Applying Agile Practices to Family Vacations

using agile at home

I love our yearly trip to the beach, but I don’t like packing and getting ready to leave. I feel like an air traffic controller as I guide still sleepy children into helping with the final preparations: “Get your bags out to Dad; Take out the garbage; Feed the dog; Did you get your pillow?” Getting ready for a family vacation is hard work.

I knew our family needed a better system for getting out the door so I went on a hunt for one. I have been rereading the book The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play and Much More by Bruce Feiler. I loved it when I read it 3 years ago and I was gleaning new ideas for our family to try.

One suggestion came from  David Starr. He works in the computer industry and wrote “Agile Practices for Families: Iterating with Children and Parents.” Agile is a software development methodology that focuses on collaboration.  I had used agile as a software tester, and my husband uses it as a systems architect. But using agile at home? The thought intrigued us. So we decided to use a work in progress board with all the tasks that needed to be done before we could get leave for vacation.

All tasks for an event (or daily to-do items) are written down on sticky notes. As a person claims the task, they move the sticky note from the To Do column into the In Progress column.  When that task is finished, the person moves the task into the Complete column.

Brilliant! No more remembering all the tasks that need to be done. No more barking orders like a drill sergeant. And since the children can claim their own tasks, I was hoping they would be more eager to help to get what they think are the “good tasks.”

So I wrote all the tasks that would have to be done before we could leave:

  • Feed and water the dog
  • Help Dad load the car
  • Take out the garbage
  • Turn off all the lights
  • Load all dishes and start the dishwasher
  • Pack the cooler
  • Make sure we have headphones and movies

I presented the task list to the children and let them choose their own tasks. I wanted to see if getting out the door for vacation could run a little more smoothly without having to play air traffic controller.

And it worked!

Using agile at home

using agile at home

My board wasn’t perfect, I forgot some tasks, but the board did what I wanted. The tasks were accomplished, I wasn’t yelling and everyone was happier. I call that mission success.

I plan to make a permanent flowchart board for our family with the three columns of To Do, In Progress and Complete. I can see this idea working with Saturday chores, weekly tasks, packing, Christmas decorating, Thanksgiving cooking, and getting out the door for a day of family adventures.

How would you use a work in progress board? How could this agile practice improve your family’s task flow?


Linking up with Meghan and with Love that Max.

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