June 30, 2022

How to Live an Agile Life


Salman Abdullah

Six years ago I was burned out. I was working 12-hour days, sometimes more, wasn’t fulfilled in my work, my relationship with my family was suffering, and frankly, the money just wasn’t worth it. I needed a change, so decided on a career shift into software engineering. 

Today, my life is completely different. I still work hard but there are boundaries, my family relationships are much closer and yes, the compensation is there. It was during this transition that I encountered agile software development for the first time. I quickly realized that many of its tenets can be applied to our day-to-day lives. You may be familiar with agile, but have you thought about how it can help you personally? I call it the Agile Life.

Upgrade your knowledge and be adaptable

One of the main precepts of agile is Inspect and Adopt. The idea is to review all the information about a feature before selecting a development path. Sometimes the approach you take changes radically based on that research. You have to be adaptable and open to novel ways to achieve the goal.

In our daily lives, there are numerous applications for this approach. Say you are deciding on a mortgage – perhaps you are buying your starter home. There are innumerable mortgage lenders with different products so it would be tempting to focus on getting across the lending market and picking the most competitive loan. But Inspect makes us take a broader perspective - maybe we should rent and invest elsewhere given rising interest rates? Perhaps there is a different part of town that would give us better value? Or maybe we should move cities entirely in the age of remote work? Once we have done our research, we’ll feel more comfortable in the path we adopt.

In another instance, perhaps your daughter is about to go to college. It’s a life-changing decision with multiple options. She may know nothing about agile software development, but it can give her the right mindset to tackle this challenge. Inspect and Adopt encourages her to spend time researching the options, talking to the placement team at her high school, following the social accounts of the colleges, and preparing for the site visits. She’ll probably know when she steps on campus which one is the right fit and have the conviction for her decision. Agile will give her the right approach to navigate this life choice.

Routines and transparency

Agile development involves a number of regular ceremonies - the standups, scrums, and retrospectives. I’m not suggesting a daily standup with your spouse but the idea of routines and an understanding of what your family can realistically do in the next ‘sprint’ is valuable. We’re not assigning story points to each activity, but sharing what’s on our plate and helping prioritize increases understanding. So perhaps you reduce the chores for your daughter while she’s doing that college research. Without that level of transparency, it’s easy for resentment to build up as you find the unwashed dishes left out in the kitchen for the umpteenth time.

Talk to each other

Another key concept of agile is face-to-face communication. The standups force people to talk to one another. In my prior life, there would be days when I hardly spoke to my kids. We’d exchange texts, scribble notes on the counter or leave voicemails but that was all we had time for. Today, that’s all changed and my relationship with my kids is much better. It was hard at the beginning to make the time to understand what was going on in their lives, I was so busy! But slowing down and spending time with them has helped me to support them, and to build empathy. We argue less and they are more open to conversation with me since we have that comfort level. You can’t get there with a text message. 

Having a flexible approach, doing your research, being transparent, building healthy routines, and ensuring regular and open communication are all central to agile software development. And I’d argue all make good sense for building an Agile Life. In today’s uncertain times, it feels that’s more important than ever.

Want to see what it looks like to live a day in the life of a Nexient Scrum Master? Click here to see Tehmina Medhi's typical day.

The Latest from Nexient

We're hiring

Design cutting-edge software and digital experiences for America’s most admired brands with Nexient.

Join Our Team