Daily Standup for Personal Productivity

The daily standup is one of the core meetings in scrum teams. I want to give you some ideas on how you can bring the core principles of the daily standups to your own productivity as an individual.

Daily standups in Scrum Teams

During the daily standup, a scrum team gets together. Ideally, everyone is standing up. And they quickly go through these three questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What am I going to do today?
  3. Is there anything blocking me?

This meeting lasts 15 minutes max. It’s supposed to be very short and concise. That’s why everyone is ideally be standing up during this meeting. The logic is that you get tired a lot faster when you’re standing up than when you’re sitting down. That’s why it’s called a daily standup.

The goal of this meeting is to sync the team and eliminate as many emails and slack messages throughout the day as possible. If you know that you have a daily meeting with your entire team, you can just focus on your work and save all the questions and updates for the daily standup.

And it also eliminates those traditional long update meetings once every two weeks that are so commonly held in non-agile teams. The scrum/agile teams choose to have shorter meetings but more often.

The main objective here is to eliminate any blockers as quickly as possible. Question #3, “Is there anything blocking me?” is the most important question in my opinion. It allows the team to move fast.

Let’s see how you as an individual can adopt very similar questions to your own productivity.

Daily Standup Questions for Personal Life

1. What did I do yesterday?

I personally use this question as an opportunity to quickly update my project management software, my to-do apps, and my schedule. I would quickly update all the tasks that I’ve completed for the day. I can quickly go through my schedule and cross out everything that I have done.

It is a quick daily clean-up of your productivity system. You can move tasks from one column to another if you’re using a Kanban approach. You can cross off tasks if you are using a paper planner. We just want to make sure that our productivity system is up-to-date.

2. What am I doing today?

This question gives you an opportunity to look at your strategic plan on a daily basis and decide what tasks you commit to today. If you’re following the Monthly Method, you reference your weekly plan. This is also a great opportunity to prioritize all of your tasks. Not everything matters equally.

This is when I also look at my schedule. How many meetings do I have today? How much work can I realistically do today with all these meetings?

Another thing that I suggest you do is time blocking. After you look at your schedule and your strategic goals, it’s time to time-block your day. This is what will guarantee that all the selected tasks will be done.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It takes me 2 minutes to time block my entire day. So it’s not a huge time commitment, but the return on investment is tremendous. I wrote more on time blocking here and here.

3. Is there anything blocking me?

I like to rephrase this question ask myself, “How can I make it easier for myself to do all the things I want to get done?

And there are several things that usually come to mind:

Mindset

That’s where I recommend using the 10X Coffee Practice tool. I often find that struggle and resistance come from the mindset. And if you fix this piece of a puzzle, acting on your goals becomes a lot easier.

Prep your food the night before

If I know that I’m going to have a busy day tomorrow, one of the best things I can do for myself to make acting on my goals easier is to take care of all the little mundane things for my future self.

And one of them is food. Food takes a lot of thought and planning if it’s not done at the right time. I don’t want to make all these decisions tomorrow. Tomorrow I have meetings with clients, I have my full-time job and I go to the gym. I want to decide the night before, pack everything nicely and have it ready for me to grab the next day. It’s a true act of self-care.

Pack workout clothes the night before

Let’s say I have a busy schedule and I want to go to the gym tomorrow. When I ask myself, “How can I make it easier for myself?”, I know that if I pack everything I need for the gym the night before, it will make going to the gym easier.

Ask for help

Not everything needs to be done immediately and not everything needs to be done by you. I am learning to delegate as much as possible. Doing it at work is easy for you. However, doing it at home is more challenging. I am learning to ask for help with cleaning the house, cooking dinner, doing grocery shopping, etc.

Give yourself more time

Instead of packing my schedule to the very minute, I might choose to remove 1-2 tasks off my plate. And just giving myself plenty of time to finish each task during the day makes it easier to finish the tasks of the selected task because I don’t feel as stressed out.

Go to places and environments that support this activity

If you want to do thoughtful work, brainstorming, strategy work, then sitting in your busy living room with the kids running around is not ideal. Going to a coffee shop, a library, or a co-working place might be a good idea. It will make acting on your goal of doing deep thinking work a lot easier.

Maybe it’s not you physically going to another place. Maybe it’s asking your loved ones to be quiet for an hour or go for a walk or just give you enough time and space to get your work done.

Daily standup the night before

You don’t have to do all planning in the morning. In fact, I prefer to do it the night before. A lot of my clients prefer to do it the night before, too. I do it because I am not a morning person. I do wake up early, but I’m not in my best mood when I do that. That’s why I prefer to do much of the planning, packing and prepping the night before. Some other clients do it because they simply don’t have time in the morning. Try it for yourself – do your daily standups the night before.

If you decide to do the daily standup the night before, the three questions will look like this:

  1. What did I do today?
  2. What am I going to do tomorrow?
  3. Is there anything blocking me? OR How can I make acting on my goals easier tomorrow?

You don’t have to spend hours responding to these three questions. Remember scrum teams spent 15 minutes maximum on this meeting. And to give you an idea of how quickly the meeting goes, right now I’m a part of 2 daily standup meetings at my full-time job. Each of the teams has 7 seven engineers. 15 minutes / 7 engineers = 2 minutes per person. That’s how quickly it goes. Don’t overcomplicate it. It’s NOT the time to go into deep reflection, journalling and self-discovery.

It should be very quick and painless. It’s just a quick opportunity to catch up on your plan for tomorrow, do some prep work to make it a little easier for your future self. That’s it.

Pick this one question

Even if you decide to do just one question out of three, I recommend doing question #3, “How can I make acting on my goals easier tomorrow?” Set yourself up for success. And it’s not about huge things.

It’s little things like packing your bag the night before.

Packing your workout clothes the night.

Packing your lunch the night before.

Why does it work?

It’s much easier to show up for your goals when you know that your past self took care of your present self. And your present self is very grateful for all those packed lunches and clothes.

Your present self is more motivated to go and do the work that is needed for the future self. 

It is this beautiful cycle. I talked more about it here: How to Create and Follow Your Schedule.

Question for you

I would love to hear about your routine. How does the daily standup look for you? And if you worked in teams that use scrum or agile, what are some of the best principles and practices that you’ve adopted for your own life. Send me a quick note! I’d love to hear.

Join us for the next Monthly Method sprint


Read next:
    1. Not all habits are created equal
    2. The importance of setting non-work goals
    3. Why my clients stop watching Netflix and YouTube

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