is likely to have a visible release goal for say next 3 months, a detailed plan for a sprint say of 2 weeks and a daily look at progress towards the goal.
  • Teams have a visible list of tasks planned for the future in the form of a product backlog.
  • Teams visually move tasks from planned state to in-progress state then to completed state. This tricks the brain to easily imagine success.

Lack of clear priorities

A large to-do list makes us feel overwhelmed and anxious. Our brain works better when it can visualize a plan. If we know what is more important and what is less, what is the risk of not doing something, and what is the reward of doing something. This helps our brain to align towards a goal rather than a task.

Agile to the Rescue

  • In agile, we plan as and when needed and as often as needed to keep most prioritized items on top. It is ensured that the most important tasks are done before lesser important ones.
  • In agile, we plan only for a short future, we work on it and change the plan when more information is gathered. Such course correction is expected and not taken negatively.
  • A team has an upper limit on the number of tasks it takes for a sprint. This helps our brain to stay focused on the most important tasks and make actual progress.

Lack of deadline & discipline

The brain works best when short term reward is guaranteed. With no foreseeable deadline, our brain is tricked into not taking tasks seriously. As there is no imminent danger to our prestige or social status by not completing it immediately. We are likely to procrastinate by binge-watching Netflix as it guarantees short term rewards in the form of entertainment.

Agile to the Rescue

  • Agile teams work in iterations where the next deadline is always near. The team works within timeboxed events with a definitive start and end. This helps the brain to know beforehand how much time it needs to be in a focused state.
  • Team members are accountable for tasks, answerable to the team daily. This gives our brain enough motivation to get going in the form of risk. As not doing something on time impacts our position in the team.

Lack of motivation

One of the primary reason for procrastination is lack of motivation. We may be working with unpleasant clients, a hostile environment where our voice is not heard. We are likely to procrastinate when we do not see much value in what we are doing. Our brain can be tricked to stay motivated in a few ways like a guaranteed reward after a certain amount of hard work, asking questions in such a way that people feel they are part of the solution.

Agile to the Rescue

A good scrum master / agile coach will use emotional intelligence to understand the mindset of team members and ensure individuals are motivated and feel safe to work.

  • Celebrating after a successful sprint, a pat on the back or motivation speech after resolving a technical glitch work wonders in motivating.
  • In agile, decisions are taken by the empowered team. When we know our suggestion, opinion is valued we feel our self more attached and committed towards the decision.
  • Empowering teams to make independent decisions that are not forced upon them helps to boost motivation as it makes the team realize they are in charge of their destiny.

Fear of failure

Some of us may not be very comfortable in highlighting risks, sharing a creative idea, or unpopular opinion. We are afraid of how we will be judged, criticized for our mistakes. As a result, we delay decision making often resulting in indecisiveness, loss of opportunities.

Agile to the Rescue

It is expected that mistakes will be made but working in iterations helps in controlling the side-effects of mistakes.

  • Constant feedback is sought from team, management, customers that help in future improvisation.
  • Success and failure belong to the teams, not individuals. Individuals are not judged for making mistakes.
agile 2019, agile adoption, agile advantages, agile mindset, agile team, procrastination, productivity

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