Agile Home Renovation

When I was just first learning about Agile and Scrum, I was trying to read as many books as I could on the topic. And one of the books talked about a guy applying Agile to his home renovation project. That was the first time I learned that you can do agile home renovation. As a result, when we recently moved into our new house and we wanted to spruce it up a little bit, I decided to apply agile to this project as well. I’ve applied agile principles to other areas of my life and got good results. Why not apply it here as well?

Note: most of the renovations we are doing are decorative projects that we are capable of doing ourselves (decorating, painting walls, getting new furniture, installing kitchen backsplash). If you require major architectural changes, some of the advice below might not be applicable in your case.

Agile Home Renovation Principle #1: Work in Sprints

Withing the Monthly Method, we do three-week sprints and then take one week off. I decided to stick with the same routine for the renovation projects as well. I narrowed down the focus to just one room per sprint.

agile home renovations

Less overwhelm

It’s been working really well because it makes the renovation process a lot less overwhelming. You focus on one area at a time. When you go to Home Depot, you only focus on the things you need to buy for this one room. When you are picking colours for the room,  you only need to make a decision for this one room. When you are buying decorations, again, you are only focusing on this one room.  As a result, there are not many things that can distract or overwhelm you when you keep your focus narrowed down to one room at a time.

Keeps expenses under control

Focusing on one room per sprint helps to keep expenses spread out evenly throughout the year.  You’re not buying all the paint at once or all the decoration at once. You buy a little bit each sprint, just enough to cover one room.

Less messy

The most frustrating part of home renovations for me is how messy it gets. Your house is permanently in a state of chaos. However, if you just keep the renovations contained in one room every sprint, it keeps the mess contained in that one room. There is only one room that is messy at any given time. You can keep other rooms relatively clean and organized. I find it way better for my mental well-being when I can close the door to that room for the night and enjoy the rest of my house being tidy.

Keeps it fresh and interesting

Also keeping it to one room per sprint keeps it interesting because your rooms keep changing every sprint.  You don’t really get tired of renovating in the same room all the time. It doesn’t get old.

Keeps the scope of work realistic

You can only do so much in a sprint.  It doesn’t allow the renovation project to balloon out of proportion as a lot of projects tend to do.

Having a sprint deadline gets you motivated

I decided to renovate my rooms in the rotational cycle. I divided my house into 12 areas (including outside of the house). I focus on one area per sprint. I get as much done in one sprint on this area and I move to the next area in the next sprint. Next year, I’ll come back to these areas and improve on them even further. That way, each area of the house gets looked after at least once a year.

It gives me this extra motivation to get things done because I only have one month to work on each room. And after this, I am not renovating this room till next year. It turns out that having this deadline and the next room waiting to be renovated is very motivating. It’s like having a deadline for an assignment at school. It helps me prioritize, focus on the things that are the most essential and get those done.

Agile Home Renovation Principle #2: Evaluate sprint capacity

Before I decide which room I’m working on for the upcoming sprint, I look at my calendar. I look at my workload, commitments, appointments, meetings, upcoming travel, and other projects and realistically evaluate how much time I have in the upcoming month.

Some months I have more time.  Some months I have less time. Summers are definitely busier with commitments and travel. Fall and winter sprints tend to be quieter. And that’s okay. That’s the whole point of evaluating sprint capacity under Agile. Life happens. Take an honest look at your calendar and only commit to the workload that fits your availability for the upcoming sprint.


 Principle #3: Definition of done

This is my favourite Agile concept that I’ve learned by being a product manager and learning about Scrum. It is the definition of done.  I wrote an entire blog post on it. If you can adopt just one Agile concept, let it be the Definition of Done.

A definition of done is a statement that shows you when you are done. It is created to avoid subjectivity in goal setting. You don’t want to set a goal of making a room look nicer. What does it mean? Nicer means something different to me than it is to you. And when is nicer done? In theory, you can continue making something nicer indefinitely.  

The definition of done will require you to include some very objective criteria for defining your renovation sprint goals.

Sprint goal: Decorate the living room

Definition of Done: walls are painted, wall art is hung, a new area rug is put under the coffee table, and a fresh set of pillows and throws are purchased. 

That’s a very clear definition of what decorating the living room will look like for this sprint. And I come to your living room tomorrow and look at this Definition of Done,  I will be able to tell you with 100% certainty if you’ve achieved your sprint goal or not. That’s the whole point of the Definition of Done. A random person from the street can look at the definition of done, look at the project and make a conclusive decision if the project is complete or not.

 Principle #4: Moving things to done

The next scrum principle that I’ve adapted is to focus on moving things to done and limiting the number of tasks that are in progress.

In good scrum teams, there is a rule of how many tasks are allowed to be in the “in progress” column. As a developer, you are supposed to take one task and move it from one stage to another focusing on moving it to the last column called “Done”. Only when you moved a task all the way to done, you are allowed to take on the next task. It is the opposite of multitasking.

If at any given point, the team has a lot of tasks in “in progress” column, the team focuses on helping each other moving things to “done” before they start on any new tasks.

You can apply the same idea to home innovation projects.  Just can choose to focus on one task at a time and move it to done as fast as you can. And by done I mean the tools are cleaned up and put away. You have no trace of this project being left undone. Once everything is cleaned up, you can move to the next task.

If you work with someone, each of you can pick a task and focus on moving this task to done. Or you can work together on moving a single task to done as soon as possible.


 Principle #5: Daily stand up

The final agile idea I can offer you is to embrace the idea of a daily standup. Of course, it works really well if you are working with someone on your renovation project. But even if you work by yourself, it might be quite helpful.

Every morning answer these questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday on this renovation project?
  2. What am I planning to do today?
  3. Are there any blockers?

The third question is extremely helpful when working with someone on any project. They can potentially unblock you by sharing their knowledge, giving valuable advice, brainstorming a solution or simply lending a hand.

Daily standups set the right tone for the day. And instead of getting annoyed at each other and building resentment for the fact that the other person is not understanding how much you are struggling with something, you get to talk about anything that is blocking you on a daily basis and help each other out.

This is what I’ve learned and applied over the last eight months. It’s working well. Most of all, it helps to keep renovations emotionally manageable. I hope you can apply some of these ideas to your next renovation project!

Read next:
    1. Mind trick for starting a new habit and building consistency
    2. The Happy Path Concept
    3. How many sprints does it take to build a habit?

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