Agile for Academic Work06 Sep 2016

Is forever chasing due dates, waiting for required study materials and asking colleagues when assignments are due part of your routine at university? Since making friends, enjoying yourself and having an overall good time seem to be the priority to a lot of students, it can often be difficult to keep track of the actual academic work you're meant to be doing.

You're also more than likely to later bring these "organizational skills" from uni to the first job - and this might be a good reason to consider learning an effective way of achieving smaller and larger goals. This is one good way of getting a small head start for your productive years ahead. How does using the ever-so popular Agile method for university courses, projects and assignments actually work and what does it bring?

Agile for Academic Work

Visualization of the things to do makes a great difference to how you think about your tasks. With due dates management support, it's very difficult to miss an exam or paper submission. By use of colours, you can easily signal study subjects or types of activity that they represent. Also, just having the workload available in front of you in a visual manner helps an awful lot.

An Agile visual board supports easy card placement on the Kanban board, so prioritizing to-dos with regards to their importance to your course gets as easy as drag-and-dropping a box from one place to another. Also, one of the greatest ways in which Agile methods like Kanban and Scrum can be of use in the learning process are their ability to be worked into each stage of the process. Starting with requirements & information gathering, through subject building and organization, the actual work and then reviews, down to the results presentation or exam. Right priorities can be set at each of these stages.

Sharing items and working on collaborative projects, part-taking in study groups becomes much less of a hustle with the use of attachable online documents and by online sharing work with your peers, using tags, check-lists, comments and assignments. At the same time, you're getting a great introduction to online team collaboration, typical of today's workplace.

By the very Kanban-like setting of a limit on how many things you are doing at once (WIP limits) - you're allowing yourself a chance to actually focus on the one item at hand, while the rest just waits in the background. This is one clever way of not getting exceedingly stressed out.

With increased focus comes better management of what information you pay attention to - instead of giving instant attention to your phone notifications, social media feed and arriving email - you're able to visually separate all activities and concentrate your attention on one of them at a time. This, in turn, can result in development of a great skill - boxing activities and tasks into separate thought-items, allowing for better order keeping in your understanding and perception of the ideas behind them.

What about peace of mind? It's easier to go out and have fun, when you know you have your work organized and planned. One look at the board - when well managed - does that exactly: it eases the mind. In other words, even if you are disorganized by nature, using a visual board gets rid of the problem this is likely to be causing. With properly managed visual board, your information will be up to date even when you yourself are not.

To sum up - not only are you getting more done in less time, you can also potentially decrease your stress levels and keep a more comprehensive overview of the progress you're making. But, perhaps the most importantly, when you consider the popularity of Agile and Lean methods at today's workplace, this is the perfect preparation for the first job that can have serious impacts on the rest of their life - can very much shape the way you see your future career and establishes your stand and expectations. As a new employee, being able to fit in with their Scrum or Kanban process is definitely going to be an asset, as more and more companies across all kinds of industries are introducing Agile methodology to manage their processes. Try it out, you'll kill 2 birds with 1 stone - get more done and earn a new position for your resume.

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