Most of us, when asked, would like to be more effective. Most of us would say we are overloaded, too busy and so feel less than effective. We seem to have too much to do and no easy way of digging ourselves out of the hole.
I have found that you can apply Scrum principles to your personal life to become more effective. The result for me is that I know what I am doing and why, I can respond at a good pace to anything coming in and I have a sustainable workload. Most importantly I feel that I am effective (hopefully my customers have the same view:-)) contributing more to their organization than I would otherwise. I've spoken to many people about this issue and the approach I've taken, especially about the email problem, but the reality is that it took a bunch of experiments to determine something that worked for me, and so it took me a long time to get there.
Many people ask specific questions on the approach I take. It comes up when I mention that I only have 5 items in my inbox. Or perhaps it comes up as people talk about using personal Kanban board. Irrespective, its been a while since I had to worry about the email queue (not backlog – while in the inbox implication is that we have to do something about it) since I keep the inbox below 5. Result is that I simply allocate a couple of “iterations” (25 mins) at the beginning of each day to deal with the influx overnight and then check it a couple of times a day.
But I didn’t start that way. I needed to set things up so that I didn't get interrupted by email all the time. This meant two things:
I started fairly simply to address both of these. For
In the end it took me about 6 months and I was below 50 on a regular basis. Getting to 10 was easy from there.
The good news is that you can probably get there faster. The best summary of how you can become more effective that I have read is in the mini-book "The 3 Pillars of Personal Effectiveness" by Troels Richter (note: requires free registration on the site to access free book).
The book turns out to be a bit of a sales pitch for a tool he is developing but I don't think that matters. The reality is that I have used the ideas here – the personal backlog prioritization to understand what to do, “mind maps” to brainstorm ideas, visualizing my workflow especially with regard to email so that I get it under control, using the Pomodoro Technique to help focus when I need focus time, personal retrospectives to look back on what I've been doing and so on. Your understanding of Scrum, agile and lean will make the ideas behind this seem self–evident, but the key here is that there are a set of things you can try that will step you along the way – Scrum / lean / agile applied to the personal world.
It does require that you step back a bit from the day-to-day hassles of work, but I the benefits will outweigh any downside.
Write-up on the basics http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730 and from the “inventor” http://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique