Tackle Life Together

A blog by Sally Waters

sally [at] homescrum .co.uk

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one pawn alone next to group of other pawns

Why you can’t do Home Scrum by yourself

A major difference between Scrum and other productivity systems is that it is not designed to be used alone. Asking for help from someone else can be a daunting and unappealing prospect, but once you’ve navigated this first hurdle, your Home Scrum system is far more likely to succeed. I’ve made it as easy as possible by providing ‘scripts’ for the potential conversation, whether it’s with a house-mate, partner or family member, including children of different ages. If you live alone, you could still connect with a family-member or friend online, or find someone in a similar situation through our online community.

Why you can’t do Home Scrum by yourself

No small plastic game-piece is an island

Scrum is not intended to be used alone; it is meant for teams. This already separates it from a lot of other productivity systems out there, which sell us on the idea that we can have complete control over our own lives without ever having to rely on others. However, when we isolate ourselves like this, we are at the mercy of our brains and environments. If our mental health, executive functioning, and circumstances are not in top-notch condition (which is the case for a great many of us), our behaviour can wander a long way from our intentions. If we stay entirely within the echo-chambers of our own imagination and beliefs, we can easily fool ourselves into thinking that we should be entirely capable of getting a grip and taking control of our lives. To be clear, we are capable of change and improvement, but we don’t have to (and we might not be able to) do it all by ourselves.

It’s easy to focus on the physical aspects of Home Scrum: the board, and the tasks. However, Scrum is not only made up of the visible aspects. It is also a series of actions—really, four different types of team meetings. Nothing about them is difficult to understand, but it is difficult to actually do them, and to do them consistently. But these actions are what become part of your home environment, much more than the physical board, so that they are part of the culture of your household and thus have the power to help you change other things about your life.

Side-note: Consistency is difficult

Why is consistency so damn hard to achieve? I’ve read a lot about forming habits, and in the past I’ve seen them as a tantalising promise; if I could just adhere to a habit for long enough, then it would become easy, automatic, be completely built-in to my lifestyle and provide the foundations for transforming myself into a new and better person.

However, one thing I have learned is that habits (at least the positive, healthy ones) are generally really small. Brushing your teeth is about as big as it gets for the actions you might have ingrained as automatic and completely neutral in your mind. Something bigger, like, say, going for a run, could certainly become a very solid routine, but in my experience it never seems to become something to which I don’t have to consciously commit. I might maintain running (or some other exercise) for several weeks or even months at a time, but then lapse, and not be able to see how I ever kept that routine going in the first place. Then again, I don’t really have the healthiest habits; maybe people who actually do have healthy lifestyles would say that it has somehow become easy because they look forward to doing it.

Anyway, if you have ADHD, or for any other reason find yourself reacting in an emotionally negative way to the feeling of expectation or obligation being placed on you (even by yourself), then you likely find consistency very difficult. 

I find that doing something for someone else can be more motivating than doing it for yourself. I’ve certainly found that I might have an anxiety attack in one situation, and then be entirely in control and confident in exactly the same situation if there’s someone there who needs me to be in control.

This is where having at least one other person in your Scrum team is absolutely crucial. I find it’s less about being accountable to the others in your team as it is doing it because they need you to. If you can frame doing the Scrum events as doing something to help someone else in your team, then that might help you suggest, “Time for Scrum?”, even when you don’t feel like it.

In short, you need to do Home Scrum with at least one other person because sharing your plans with others makes them more real, more realistic, and more likely to happen. Besides which, working with others on your Scrum system makes it genuinely fun.

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