I’m definitely enamored of the idea behind dividing work into “sprints,” whether we’re talking about design or development, single days or longer time periods. I like the idea that you set your timeframe and goals, and it’s very easy to evaluate your success at the end of the sprint: did you meet your goals or not?
I wanted to take this concept, which is how I’ve broken up my days in the last few years, and put a little twist on it: I wanted to pair my daily development sprints with a real-world activity to fill in the off time: smoking a 7 pound pork shoulder. Just how much development work could I get done in the 12–14 hours it would take to cook?
For those not familiar with the concept of daily sprints, you set a goal or series of goals and break up your day in chunks of time working and then forced break periods. At the end of the day, you evaluate whether you accomplished all the work you needed to do for the day, and then plan your goals and sprints for the next work day. I prefer to work 50 minutes on, 10 minutes off when I’m working at home, and this would pair perfectly with smoking a pork shoulder: once the smoker is set up, you check the temperature about every hour, adjusting the smoker and adding fuel if necessary. The bonus to this was that at the end of my day, not only should I have gotten a solid chunk of development work done, but I’d have pulled pork to celebrate.
In the days following this sprint, I was able to add new work and some new features to the site much easier than if I’d been trying to deal with the old codebase simultaneously to building new features. Investing the time to focus on just hitting the reset button on the code powering the site payed dividends already in the time it took to build those new features.
The biggest thing I took out of this was the idea that having a simultaneous task for the break time in daily development sprints can be both helpful and rewarding. I often use that 10–15 minute off time to check Twitter or browse other websites, which can easily be distracting for longer than your intended break. Because I had a secondary task for those breaks, I went out and accomplished that task, and then came back in to work. I’m definitely going to try to incorporate this concept going forward, because it was doubly productive and rewarding.
And let’s face it, when you finish your day with 7lbs of freshly-smoked pulled pork, it makes all of that development time totally worth it.