Book review: Slow Productivity by Cal Newport

Slow Productivity by Cal Newport

Cal Newport is one of my favourite authors. An American non-fiction author and full professor of computer science at Georgetown University, Newport has written some of my favourite deeply insightful books:

  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (2016),
  • Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World (2019),
  • A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload (2021)

and now this book Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout (2024).

It took me a little longer to read than I had meant as I was made redundant during the first half of the book and I’ve been focused on my work situation. But I finished reading it this afternoon and I wanted to share my initial thoughts.

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Using Zoom polls for planning poker in Agile teams

Planning poker cards
Planning Poker cards from Mountain Goat Software

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about using planning poker in Agile teams, for estimating user story size. But that was when we were all sitting in the same room and not shielding from Covid-19.

Things have changed now. Here are a few options that I’ve tried.

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What rules do you have for meetings at work?

A meeting room at work that I haven’t sat in now for over a year

Hands up if you love meetingsā€¦ nobody?

It’s one of the most common complaints I hear from development teams: “Urgh! We have far too many meetings.” It’s not often true but that is their perception because the meetings felt boring and wasteful.

Meetings don’t have to be like that. I’ve just started reading a book called Meeting Design: For Managers, Makers and Everyone by Kevin M Hoffman (Two Waves Books, 2018) which I’m hoping will help me plan more productive, more meaningful gatherings in the future.

In this post, I offer a few simple rules to help meeting feel more manageable.

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What is a Definition of Ready?

Runner in the blocks, ready to race.
Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

While the Scrum Guide encourages teams to create a Definition of Done so that everyone understands what ‘done’ means, it says nothing about creating a Definition of Ready so that everyone understands what pre-conditions must be met before a user story may be allowed onto a sprint.

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Marginal gains for development teams

Header photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash

Happy new year!

Human beings have seemingly been making new year’s resolutions for around 4,000 years. There is something about the year incrementing by one that somehow encourages folks to examine their past failures and vouch to do better in the year ahead.

And yet, research (and plenty of personal experience) shows that around 80% of resolutions will be broken by the second week of February.

There is a better way.

Continue reading Marginal gains for development teams