It is likely that you have come across the all-too hip (and hyped) term agile these days. “Agile” suggests the ability to be quick and nimble, like a cheetah or gazelle with a touch of gracefulness. Agile suggests to a fast-paced generation of professionals that they are moving forward skillfully. Don’t we all wish our writing projects could be accomplished quickly and with a touch of grace?
Thus, we start our conversations about our semester writing with the value of agile systems for your planning and scheduling—with a dose of realism. Agile methods may not make your research or scholarly writing topics less complex, but they do have the capacity to help you stay in touch your project, to keep its tasks in sight, and to build momentum—and your project—over time.
As academics who work on extended writing projects, we benefit from systems that keep us on task with greater ease. MIT’s Jeff Sutherland devised Agile methods for software development as a corrective to the more static waterfall or Gantt chart systems. The latter require significant project planning to ensure all tasks, steps, and deadlines are identified upfront, and that all contributors to the project know what to do when. Within a couple missed writing sessions, these systems can become “best laid plans” that no longer serve our current and changed timelines.
Agile systems are more flexible. The tasks and timelines are generated daily, weekly, and monthly (or semesterly, if you wish). CSU Writes brings agile scheduling techniques to our workshops and retreats (and has since 2015) because extended, and sometimes messy, writing projects (and lives) benefit from regular check-ins and connections.
Check-in routinely with your writing project (or your multiple projects) to assess their status. Daily check-in: What project tasks are doable today? What immediate tasks (reading, email, etc.), if completed, will help support writing for the next couple weeks? Weekly check-in: What chunk of tasks are doable? Monthly check-in: Is your project still on schedule?
Agile systems build-in the capacity to make necessary changes to a project when the unexpected or serendipitous arises because you are regularly checking in with the status of project. As the name implies, “agile” systems allow for you to move your project forward with flexibility and grace. This semester, CSU Writes will describe agile methods in our semester planning workshops for individual writers and in one of our collaborative writing workshops for pairs or teams. We’ll practice checking in regularly in the retreats. May your writing projects this semester become more nimble and serve your whole self and life with grace.