Writing rules of engagementWriting a book, like any endeavour that takes time, can have its challenges. There are times when you are so motivated and inspired you can go on forever, and there are other times where it seems hard and you feel like you want to quit. Just like life, there are ups and there are downs. A project that uses agile principles has a better chance of being engaging throughout. Here are some strategies I used while writing my book to stay engaged and on track.

1. Ask for help

In any project or change, you are not expected to do it all yourself, no matter what your role. Sometimes many people depend upon you for specific outcomes that are all due at the same time. Even when you are the specialist, there are always people to reach out to help lighten the load. Don’t think about just your day to day job tasks, but bigger. For example, if you have back to back meetings, why not reach out to a work colleague to grab you a sandwich or a coffee? During the course of writing The Agile Project Manager, I reached out for loads of feedback from people I trusted. And their feedback made all the difference. People love helping others (how good do you feel when you help someone?), so go on and ask for some help to ease your workload.

2. Keep it boring

What? I thought projects were supposed to be exciting? In a word: No. Projects, when well thought out, should run as smoothly as possible, with issues along the way that were beyond anyone’s thinking at the start. The more thinking that’s done at the start, and the more commonness approach to planning ahead, the better things are. You would never try and do a house move in a few hours across a city with a major sporting event that day ¬†with no preparation would you? You would plan ahead, giving yourself maximum time for any problems. And you would be (mostly) packed before the removal truck arrived. I planned out what I was going to write in advance, then anticipated issues that might hold me up (nights out, working late etc) and had plans to take that into account. In The Agile Project Manager, I talk about why we sometimes make things hard for ourselves and how we can overcome this.

3. Keep it consistent

A project using agile principles has a regular cadence of events. The team get together on a daily, weekly and fortnightly basis to conduct ceremonies aimed at bringing more clarity to the work required through a spirit of collaboration. The team knows when the ceremonies are (in fact, the team decide when they should happen based upon how they best work), and commit to turn up on time and participate fully. This is what keeps the project going. With my writing, I aimed to write every day. The first thing I did (and still do) every day is write. On the rare occasion I don’t, I write in the evening. I use 750words.com. to keep me accountable and motivated.

4. Reward yourself

According to Dr Jason Fox, our brains respond very positively to visible progress. Too often we are already moving on to the next thing without celebrating the completion of something. This is not good. Because when we stop and celebrate, we are essentially telling our unconscious mind that what we did was great, and we should do it (or something similar) again. Our unconscious mind then helps us work through the next thing. And this is great, because our unconscious mind never rests. It’s like having a motivated assistant working for us 24×7 for free! ¬†Reward yourself and reward your team. They are worth it!

So there you go. What are some strategies you use to keep on track? How might embracing some agile techniques help you?