6 min read

Revisting My Workflow! 📓

What was I doing before?

Back in 2019, I adopted a series of steps that helped to drive what I was working on. Each project began with the same boilerplate mental checklist. It began with inspiration and ideation stages that helped to set the stage for where things should go. Next was an implemntation stage that was tightened up with an analysis stage. Afterwards, I’d clean and tie things up. Lastly, I’d be sure to spend some time to reflect and present (if things were sharable).

What happened in 2019 & 2020?

When I originally wrote about my workflow, I was not employed yet. And so this flow primarly helped to guide my personal projects and things that I was focused on for school e.g. my undergradatue honor’s thesis.

After I started working as a junior data scientist months later, some components remained while others were reimagined.

In retrospect, the inspiration stage does not happen as often. On my team, we work in terms of 2 week periods known as sprints (more on what that is). For the most part, much of what needs to be done is planned in advance. If we diverge from that plan or need to rope in new tasks, naturally, we would need to ideate. But coming up with ideas to tackle in the first place seems to happen generally at the very start of new projects. Ongoing ones usually stick to the plan.

Right before sprints start, we determine what they will entail with sprint grooming. During this process we identify tickets that we want to work on for the duration of the sprint from a pool of pre-created tasks (also known as the backlog). Often times, instead of pulling from the backlog, new tickets are made. No matter where the ticket is pulled, they are always meant to fulfill original project plans and related goals.

Tickets are discrete units of effort that we focus on during sprints. They’re like quests! Sometimes you can complete them during the sprint, but if you need more time (because you encounter unexpected issues or time sinks), they can roll-over to the next sprint(s).

For a bulk share of sprints, we spend a majority of our time implementing. So we work to write up code that fulfills goals for sprints and tickets. During this time, people either wittle down their tickets or work on any number of them at the same time. I tend to oscillate between the two depending on what I’m working on.

Increasingly, I’m realizing that analysis does not really happen in the same way it used to. Before, when I was working on one project at time, I would complete it and then look at it from a bird’s eye view as a distinct step. But now, after working for about a year and a half, I am consistently working on different chunks for multiple projects. And so the point at which I can go back and fine-tune what I’ve done doesn’t necesarily always happen at the same for every chunk of effort. Instead, when I think a ticket is completed (for whatver project), I test my code to determine if things work as I expect them to. After then, if things check out, I mark it as done; at that point, it is (ideally) considered to be work of quality. And so, the analysis step is essentially merged into what is already going on during the time set aside for implementation.

The cleaning step is another step that doesn’t happen as its own explicit step anymore. Along the way, it’s common to encounter issues or bugs that change the course of implementation efforts. As a result, it’s recommended to bundle time to address that into implementating.

Next comes reflecting and that has remained the same. I do this with my team peers during and at the end of sprints to identify victories and to help understand what went wrong and/or what could be improved.

Lastly, as a junior, it’s imperative to build up communication skills. Not everyone outside or inside my team will understand my work or know why it’s important. Consequently, it’s important to carry out presentation efforts to share what I did in an easy to pick up way. This also stayed the same from before. The only slight difference is that reflecting and presenting have switched spots in the typical order.

Here’s a recap of both workflows:

Old 🕸 New ✨
1. Inspiration Sprint Grooming
2. Ideation Implementation (includes Analysis + Cleaning steps)
3. Implementation Reflecting
4. Analysis Presenting
5. Cleaning
6. Presenting
7. Reflecting

Setting Up Boundaries in Our (Remote) World

Although a workflow helps with getting work done, in reality, it’s an idealized set of steps that may not always happen in the expected order. At work, it helps to have a sense of what to dedicate effort to given the limited and quick nature of sprints.

But if workflows help to guide work, what about life? In the midst of all the chaos and destruction caused by the pandemic, I’m finding that all that “extra time” we were “given back” from commuting and moving in physical spaces was actually helpful and needed. Figures. 😅

And so while a workflow can help bolster productivity, it’s important to make sure that work stays at work and doesn’t inevitably bleed into life given the remote state of our world. After spending the past 9 months in my apartment, for example, I realized that activities begin to blur into each other if they aren’t explicitly defined and given their own space. To avoid that, I actively make an effort to give things like work, school, eating, exercise, and relaxing distinct time slots and effort (yes, relaxing takes effort!!).

My hope is to do the next stretch of self-quarantine a little more gracefully! With vaccines rolling out, I’m looking forward to seeing how much normalcy I reclaim.

Finding Time to Build Myself Up

Something that can fit anywhere at work or in life, is finding time to invest in yourself. You can do that by continously learning new things and finding ways to expand what you already know. By saying that, I’m not even thinking solely of topics that are explicitly related to work or school. For example, to keep things exciting, I’m learning to model in 3D this winter with Devon Ko’s course, Intro to Cinema 4D for Designers.

And since we don’t move around as much because of the pandemic and now, the winter weather, exercising is more important than ever. Finding ways to get up and move in my apartment has been thrilling. After a couple months of exercising outdoors, I’m diving back into Ring Fit Adventure now that it’s colder.

And as the cherry on top, I always find time to just relax. Actively relaxing without worrying about things that could be done instead is honestly something that I’m still working on. Countless events this year have reminded me that relaxation is paramount to keeping a routine together during these weird times. It’s like glue.

Having a healthy work-life balance and finding time to pour back into yourself is only doable if relaxation is a part of the equation. Fortunately, I’m getting better at this and I wholeheartedly feel like it will help translate into better months and years to come.