Sprint Capacity for Personal Productivity

In continuation of the topic of agile concepts, I would like to delve deeper into an interesting idea that will be helpful in the workplace and our personal lives: Sprint Capacity. We will go through how it works in agile teams. Also, we will tackle how it can be implemented in our personal productivity.

How sprint capacity works in software development

How does Sprint Capacity work? It is used by software development teams along side Scrum concepts such as Sprint Planning, Backlog, Sprint Retrospective. Before each sprint begins, a team has a sprint planning session. One of the first steps of a sprint planning session is to calculate scprint capacity. 

Sprint capacity is the maximum workload a team can deliver in the upcoming sprint.

As a team, you look at the upcoming sprint and you ask yourselves, “Okay, what do we have going on for the next sprint?” 

You look at your calendars and look for things that will take up the team’s time in the upcoming sprint:

  • vacations
  • holidays
  • team retreats
  • corporate events
  • product launches that require extensive support

By considering all these factors, the team can accurately commit to X units of work. There are various methods for calculating these units of work. Each team decides how to compute work units in its own unique way. The process of how to come up does not really matter. However, it is essential to follow the same strategy from sprint to sprint and to be able to monitor progress. 

At the end of the Sprint Capacity evaluation exercise, you should be able to decide how many units of work a team can realistically commit to for the upcoming sprint. For example, a team can decide that the sprint capacity for their September is 20 units of work. Only then they start reviewing backlog items and selecting only 20 units of work from the backlog to commit to for September sprint. 

sprint capacity

How to apply this concept to your personal productivity

How is this applicable to your projects, goals, and productivity?

When we set goals to reach, we usually have this image of ourselves achieving them impressively. You feel cool and passionate in your imagination. However, after committing to them, you slowly feel your fire dwindling because you face difficulties. Or you feel like your productivity strategy does not work the way it is supposed to. Familiar, right? 

After using Sprint Capacity at work, I started applying it to my own life. This is what I recommend to the members of the Monthly Method as well. I ask everyone to calculate their sprint capacity before they even look at their backlog and start picking up tasks for the upcoming sprint. 

I recommend to look at their calendar for the upcoming month and see what it looks like:

  • How busy are they at work or school?
  • Are there any major school work-related deadlines that they need to prepare for?
  • How many meetings do they have?
  • Any holidays, family trips, people coming over, dinner commitments, birthday parties?
  • Any emotionally draining activities?

Furthermore, I ask people to estimate how much time they usually spend commuting, cooking, eating, cleaning, showering, and doing laundry. Calculating your time for breaks, rest, sleep, and weekends is also essential. It would be best if you also were very generous here. One of the best things you can do for your sprint planning is to prepare for being tired and not in the mood a lot.

It differs among people

In addition, it is also important to remember that every person has a different sprint capacity. Those with the freedom to manage their day in its entirety (freelancers, entrepreneurs, artists, students, stay-at-home parents, etc) will have a higher number for their sprint capacity than those with full-time jobs. 

Considering all of these, you can calculate a sprint capacity that is customized to your life.

The main benefit of calculating sprint capacity is that it serves as a boundary for creating your sprint goals. It is a stop sign for the overly ambitious but unrealistic part of your brain. Knowing that you only have 20 hours this month to work on your personal goals forces you to limit the number of projects you commit to. As a result, you have a very manageable to-do list for the upcoming month. You can feel good about it, make significant progress and avoid overwhelm.

backlog items

Next time, before you set goals for the week, look at your calendar and calculate your sprint capacity. And only after that, start planning out your goals! I bet it will lead to a more calm and productive week!

If you want to learn more about applying Agile to your life:

If you prefer an audio format, please consider subscribing to the Monthly Method Podcast.



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