How to Apply Scrum to Personal Projects
The author, Tony Henderson, is a business owner in Chicago. He has used Scrum over the years to meet personal and business goals.
Scrum is a business practice conceived, designed, applied, and marketed to make corporate operations run more smoothly. According to Scrum.org, Scrum is “a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.”
It feels like buzzword bingo to us too, but the ideas are sound.
More than 12 million businesses use Scrum regularly. And although Scrum helps teams bring a product to market, it’s easy to adapt for individuals and families to plan and achieve their own goals.
What Exactly Is Scrum?
Scrum is a process businesses can apply to their development processes to make completing projects faster.
In the business world, a Scrum team includes:
- A product owner responsible for the finished results, who may or may not outrank other team members
- The Scrum team, including everybody directly involved in producing the finished results but nobody indirectly involved
- A Scrum master to keep the process on track because of their expertise with the Scrum system
Learn more about Scrum roles.
These workers gather with a goal clearly in mind, then work toward that goal via the following steps:
- The product owner defines the task as clearly and precisely as possible, including what the finished product should resemble
- The product owner and Scrum master select team members
- The team meets to define a Sprint, a one- to four-week period of measured work. For any tasks that require more than four weeks, they subdivide out a section of the job that can reasonably be completed
- For each task, the team defines the next step and who is responsible for its completion
- Everybody gets to work
- Once a day for 10 to 15 minutes, the team meets for a daily Scrum meeting, in which they rapidly report on progress, identify roadblocks, and identify the next steps when a given job is completed
This process continues until the end of the Sprint when a Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective go over what happened, what went well, what went wrong, and how to do better in the next Sprint.
That’s Scrum in a nutshell.
Want to dig deeper into Scrum? Read ClickUp’s ultimate guide to Scrum!
Scrum works for millions of businesses worldwide, and with just some small tweaks, it can work for your home and personal life too.
In your own life, implementing Scrum begins with identifying the product owner and Scrum master. In almost all cases, both of those roles will be you. It’s your household and your set of goals, so nobody else will take responsibility for them.
You will also gather your team. Sometimes, you’re a team of one. Other times, it will be you and your spouse or you, your partner, and your children. You might also bring in outside help. Whatever your team configuration is, keep it small and get everybody on board from the beginning.
Once you’ve identified those key people, it’s time to move on to the Scrum steps for your home and personal goals.
Step 1: Define the Task
Here you define what you want to get done, starting with what it looks like when finished. Be as detailed and specific as possible. For example, “Get in shape” is not a good definition of a task. Instead try, “Lose 30 pounds and reduce my walking pace from 20 minutes per mile to 15 minutes per mile.”
Keep it results-focused and descriptive, so every step you take toward achieving it can be checked against whether or not it genuinely serves the goal you have in mind. For example:
- Business Task: Develop a user interface for a new software platform
- Home Task: Clean and organize the garage
- Personal Task: Pay off $2,500 in credit card debt
Step 2: Create a Backlog List
All project management includes a step where you break the finished result into smaller, manageable tasks and projects. In Scrum, this is known as a backlog list.
Name all of the things your team needs to accomplish to create the result you want. Be as complete as possible, even if it results in an intimidating list. The rest of the Scrum process will help you tackle that list in manageable steps.
- Business Task: Developing a user interface would involve dozens of backlog items large and small, including outsourced projects and checking in with other departments
- Home Task: You can divide cleaning and organizing the garage into smaller tasks. Those might include dividing the garage into sections, eliminating trash and setting aside items for donation, building new storage shelves, purchasing storage containers, putting everything away, and a detailed clean and polish
- Personal Task: Paying off debt requires weekly budgeting, tracking progress, and making the actual payments. It might also require logging several hours at a side gig to earn some extra income
Step 3: Sprint Planning
Sprint planning, as mentioned earlier, consists of two steps. In the first step, you identify which tasks you will work on in the next one to four weeks. For tasks you can’t finish within that time frame, break out a portion of the task to finish during this sprint.
The second step is identifying who is responsible for completing each task. Often that’s you or your partner, but kids and vendors, like a delivery company or babysitter, might become part of the team at this point.
- Business Task: A Sprint for developing the user interface would be to set specific, time-appropriate milestones for each step of development, assigning each to the most qualified member of the Scrum team
- Home Task: You might decide to make a one-week Sprint to divide the garage into seven sections and triage one (dividing all objects into keep out, store away, trash, or donate) each day. A group of roommates or family might assign different sections to different people or give everybody a subdivision of each section
- Personal Task: You might set a one-month Sprint duration and map out your efforts toward completion. This could include five hours a week driving for Uber Eats, a reduction in shopping and entertainment spending by $100 each week, and a session each Wednesday where you total up your savings and extra earnings, then make a payment via your online credit card portal. Because you won’t pay down all $2,500 in one month, you set the goal of reducing the balance by $800
Step 4: Daily Scrum
The daily Scrum is a concise, informal, and structured meeting where each team member reports on their progress. If they’re on track, that part is complete. If they’re not on track, they identify what’s blocking progress, and the team comes up with ideas on how to unblock it.
- Business Task: a stand-up meeting where everybody looks at a whiteboard, quickly and systematically engages in the process for 10 to 15 minutes, and then returns to work
- Home Task: The group might call for a daily Scrum in the early evening. Each person participating demonstrates what they have finished or explains what prevented them from succeeding. For those who didn’t finish, the team could pitch in to finish on the spot
- Personal Task: You might hold a daily Scrum with yourself, reviewing your goals for the day and checking them off or noting why you had trouble completing a task. For incomplete tasks, make a plan to help ensure success the following day
Step 5: Sprint Review
At the end of the Sprint, review the results. Compare them to the tasks set during the Sprint planning step and celebrate what went right.
Then, look at what went wrong, identify the reasons that happened, and brainstorm solutions for the next Sprint.
- Business Task: Building a new user interface would likely include some longer meetings in two discrete stages. You won’t need to go into that much detail or formality for your home and personal projects.
- Home Task: This could finish with team members gathering at the end of the week to confirm all seven sections were triaged. If yes, they would celebrate. If no, they would identify what sections didn’t get triaged, who was responsible for the shortfalls, and what they can change so the work gets done moving forward.
- Personal Task: You log on and see if you’ve reduced your balance by $800. If so, celebrate and calibrate your next Sprint based on how easy this success was. If not, look at the results from your daily Scrums to see what part of the plan isn’t working.
Step 6: Repeat
After your Sprint Review, one of two things will happen.
- If your Sprint ends with the task completed, identify a new task from the beginning and apply the Scrum method to get it done.
- If your Sprint finishes with the task incomplete, start again at the planning stage to set the details for a more successful second try.
Final Thoughts: The Scrum Values
Scrum works best when you not only use the process but adhere to five core values. Thinking about and trying to live by these can help make sure you (and any other team members) can hold up their part of the tasks you assign during each sprint. These values are:
- Courage to identify points of weakness, honestly assess performance, and always do the work
- Focus to avoid distractions and keep your eye on the prize of what achieving your goal will do to improve your life
- Commitment to yourself that you will achieve your end goals and reap their benefits
- Respect for yourself and your teammates, especially by not subjecting yourself to negative self-talk or convincing yourself you cannot succeed
- Openness to new ideas, new opportunities, and new ways of doing things
Learn more about Scrum values.
Are you interested in testing a scrum workflow to accomplish your personal projects? Why not try a project management tool like ClickUp to help you stay organized? Learn more about how to use ClickUp for Scrum!
And, of course, sign up for free today!