Agile New Year’s Resolutions

Published on 13th January 2021

This article is inspired and published on NextUp Solutions by amazing Jill Stott.


„It’s the most wonderful time of the year…


…and a time for understanding and adapting to new challenges. In 2020 most of us spent an enormous amount of our time thinking about other people; trying to understand them, change them, help them. It has been clear this year that no matter how right you may be, spending your valuable time trying to change other people is a waste of time and energy. So, how about some resolutions that focus less on the “we” and more about the “me.” How can we improve our own lives when it’s more critical than ever to take care of ourselves?

So, for 2021, resolve to apply the following four simple Agile concepts to your work and your daily life. If you do, 2021 may be your best year yet.


1.  Limit your work in progress


Stop multitasking. There is a significant cost to context switching. Contrary to many of our beliefs, when you multitask between items that take concentrated thinking, the overall work will take you at least 20% longer to complete. Additionally, the output will be lower quality than if you’d single-tasked. Multitasking also leads to feeling stressed out: check out this Psychology Today article to understand why.


So, for 2021, commit to starting one task and finishing it before you start another. If your tasks are huge and can’t be completed in a single sitting, split the task into smaller tasks and complete one smaller item at a time. You will be amazed at how many more things you accomplish in less time. And bonus: you will feel continually satisfied in your ability to get things done.


2.  Maximize the amount of work you don’t do


It’s in the Agile Manifesto. It’s the Lean concept of “waste.” Every day, you spend time doing things that don’t add value and aren’t even necessary. And while you’re doing these non-value tasks, you end up with less time and energy to work on the important things.

If you want more time to do the things you love and the things that bring value to your company, go through the following exercise:

Step 1. Figure out and write down the primary objective of your organization and for yourself.

If you work in a commercial industry, that objective is easy to pinpoint and measure: increase profit.

For your private life, defining a primary objective is more varied and may contain more than one objective (e.g., “be happy,” “contribute to society,” “live a long and healthy life,” “have fun,” “make and keep good friends,” “continuously learn,” “change the world,” etc.)

Whatever your perspective, first define the overarching objective(s).

Step 2: Make a list of all the things you do day by day. This could be a single list combining work and personal life or two separate lists.

Step 3: Go through each item on your list and ask yourself the following two questions (be honest with yourself):

  • Does this task contribute in any way to my defined “primary objective?”
  • Is this task necessary for reasons that don’t directly meet the objective (e.g., regulatory requirements, risk prevention, my boss is making me do it and I can’t say no, etc.)?

Resolve in 2021 to identify and eliminate work you do that doesn’t add value and isn’t necessary. Non-value add work tends to creep in continuously.


3.  Give yourself the environment you need to be successful


If you don’t look after your needs, who will? Life is hard enough. You have to get the right equipment and working environment for you to succeed.

First, take a moment and think about how the tools you don’t have are contributing to decreased productivity. Is your computer as slow as a turtle in a tar pit? Would a second monitor increase your efficiency? Would an ergonomic chair alleviate your neck and back pain?

Back in the day, we were told to just “buck up” and stop complaining when we didn’t have the right work environment. But in reality, if you don’t have the right equipment, it doesn’t just hurt you, it deprives everyone around you of the more amazing things you could produce. Good grief, these are easy and fairly inexpensive investments that will increase productivity. Give your company a good case, and chances are they will pay for them.


4.  Hold regular personal retrospectives


Regularly meet with yourself and assess how well you are doing at making 2021 the year of you. Then, based on your feedback, adapt accordingly. According to the internet, most people drop their New Year’s resolutions by February. Clearly, relying on sheer willpower isn’t enough to sustain change. To sustain change, we need to create and participate in frequent, regular checkpoints. Schedule regular retrospectives with yourself and honestly evaluate how you are doing at meeting your primary objectives for 2021.

Remember, the real data points to consider in these retrospectives shouldn’t be whether you are doing the Agile practices I suggested. It should be an evaluation of whether you are getting better at reaching your primary goals.


So, what did you decide?


There is no one size fits all for creating a better ‘you’ in the New year. You are in the driver’s seat. Keep the primary objectives in mind, use and adapt these four Agile concepts to fit you and your work. That is the whole point of Agile!

Focus on yourself and reach your goals using Agile’s practical tools. By maximizing your awesomeness, you will automatically produce awesomeness that benefits all of us. Commit to at least one of these Agile resolutions and you will get significantly closer to meeting your primary personal and professional objectives. Plus, you will be less stressed and have more time to do the things you love. 2021 is going to be a great year!