I try to live intentionally. A few years ago, I was introduced to the idea of the retrospective mindset. In professional life, it is an essential part of the agile manifesto. It is bread and butter for teams following scrum to organise their time and to make sure they deliver on their goals. I quickly adapted this mindset to the private domain of my life. It basically means to be intentional. To think about what is essential for me. Then, to set the goals that reflects where I am with my life. To work achieving these goals, and finally to reflect on what was good, what was not so good, and what I was able to achieve. The retrospective mindset is, in my option, one of the most critical characteristics of highly efficient teams. But teams are made of individuals, so I try to train myself to be more reflective and more intentional. Here is my retro on first quarter of 2020. This year is already extraordinary, and in a way, it begs to live more intentionally.
One book that was recommended to me, and I wanted to deliberately start in the new year, was Atomic Habits. It was an excellent choice. The book explains how “psychology” of habit works, what we can do to help us to create and sustain good habits, and how to get rid of bad habits from our lives. I decided to try a few things that was recommended. I made a few new goals for 2020. One of them was to read at least one book per month. Actually to listen. I bought a subscription to Audible, and I created my wish list. In the beginning, it was a few books mentioned, or recommended in Atomic Habit book itself:
- The One thing
The other big thing that happened in January was The Coffee Journeys blog launch. I prepared the platform over Christmas break 2019, and started drafting a few first blog posts. The reason I wanted to start the English blog was somehow selfish:
- I wanted to improve my written language skills.
- I also wanted to share some tips and tricks from various topics.
- And I just love coffee, so I noticed I have quite a few photos of coffee taken in multiple places.
- All of them bring memories and even thoughts that I had while I was there, sipping my coffee and thinking about the surrounding world.
I thought it would be a good theme for my blog. I decided to publish every Thursday for a year. So far, so good. I’ve been doing it, even if it’s a few paragraphs on a particular topic.
During 2019 planning we, as a family, also decided that 2020 will be a year of travel. Our kids reached the age that it seemed doable. We bought a few trips trying to find the right deals for limited time of school breaks for my older kid. I also pencilled the first draft of my business trips to make sure it all makes sense. It looked quite intense, but doable. In the end, I love travelling, so 2020 was to be a good year in this respect.
At work, we operate as an entirely virtual team. We all work remotely, mainly from homes across the globe. Once done correctly, it is a fantastic way to build a diverse, highly efficient team. I am lucky to be part of a group like this. However useful it is to work fully remote, we want to meet face to face from time to time. We call it offsite.
Every quarter we just meet in a location where one of us lives, and the rest of our group fly there for a week. We run retrospective on the previous quarter, we plan next quarter, and we just have fun together.
We met in January, not knowing it will be probably the last face to face offsite for a long time.
Posts from January
- Heroic Leadership – lessons on how to be a good leader
- Is routine good for you?
- Why coffee should be important in your relationship?
- Are you ready for power outage while you work from home?
- The art of annual review and project planning
- Leadership lessons we can learn from children
Following recommendations from the Atomic Habits book, I tried to create just one habit at the time. The very first one was to read one book per month. I knew that to make it successful, it would need to be listening to audiobooks. It was not perfect. I couldn’t take notes. I was not able to mark some fragments of the engaging text. But it was the only way to get this done. I experimented with time.
Eventually, I settled with the two timeslots during the day. One was in the morning, while I was preparing breakfast for my kids. It was about 10-15 minutes. Not much, but could be done almost every day. The other time slot was in the evening, when I was in bed. Another 10-15 minutes. And again, not super long, but if I summed all these 15 minutes slots per day, all of a sudden, it was enough to cover the whole book in one month.
Retrospective mindset requires small steps
I managed to ready not only one book, but two. And again the choice of the topic was spot on. It helped me to focus more on things that were at hand. There are always too many things that we try to do. Wherever we turn, the remedy for being too busy is to multitask, work more hours and to be more efficient. The effect – we are proficient in doing things that are not essential, tasks that may be irrelevant at the given moment, or whole projects that could be reduced to a few steps if we take time and focus on one essential, the most important thing at one moment. I started to implement the focusing question to all aspects of my private and professional life:
What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it
everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
February was also a month when the threat of the novel virus COVID-19 become real in Europe.
Post from February
- How to be brave and conquer your own fears?
- How to stay fit when working remotely – be minimalistic but consistent
- Do you consider stepping into a people leader role?
- Time management is the myth, it’s all about choices
I was still experimenting with the new habit of reading books. I managed to get some extra credits in Audible and started to fill my library with items that people recommended to me, were on various wish lists that I gathered over the years or just simply appeared on “just for you” list suggested by algorithms. It was precisely the same mechanism that I noticed with my buying the bicycles for the family saga. It took me so long to plan, think and design tasks.
Power of the focus on ONE thing
The actual progress came when I started to execute the first task. I read the first book, created a habit, made a list and then I was able to enjoy other fantastic books. One thing at the time. Planning is important, but executing the right task first is crucial. I reiterated on the One Thing theme by reading another book on this topic – Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Sometimes, when I need to do something, I need to say no to other things that I could be doing in the same time. Things that would slow me down or even stop me from doing this ONE chosen thing.
When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other thing.Essentialism, Greg McKeown
No is a choice. Yes is a responsibility.
Travelling 🧳 ✋
I planned my second business trip at the beginning of the month. It still went ahead. During this trip, the message from my HQ came, informing that we needed to take extra care when travelling, future trips were postponed or cancelled, and we should start working from home immediately. I spent the rest of this trip working from the hotel, and I rebooked my flight back to home to happen earlier.
It was not the most efficient trip, but even though we still ran a retrospective on it and implemented some improvements that are ready for the next meeting of that type. It was the second trip to Vancouver in a short period. I compiled some tips and tricks on how to mitigate the jet lag. I shared it in my blog, but very shortly after, the life showed that no one will be using them for a long time.
Crisis forcing retrospective mindset
March showed that COVID-19 is a severe threat to the whole world. Country after country started announcing lockdowns. The UK eventually joint the world effort to fight the pandemic after short episode when the government was listening to wrong advisors and was trying to experiment with herd immunity. It was a new reality for many people.
Companies which had no procedures or infrastructure were now forced to face working from home reality. Some of them thought that all situation is very temporary and was forcing their employees to come to office even weeks after it was recommended to stay home. The school get closed eventually, and it became apparent – the situation is difficult, it will require everyone’s effort to fight the novel virus.
Post from March
- What is a jet lag and how we to mitigate it?/
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k
- First aid for work from home 🔥 Most popular 🔥
- Be like a rose in my garden – never give up!
- On-line resources for working from home with kids
- 3D Augmented Reality – a snake in my shower and a bear in my garden
It was a good quarter after all. All my family is safe. For me it is almost business as usual. We are all worried, but we try to do the best from the current situation.
I am looking forward to the next quarter. In the end of the day, the best we can do is to live intentionally, cultivate retrospective mindset, learn from the past, improve, and try to be better next time. See you on the future quarter retro.