I'm not just talking about mapping value streams, and eliminating waste, and a bunch of Japanese terms that I never bothered to memorize. Don't get me wrong: that stuff matters, too; but if you can't even find the time to read an article or two a week, how are you going to read and understand the vast lean/agile literature? Simple: you won't. You'll just keeping slaving away, at the mercy of emergency bugs, arbitrary changes in strategy, and your bosses' whims. You might not even realize how urgently you need to fix this problem. It has a way of sneaking up on you.
(Just so you know: your boss has exactly the same problems, but you need to focus on you right now, before you lose the will to do it.)
In a very strange way, you asked for this!
You became an expert at something. Or you found a really important bug. Or you fixed a really important bug. Or you thought up your product's newest killer feature. Or you completely cleaned up the build process over a weekend. You cared about your work, put your heart and soul into it, tackled a difficult problem, paced the floor, sweated a little, and you did it! Do you remember what made that possible? Laser-sharp focus. Do you remember the last time you felt that much focus? Probably not. How could you? You have five things to finish before lunch!
You made yourself a bottleneck, and now you find yourself entrenched. Your own competence has screwed you... and why? Well, that's the most important question. Once you understand that, you'll understand how to dig your way out of it. And I have news for you: you probably already know what to do, but you just don't feel comfortable doing it yet. You found this just in time.
I've been an agile consultant for a decade now, helping programmers, testers, project managers, business analysts, Scrum Masters, coaches, product owners, product managers, and most of them say the same thing:
As tempting as that would be, when I've seen people try this, the result tends to be the same: their managers find them, yell at them, and they end up right back where they started. With one difference, of course: now you're micromanaged. You already know what that means: reporting progress to your manager every two hours instead of getting things done.
You shouldn't have to run from your own competence! Don't. Instead, use it to your advantage. Let me help you rediscover a few simple techniques that will unclog your calendar, give you control over your workload, and free your mind to focus on that really urgent thing that you have to get done right now!
And don't forget: when you were kicking ass at work, it was because of laser-sharp focus. That's why you succeeded, not because you knew the most, or had the best tools. As long as the three remaining stories in this iteration keep hanging over your head, as long as you only have a few 15-minute slices available in your schedule, you'll never feel that good about your work again.
"Focus is the quintessential component of superior performance in every activity."
Yes, yes: this all sounds great, but what's it in for you? Here are some of the results I've achieved over the past ten years applying these ideas in my work:
The techniques I teach here helped me retire in 2008 at age 34.
I started feeling better about my work in less than an hour.
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I know the toll that overwork can take: I burned out in 2006 and fell into a severe depression. (I scored 72 on the Burns depression checklist.) It took me four years to dig myself out of it. I'm definitely not claiming that my advice can cure your depression, but the techniques that I've learned and used have played a significant role in improving my condition, so perhaps they can help you the same way. Whether you're depressed, frustrated, or merely overwhelmed, you owe it to yourself to feel better about your work. I feel confident that working with me will help you do exactly that.
J. B. Rainsberger
Don't misunderstand me: if you think you don't need to learn all that lean/agile stuff too, you're wrong. But I'll put it this way: I charge several thousands of dollars per day to teach programmers how to design well, business analysts how to write good examples, product owners how to slice products into sashimi-thin pieces to deliver quickly, and project managers to stop micromanaging. Even so, I can't think of a more important thing for you to learn than how to reverse the downward spiral towards burnout.
That's great, J.B.! I wish I had the time to do all that. Have you seen my calendar? I'm booked 150%! I have 12 things to do before lunch, and the work just keeps pouring in. I don't have time to make all these "improvements".
I achieved all this, even in the face of debilitating clinical depression.
I started to feel in control of my work over a weekend.
Sounds good, doesn't it? I can't tell you that you'll achieve every dream you have, and I won't feed you some line about my experience being atypical, so you shouldn't expect these results. You get out of your work what you put into it. Are you ready to feel in control of your work? Are you ready to defeat annoying distraction? Are you ready to show everyone around you just how much ass you can kick? Good!