Time Management

OpenCraft's sprints are jam-packed with client tasks, forum discussions, mentoring, context switching, planning for next sprint, epic project budgets, firefighting, discoveries, more context switching.. in short, there is a lot of work to do, and only one sprint to do it in. So how do we do it all, and not go crazy?

The short answer is, we all go crazy some of the time :) But the goal is to find your own balance, with sustainable work practices that improve your productivity and lower your stress.

On this page, we'll share some tips and strategies for time management.

Take real breaks

Really. Sometimes the best way to manage your time, especially when everything feels overwhelming, is to walk away from your desk for a while -- mentally, as well as physically.

If you're having trouble working through a sticky problem, or finding it difficult to focus, or getting stuck down in the weeds of a ballpark estimate instead of staying up at the high level, that's a good time to take a break. Do something that really does take your mind away from the pressing issue: take a walk, listen to a podcast, read something unrelated, have a cup of tea, pet your cat, talk to a friend.

As with everything, the more breaks you take, the better you'll get at taking them, and at achieving the mental block release that they provide.

Assess your sprint

Every couple of days at least, it's a good idea to take stock of how your sprint is going. We suggest you print out a copy of Are you feeling productive? and keep it near your desk, as a reminder.

  1. Are you feeling unproductive?
  2. Are you running behind at all?
  3. Is this task taking longer than you estimated?
  4. Is this task more complex than it sounded?
  5. Are you doing more than the task requires?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is "yes", then it's time to do something about it.

  1. Who are the two people you should tell?
    Some suggestions are:
    • Task reviewer
    • Epic owner/reviewer
    • Sprint firefighter
    • Upstream specialist
    • Braden
    • Xavier
  2. Can you split added scope into another task?
    If yes, propose the split to:
    • Task reviewer
    • Epic owner/reviewer
  3. Can someone pick up any of your other tasks? To find out, ask:
    • Sprint firefighter
    • On Mattermost
    • During the mid-sprint meeting.

Plan your sprint

If you're consistently having difficulty finding time to complete tasks, or are always working in the evenings or on weekends when you don't want to be, then you might need to work on your sprint planning.

One approach is to map out the days in your sprint, and as you assign yourself to tasks and reviews in the upcoming sprint, block out the day(s) each task will cover. To limit context switching, try not to have more than 2-3 different tasks in a day, especially at the beginning of the sprint.

You may find another approach works better for you, but the important thing is to have a strategy, and tune it to ensure that it helps your sprint and stress levels.

Improve task estimates

If you're using the Sprint planning report to avoid overcommitting, but you find that you're consistently logging more hours than you initially estimated, then you might need to work on improving your task estimates.

If the scope of your tasks grows beyond what you expected the task to be, then it's best practice to split this extra work into another task. Splitting tasks isn't just about semantics, this is part of how we keep our client commitments within bounds and on time.

Use JIRA to list your tasks which had more hours logged than originally estimated, and at the end of each sprint, spend some time assessing them to see if you could have done anything differently. Ask your reviewer or the epic owner if they have any ideas too.