Why we fail achieving some sprint goals

If you live in North America, the moment you announce to your friends you are pregnant, they start asking when you are going to host a baby shower. 

But if you didn’t grow up in North America, the whole idea of a baby shower seems strange. 

What is the baby shower for? The baby is not even here yet. 

But because everyone else is doing it, you tag along thinking that there must be a reason. You just don’t know it yet. 

That was my story.

I even put organizing a baby shower as a sprint goal several times. Guess what happened? Absolutely nothing. I made zero progress on this goal. 

failed sprint goals

This is what I’ve realized.

Having a sprint goal that comes from “everyone else is doing it” rationale is highly problematic. 

Then I remembered all my other sprint goals that came from the same category. 

  • Waking up at 5 am 
  • Going on a keto diet 
  • Going to the gym every day 
  • Training for a half marathon  
  • Starting Instagram for the Monthly Method 
  • Hiring SEO specialists 
  • Going on 1-day fasts

What was the common denominator? I didn’t fully understand why I needed or wanted to do these things. 

If you asked me why I chose them for my sprint goals, I would’ve said: 

  • Because everyone else was doing it
  • Because I’d seen it on YouTube 
  • Because I’d read about it in a book
  • Because someone famous was doing it 
  • Because it seemed like a cool idea 

And guess what. None of these goals were ever completed. And none of these habits stuck. 

Having a crystal clear why for your sprint goals is essential to guarantee their completion.

The cure to the hustle culture

It was such a huge realization, I had to implement it within the Monthly Method School immediately. I now include this exercise when guiding clients through the sprint planning process. By doing this, we eliminate task waste and escape the hustle culture.

Going through each sprint candidate and asking the “why?/what is it for?” question allows us to cut the potential to-do list by at least 30-40%. 

You will be surprised how many to-do items are added to your to-do list because everybody else is doing it or it’s a normal thing to do. This is NOT a good enough reason to commit to a goal for a sprint. This is the waste that we need to cut from our sprints in order to have better focus and guarantee the completion of our sprint goals, the goals do have a clear why behind them.

  • Why do I need to do intermittent fasting?
  • Why do I need to host this event?
  • What is a birthday party for?
  • Why do I need to wake up at 5 am?
  • Why do I need to learn how to bake sourdough bread?
  • Why do I need to catch up on “The Last of Us” episodes?
  • Why do we need to have 4 date nights this month? What are the date nights for?
  • What is the newsletter for?
  • Why do I need to read 50 books this year?
  • Why do I need to go to this networking event?
  • Why do I need to have an Instagram account for my side hustle business?
  • Why do I need to renovate the basement?

Hustle culture brainwashes us into doing thousand things without fully understanding why we need to do them. We can stop this insanity at any time by simply asking the question “why do I need to do this?”

Back to the baby shower. 

I moved organizing a baby shower back to my backlog and decided I will not host a baby shower until I have a clear why for doing it. 

I was fully prepared to not host it all if I don’t find a good reason for doing it. The fact that everyone else was doing it was not a good enough reason.

Some time later, it finally hit me. I finally had a good enough why for doing it. A baby shower can be a great opportunity to see all my friends and have the last adult party, where I can hold a full conversation without being interrupted by the baby’s demands. And it’s probably going to be at least a year till I see some of these people again.

Now I had a clear why – to enjoy my last uninterrupted party on my terms with my friends. 

I put organizing a baby shower as one of my February sprint goals and completed it one sprint. I had the motivation, the energy and the focus to get it done in 3 weeks. Why? Because I had a crystal clear why for hosting this event.

Your why will influence your definition of done

Having a clear why for a goal helps you to create a clear definition of done.

My why for hosting a baby shower was for me and my husband to have a good time with our friends before the baby comes.

Everything after that went through the filter “Will it help us have a good time with our friends?”

  • Cheesy baby shower games? Gosh no.
  • Great drinks to get our friends boozed up? You bet.
  • Extensive baby shower decorations and “themes”? Nope.
  • Cooking elaborate dishes? Nope. Simplify and ask for help.

As a result, the definition of done for the sprint goal consisted only of the things that contributed to our why – us enjoying our time with our friends.

In the end, we had a very enjoyable, yet slightly unconventional baby shower.

Fun note: there were many people who thanked us for not doing any of the traditional baby shower games and entertainment. It seems like we are not the only ones who find them unbearable.


Items without a clear why don’t qualify to be a sprint goal

Next time you are planning your sprint, put all your tasks through a “why?/what is it for?” filter. If they don’t pass, put them in your backlog for now and don’t do them till you have a clear why for doing these things. 

And remember the goal is not to come up with some grandiose “I want to save the world” why. Your whys don’t have to be highly rational or profit-oriented all the time. I commit to some of my sprint goals simply because I find an activity fun and enjoyable. Some of my whys almost cross into the conspiracy theory category. Some of the whys are driven by my curiosity and my wanting to experiment with a new tool or technique.

The main goal here is to have a clear why for each of the goals and avoid committing to goals simply because everyone else is doing them.

Don’t commit to a task until you have a crystal clear why for doing it. In the meantime, it can patiently wait in your backlog.

Want more learn more about using Agile principles for personal productivity? Check out these posts:
  1. Why long-term planning is not as good as you were taught
  2. Strategies I used to finish my  master’s degree early
  3. Agile Home Renovation
  4. How I used Scrum to lose 10 pounds
  5. How I used Scrum to find a job and change career

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