Intuitively, it makes sense that the shifting patterns of commerce (on demand printing, one-touch buying and shipping of products, instant downloads of media) and human interaction (tweets, insta-moments, compact rapid sharing) have emerged along side this now prevalent style of development. Humans today can choose to change and tweak entire online profiles with a few clicks and customize entire portions of their lives from clothing to media to online presence. Reflexively, the creators of new software, design or physical objects must be able to adapt quickly, in short bursts, with improvements or updates to each iteration.
Creating a fully realized work in any timespan, whether it be software or a physical object, that addresses a need and functions properly, can seem like magic, but it is really just process. The secret sauce in Agile methodology is the strict adherence to a process. It is the process that provides improved quality, productivity, and the ability to leverage new insights into powerful features or qualities.
Two great thoughts on the power of process come from Charles Eames and Chuck Close. Eames, who was well know throughout his career to revere theprocessof creating, famously asserted that, “Art resides in the quality of doing. Process is not magic.”
He felt that real insights come out of the process itself, and it shows in the enduring quality of his work. Close, who is know for his process intensive large works, also echoed this sentiment. “All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction,” he said. These are valuable words for all those whose work requires an adherence to a set plan of action.
A lengthy scan of the digital magazine rack that is the internet, reveals an interesting pattern. Nearly all the suggestions for increasing personal productivity, whether casual or professional, include the idea of standardizing the process of your work. Planning and establishing a routine are essential to a consistent and efficient output.
Two of the most popular methods of productivity for freelancers are the Pomodoro Technique and Don’t Break the Chain. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique boxes work into 25 minute intervals to create an intense period of focus and flow, rewarding the users with a break after each cycle.
Don’t Break the Chain is another simple idea of leveraging the power of process. Users mark their calendar everyday that they work on a project, the idea being that if they get enough days in a row, then they won’t want to break the chain. The strength of this productivity tool is in the process of physically working on something everyday. If you work on a certain task repeatedly it will eventually begin to feedback into itself.
Both strategies relate to Agile methods in some very basic ways. Because the Pomodoro Technique requires setting timers throughout the day, it encourages focus for incremental periods of time. By planning, tracking and recording their output, freelancers can more clearly gauge their progress, estimate costs and gather insights. Also, by taking breaks early and often, they can gain input from unrelated stimuli, which often spark some idea that will help with the current larger task.
Users of the Don’t Break the Chain style of productivity, develop a routine which helps to focus a daily cycle around one main idea. The process itself then creates more work and in turn, more insights. For freelancers working alone, consider these tools like your personal development team. Daily interaction with them ensures that projects stay on task, feedback is generated, and improvements are made.
If you work in software development, you are probably already using Agile methods on a daily basis, but if you tend to work on projects alone, perhaps some of it’s concepts can improve your productivity. Agile methods and productivity are interrelated and complimentary. In both scenarios, it’s all about the process.
For those looking to succeed in the modern world of rapidly changing wants, needs and trends, it will be advantageous to make yourself familiar with a few of these methods and strategies. They will help guide your creative process and enable you to get more done, more efficiently and with a greater sense of accomplishment at each interval. Don’t be afraid to borrow from any and all successful methods you see around you, but be sure to respect the process.