News for April 2013

No Fair, You aren’t Fighting Right!

I do not know how I got on the train of thought, but on the way home today I started thinking about a breakup I had a few years ago. It was a relationship that neither of us wanted to end at the time, but life circumstances required to happen.

This particular breakup stands out  for several reasons. The one of importance, for this entry at least, is the way it played out. One exchange that I remember well was when one of us said, “Not every breakup has to be a bad one.” The response from the other person was “this is the only bad breakup I have ever had because you are not playing by the rules!”

You see, there was no fighting back and forth, one of us was able to stay grounded thankfully and not cause the situation to get worse by fighting back. They were not playing by the rules.

When you have need for things to always follow a “set of rules” and something or someone changed those rules it can cause at the very least a state of confusion if not total panic. It leaves us scrambling to either force things into the mold of “it MUST happen like this” out trying to adapt to the new situation.

On some level, we all crave structure and an unchanging set of rules in our lives. Unfortunately, life is not that nice at times. We get thrown into situations where the usual rules do not apply and we are forced to adapt.

These days, with all the changes in the world, it is even more important to learn to adapt to new rules. Learning to adapt is a key learn to learn. If we learn to adapt, It reduces out stars and anxiety when things change.

If you are wondering, we got through the fact one of us was not playing by the rules in a positive way. We ended the relationship, but without invalidating the whole thing. We were able to end it with the good memories and  positive image of each other intact.

The conversation ended positively. While the ending of the relationship tore me apart, I left knowing we both had those memories intact. Knowing that brought me some sense of happiness.

I wanted her to walk away with the good memories intact, so she would have them for the hard times. Something she could remember and hopefully something that would help her get through them. I knew I would always hold them special and remember them when I was feeling alone and scared.

Edited: April 24th, 2013

Rush – Good Music, Rushing – Bad Way to Live

BeesI know I have written about rushing about before, but recent events during my daily commute once again bring it to the forefront of my thoughts. While the band Rush may have good music, rushing around in life is not a good thing.

I have seen rushing around cause so many problems over the years it is not funny. I have seen it cause accidents, I have seen people get knocked down, bumped into, I have seen it cause mistakes and cause more quality work products. Not only have I seen these things happen to others, but they have happened to me personally.

Rushing also causes our stress level to increase. When we rush around we constantly think I need to hurry or something that is not desirable will happen. We can easily become, and often do become, consumed with worrying about getting things done quickly. We start cutting corners and taking risks just to accomplish things in less time. The more we cut corners, the more risk we introduce to our lives and the greater the risk of our getting hurt or hurting someone else.

We can avoid the “need” to rush, by taking time to plan ahead and allow ourselves the time we need to get things done. If there are things that we cannot control that affect the amount of time we need, for example the amount of traffic we may encounter on our way to work, and then we should take that in to account and allow a little more time to get things done. There will always be times when no matter how well we plan, we wind up behind schedule and still feel a need to rush. In situations like that, we can let the impulse to rush control us and increase our stress as we start to rush around like chickens with our heads cut off or we can choose to take control of the situation by making a conscious decision not to rush. Choosing to take control of a situation is a step toward taking control of our lives in general. If we can take control in one situation, we can take control of another sitatution, then another and another. Next thing you know, it becomes second nature and we

When we rush we miss out on life, we wind up not seeing the small beautiful things around us. All too often we rush around and ignore the small things. We do not see or experience the things that can bring us joy and peace. We need to learn from Castiel, from Supernatural, and take some time to watch the bees. Watch the clip below, the season 7 episode “Reading is Fundamental, and notice how content and at peace he is. Taking time to “watch the bees” can help us experience contentment and help us be at peace with ourselves, our lives and the world around us.

Edited: April 10th, 2013

Using Work Techniques to Help Cope

Scrum WallRecently I wrote an article on Non-Traditional Sources of Help, this article talks about a specific example of using a non-traditional source for help.

At the office we use a software development framework called “Scrum”.

I am not going to go into the full definition or explanation of scrum, but will talk a little about what it is and how it is used at a very high level. Part of the scrum framework involves a “scrum wall” which lists the items we are going to develop for a specific project. You track the items as they move through the various stages of development.

Typically you track the items as ‘user stories’ which are brief statements of what needs to be done on note cards. Each item is scored and you ‘burn down’ the score on a daily basis based on what you have learned from the previous day’s work. Each day, during the daily scrum meeting with your team, you discuss what you did the day before, what you plan to do that day and what impediments you have encountered that need to be resolved. As you begin tasks you move the cards through the various stages, we use the following terms at work:

  • Product Backlog – items we need to complete during the release
  • Sprint Backlog – items from the product backlog that we will work on during the sprint. A sprint is a pre-defined time frame in which work will be completed.
  • In Process – items we have begun to work on but have not finished
  • Ready for FQT – items that we have finished our development and testing on and are ready to move to the next stage of the lifecycle.

So, how does this help at home?

This is a technique you can adapt in your home life; especially, if you have a very busy life or feel like you do not accomplish anything. It is also something you can do inexpensively and at multiple levels, making it as detailed or basic as you want. All you need to create a scrum wall is some wall space, note card/sticky pad/paper ripped to smaller pieces, tape and something to write with.

The way I plan to use it, is a very simple version, I am creating two ‘statuses’ for myself, “Backlog/Not Started” and “Started/In Progress”, once I am done, and I will simply throw the card away. I am going to use it for my blog. At times, I stress over what to blog about because I cannot think of anything, at other times I have a ‘great idea’ of what I want to write about but do not have the time to write about it. So what I am going to do is when I have an idea, but no time to write about it, I will complete a card with the topic and put it under “Backlog”, when I run into a case where I cannot figure out what to write about, I will take a card from the backlog and move it to the In Progress area.

In my case, I will not write it as a ‘user story’, rather I will use it more as a way to track my ideas and jog my memory. It will also help me keep track of where I am in the process since sometimes I start something and get side tracked and forget about the topic for months.

You do not need a blog to use this idea; you can use it for anything in your life. For example, use it to plan out your day or your week, or whatever time period you want. At the beginning of the time period, write down all the things you want/need to accomplish and put them in the “Period Backlog”.

Score them with the amount of time you think it will take, if you want. The important thing to remember, the time is just your best guess of how long it will take to complete and that estimate can go up or down based on what you did with it previously. Maybe you think that it will take you two hours to clean your home, but as you get started you realize it will only take an hour or maybe you go into the den and realize that it will take two hours just to find the den, let alone clean it. That is OK, you can revise the estimate.

If you score things, it can help plan your time period. It can help you set realistic goals on what you want to accomplish. Let’s say you have a weekly backlog and you score all the things you want/need to finish that week and you realize that the scores add up to 165 hours and you didn’t put anything up there for sleeping. That would indicate that you are trying to do too much since there are only 168 hours a week, (24 hrs. /day x 7 days/wk. = 168 hrs. /wk.), and you didn’t make time to sleep. What you would do then is go through and prioritize what are the most important things and remove some of less important things to make time for sleep.

If you use scores, burn them down on a regular basis (e.g. daily, hourly, etc.). When you burn a score down what you do is you look back at what you worked on in the previous time period and re-estimate how much time is left on the task. It can go up; it can go down or stay the same.

As you work on the tasks move them from backlog to in progress then to complete when you are done.  This will let you see all the things you have finished and all the things you are working on at any time.

Here are a few important tips if you decide to score things:

  1. Set realistic goals, pick an amount of ‘points’ you can realistically accomplish in the time period.
  2. Do not forget to leave time to sleep, eat, etc.
  3. Do not be afraid to change the estimate up or down. Remember, you are estimating things and your estimates can be wrong. They are just estimates, your best guess.
  4. Do not be afraid to leave the estimate where it is. Just because you worked on it, doesn’t mean it is closer to being done. You may have spent an hour cleaning your home, but you still believe it will take two hours to finish. That is OK!
  5. Do not be afraid to take things off the board as you are going through the time period if you do not think you will be able to finish everything. Sometimes, we think we can accomplish a lot of things at the start of a week, but as the week goes on, something comes up or takes longer than expected. If something new comes up, either put it on the backlog for the future or if it needs to be done during your time period, take an equal number of things off your current plan. You cannot do everything.

Make sure you move your cards through the various stages. It will provide a visual reminder of exactly what you are accomplishing and have accomplished during the time period as well as help you remember what you need to finish. You can also use to see if you are trying to do too much at any time and adjust how you approach things.

Edited: April 2nd, 2013

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