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Step 2 of getting my WIP under control: Categorizing ALL THE THINGS

by Angela 11. January 2018 19:00

I took an actual, honest-to-goodness, “no working when people aren’t paying attention: vacation for the holidays so it’s been a quiet few weeks for me. Last time I posted, I described how creating a “one version of the truth” repository for visualizing, prioritizing, managing all of my commitments was a great start to flattening out my over-commitment-then-working-crazy-hours-to-not-under-deliver roller coaster.

So once everything was in one place, my task from my coach George was to identify all of the roles I fill, both at work and at home, and create buckets for chunking up all of my To Dos. For one, I get visually overwhelmed easily, it’s a thing I recognize about myself, so it’s always more effective for me to take in small chunks of data and parse it out if I can. It also gives me another easy “filter”. So I spent some time thinking about my day, and while I sometimes felt like I filled like 20 different roles, it broke down to just 6 major themes when it came down to prioritizing what I focused on during my work day. Luckily Nozbe allows you to create “projects” for lumping things into buckets, so I started there:

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The reason this was super important for me, was that like most folks, I cannot be really effective unless I am allowed to focus. So say I have a couple of hours of unstructured time in my day, I could turn on Slack and open my Outlook Inbox and start reacting (I’ve done this, it’s not recommended), or I could decide that working on marketing focused tasks is a good idea. Combing through dozens (or hundreds!) of jumbled To Dos stresses me out, and I tend to pick what’s easy instead of what’s most important or the most effective given my mental state. For instance, if my free time is during a time of day I don’t feel particularly able to be “on” I might not pick tasks that require me to be super attentive or to think quickly on my feet. But if I’m juiced up and feeling particular inspired, I might take on sales or networking related activities. I owe a lot of this thinking to Nancy Gaines.  She is a big advocate of figuring out when your “power hours” are, batching similar activities, and managing your calendar appropriately around that.  Batching similar activities is much easier when they’re already categorized.

Of course within those categories, it’s still important to refine the lists on a regular basis. Rank them by importance, flag things that can be delegated, delete things that are no longer important (THIS IS HARD!), and when hard due dates exist, make sure they are visible. Refinement leads me to Step 3, which is developing a cadence for iterating on those lists, committing to things, and knocking it all out.  Or as George likes to say, CRUSH IT!

Stay tunes for more on cadence and planning.  

Tags:

Continuous improvement | Productivity | Agile

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It’s Getting Better All The Time - Getting ALL THE THINGS under control: Step 1

by Angela 19. December 2017 23:37

Remember that time I admitted that I had lost control of my backlogs

Admitting you have a problem is always the first step to getting back on the right path. It’s been a few weeks since I hit rock bottom on the commitment roller coaster. I have been making some great progress, which included a weekly “accountability” session (sprint reviews anyone?) with my coach, delegating things that will stagnate on my backlog (lowering WIP), and devoting some regular time to planning out and refining my weekly commitments (sprint planning and backlog refinement!).  It’ was all so obvious in hindsight, it almost hurt.

If you recall from my last post, my 3 major To-Dos were:

  1. Identify all of the roles I fulfill on a daily basis, both at Polaris and in my personal life.
  2. Start categorizing the things on my backlogs under my identified roles and prioritize them.
  3. Invest in a planning cadence to cut through the noise and focus on what is important

Turned out there were a couple of important steps that I had failed to mention. In this blog post I’ll focus on my ramp-up to my 3 step strategy. I’ve already added backlog items to write separate posts on those 3 steps, and how I tackled them. There’s a chance I may change those 3 steps by then, but that’s the beautiful thing about continuous improvement Smile

First thing I did was make sure that all of my accountabilities were visible in a single place. As much as I love OneNote, VSTS, Pipedrive, Nozbe, and my little yellow notebook, having pieces of all of my stuff live in multiple places at the same time was NOT working, no matter how well I color coded and organized everything. After some trial and error I landed on Nozbe as my one version of the truth. Things still live in those other places too, my Nozbe list isn’t something I want to expose to all of the people I collaborate with as it contains all of my personal backlog items too (ex: my boss doesn’t care about when I take all those bags of clothing to the donation shop). But for my own benefit, anything I am ultimately responsible for delivering on ends up in Nozbe no matter what. If it isn’t in Nozbe, it doesn’t exist, and it probably won’t get done.  FULL STOP.

OK, so I did make an exception with Outlook, I try to immediately deal with stuff there if I can. Something from Outlook only goes into my Nozbe backlog if it needs more thought or follow-up than a quick email response, and you can forward emails to Nozbe to add them to your list – HURRAY! It means a little duplication of effort when things need to be copied to Nozbe, but that has proven to be far less overhead than checking all of those places every day and mentally stack ranking things across multiple backlogs. And let’s be honest, that was a lot of waste.

Second part of prep was documenting my goals and keeping them visible.  It’s easier to prioritize all of your To-dos when you understand what you’re trying to accomplish, much like the team having sprint goals! I didn’t want them in yet another tool, I wanted them in my face as much as possible. One of George’s many great pieces of advice was that every week, you should do at least one thing that contributes towards hitting your goals. Ideally everything you do contributes to the goal but sometimes you just have to drop packages off at the Post Office before Tuesday so people get their gifts on time Smile In Nozbe, it just meant creating them as To-dos in a Goals bucket, marking them high priority, and making sure they appear at the top of my daily task list. Here’s a preview of what that looks like:

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I marked my goals as a high priority (note the star at far right), so when I am looking at the current week’s commitments (also starred), my goals are always included:

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Next step, To-do #1 is categorizing all my stuff into “buckets” and prioritizing. We’ll tackle that in another blog post, which will appear on that list above this coming Sunday during my weekly planning “meeting” – and we’ll talk more about my cadence for planning in yet another blog post.

I hope this has given you some ideas if you too are struggling to keep what’s most important in focus, or if you are a serial over-committer like I have been for so long.

And here’s my schill for Nozbe (complete with an affiliate link), because it really is a pretty great tool if you’re looking for something digital to manage all of your To-dos.

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Tags:

personal growth | Agile | Collaboration | Continuous improvement | Productivity

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VS Live is Coming to Chicago in 2017 and I have a $400 discount to share with you

by Angela 20. July 2017 17:38

Hey friends! In case you haven’t heard, I’ll be speaking at Visual Studio Live in Chicago this year! ::cue massive Imposter syndrome episode::  Smile

Not familiar with VS Live? Visual Studio Live! provides you with immediately usable training and education that will keep you relevant in the workforce.  You’ll hear from Microsoft folks and industry experts about the latest news, new developments in tools and processes, and get some awesome networking opportunities. The conference is happening September 18-21, so sign up soon and get that time off requested before it sells out.

I am really excited to have the chance to share some of my experiences with you at the following sessions this year:

  • Getting Your Agile Team Unstuck! Tips and Tricks for Blasting Through Common Setbacks
  • Improve Your Retrospective Outcomes with Agile Kaizen

Now for the part you really came here for – I have been extended a special offer to share with you.  As a speaker, I can extend $400 savings on the 4-day package.

Register here: http://bit.ly/CHSPK08reg, the special discount code (CHSPK08) should pre-populate for you.

Amplify your knowledge at Visual Studio Live! Chicago — bring the issues that keep you up at night and prepare to leave this event with the answers, guidance and training you need.

Tags:

VS Live | VSTS | TFS | Agile | Scrum | Continuous improvement | DevOps | ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | appl

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Get Registered for ST Louis DevUP Before Tickets Sell Out

by Angela 13. September 2016 14:27

You may be thinking, what the heck is St Louis DevUp. Well, previously you may have known this conference as St. Louis Days of .NET.  The conference is about a LOT more than just .NET, and has a shiny, new name to boot. I’m especially excited about the Next Generation Process and Tools track, but I might be biased Winking smile The full session list has been posted, so start marking your favorites, it’s going to be a hard choice this year!

We have some awesome, seasoned speaker talking about agile, scrum, test automation, DevOps, development, data data data, and so much more,  And there are a TON of tracks to choose from:

Web Development JavaScript Development Mobile Development
DevOps Automation & Tooling Data Everywhere! Quick, Yet Correct
The Modern Day Architect Soaring to the Cloud Next Generation Cloud
Next Generation Processes & Tools Career & Soft Skills Cool & Fun

 

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Chicago DevOps Community Roadshow–April 2016 Recap

by Angela 22. April 2016 09:41

Last week myself and some of my favorite community leaders and MVPs were able to deliver a free community event focusing on DevOps practices and tools thanks to the generosity of Microsoft. Not only did Microsoft provide the great venue for free, but they also supplied the funding that covered a great hot breakfast, beverages, and a Microsoft Band 2 for the raffle!

2016-04-15 07.26.31

We had over 100 people register, and people started trickling in early. We had a surprising number of enthusiastic attendees already seated and ready for Jim’s 8:30am keynote!

2016-04-15 08.37.10

Next we had some great talks by Landan, Erik, Chris, Min, and Greg. Topics included continuous integration with Visual Studio and TFS 2015, environment provisioning and DSC with Azure, release management with TFS RM and Octopus Deploy, and metrics and monitoring with Application Insights and SonarQube.

2016-04-15 08.50.042016-04-15 09.43.392016-04-15 10.54.122016-04-15 11.22.08

 

There was a lot of great discussion, some awesome demos, and everyone had a great time. Thanks again to my rock star team - Eric Boyd, Landan Rotter, Angela Dugan, Greg Levenhagen, Chris Taylor, Jim Szubryt, and Min Maung - who seems to not really like any of us enough to stand next to us Smile

2016-04-15 12.57.28-1

Slides from the event are still being uploaded, but you’ll be able to access everything here. Thanks again for attending, and if you didn’t make it and would like to learn more about any of these topics, shout at me on email (via the link at the bottom of this blog post) or twitter and I’ll connect you with the right people!

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Discover TFS 2015 and VSTS Build Services with Paul Hacker At the Chicago ALM Meetup on April 13th

by Angela 1. April 2016 09:51

In case you missed it, Update 2 for both Visual Studio 2015 and TFS 2105 were announced at //Build yesterday! Be sure to download it and check out the new features as soon as you get a chance, you won’t regret it J One of the biggest changes in TFS 2015 is the new build system. It can be a bit overwhelming to get ramped up on all of the new features, so this next meeting will be a great way to get your feet wet.

Getting Started with Team Foundation Server 2015 Build

Team Foundation Server (TFS) has a powerful build system for years. Nevertheless, TFS 2015 introduces a completely new system. Wondering what this is about and why (again) belongs to something new to you? Join us to explore the next generation of TFS build system and learn more about the background, the technical implementation and the benefits (eg, Cross-Platform builds).

Please note - Many people have requested an earlier starting time, so we're giving it a try. Dinner now starts at 6:00pm and the presentation will start at 6:30pm. See you there!

Speaker Bio:

Paul Hacker has over 15 years of application architecture, design, development, and management expertise in Microsoft technologies. Paul has a depth of experience in ALM, Process Improvement, and Team Foundation Server.  Having distinguished himself as a leader in the IT industry he has been awarded the distinction of Microsoft MVP in the ALM category every year since 2006. Over the years Paul has proven his expertise in Application Lifecycle Management and has demonstrated his professionalism and commitment to the continuous process of managing the life of an application through governance, development and maintenance.

Check out Paul's blog, and listen for him sharing exciting VSTS/TFS news and updates on the RadioTFS podcast!

Join Us Wednesday, April 13, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Location:Microsoft-Chicago 200 E Randolph, 2nd Floor, Chicago

Agenda:6:00 Dinner and networking, 6:30pm Main Presentation

*I know parking is pricey in the city so please don't overpay for it. SpotHero has some great parking very near to the Aon Center for as little as $10, I use them and I love the service!

P.S. Don’t forget to register, Aon center security requires it.

Tags:

TFS | TFS 2015 | Team Foundation Server | Build Automation | Continuous Delivery | Continuous deployment | Continuous improvement | Visual Studio | Visual Studio 2015 | Visual Studio Team Services | Con | vis

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Improve your Retrospectives with Agile Kaizen!– Feb 17th at the Chicago ALM User Group

by Angela 8. February 2016 11:18

Continuous self-improvement on agile teams is traditionally done through agile retrospectives, a form of post-mortem held at the completion of an iteration. More often than not, retrospectives begin to fade and the list of action items keeps growing until teams simply succumb to business-as-usual practices. In some cases, teams eventually abandon retrospectives altogether because they feel like a waste of time! I’ve seen it happen, it is NOT pretty.

  1. Do you feel like your retrospectives are a death march where no one is actively participating?
  2. Do the same problems seem to resurface repeatedly?
  3. Are your retrospectives ending prematurely or being cancelled in favor of "getting more real work done"?
  4. Or maybe you feel great about your agile retrospectives, but just want to learn more about Kaizen...

Join Angela as she leads this interactive discussion about how you can use Kaizen to analyze and improve your agile retrospectives. She will begin with a brief review of what an agile retrospective is, and walk through some retrospective scenarios she has experienced on her own scrum teams.  Angela will then explain the concept of Kaizen, and walk through the Kaizen process.  Lastly, Angela will demonstrate how you can use a Kaizen process to turn your agile retrospectives back into the effective continuous improvement tools they are meant to be!

RSVP

Location:Microsoft-Chicago 200 E Randolph, 2nd Floor, Chicago

Date and time: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Agenda:6:30 Dinner and networking, 7:00pm Main Speaker Presentation

Speaker Bio: Angela Dugan is a Principal Consultant and the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) Practice Manager for Polaris Solutions, a small .NET development and ALM consulting firm based out of Chicago, Denver, and St. Louis. Angela has been in software development filling various roles since 1999, including 5 years at Microsoft. In 2011, she followed her passion back into the consulting world where she could be far more hands-on with her customers and play a greater role in the local tech community. Angela runs the Chicago ALM user group, is an active organizer and speaker at several local conferences including Chicago Code Camp and ThatConference, is a Microsoft ALM MVP, a Certified Scrum master, and a certified SAFe Program Consultant.

Outside of wrangling TFS, Angela is an avid board gamer, a chicken farmer (seriously, they have chickens!), an aspiring runner, a blogger, and a Twitter addict. She lives in a 1910 house in Oak Park that she is constantly working on/cursing at with her husband David.

Please don’t forget to register, Aon center security requires it!  I know parking is pricey in the city so please don't overpay for it. SpotHero has some great parking very near to the Aon Center for as little as $10, I use them and I love the service!

 

Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Agile | Kaizen | Scrum | Software Development Lifecycle Management | Continuous improvement

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