I've been thinking about what sustainable pace means. This post will be more personal and less directly related to Scrum, but it's also an example of a type of questions that get asked and answered inside the Scrum process. Maybe that way it's representative of the type of problems that Scrum tends to surface and force you to face, either in your team, your organisation or, as in this case, yourself.
It's easy to notice when you completely overdo something, but if there's nothing obvious that tells you that this next stretch is obviously going to be rough, how do you know how to keep the pace sustainable?
Some background why this is a difficult question for myself.
I'm not great at knowing my limits or realising if I'm overworking myself or not. I'm lazy enough for this to not be a problem usually, but I'm also very eager to please and very bad at giving up. Occasionally this makes me go way beyond my limits because I'm not sure where those limits were in the first place and as once things have been set in motion, I will finish them even if it breaks all bones in my body.
I've already managed to work myself into a bit of a burnout once, so nowadays I take this question seriously and approach new projects and engagements carefully.
That doesn't really make me any better at estimating how I'm doing from moment to moment, though. It's actually hard to know even what counts as working or relaxing. For example, working out and lifting weights is fun and I get a lot of energy out of it. But it's still obviously physiologically taxing to do and if I only try to relax by exercising, nothing good will come out of that.
Writing a blog or working on a book are also fun, but they are more obviously costly. I need a lot of space on my calendar to even consider starting to write and an hour spent writing leaves me noticeably tired.
Why does it work like that? Why some fun things are also hard?
One explanation utilising Internal family System (IFS) might be that there's some part in me that doesn't want to write and has to be forced into it by the parts that do want to write. This takes energy as there is an internal conflict that happens every time I try to write. This would explain why starting to write is hard and why writing tires me out, even though I also find it super enjoyable and rewarding.
The good thing about this theory is that I can run an experiment based on it. I can use IFS to work with the part that might be feeling anxious about writing and maybe turn up something useful to make writing less scary for it and therefore less costly for myself as a whole.
This was a bit of a side tangent but as it is a pretty interesting and actionable idea in an otherwise pretty abstract and hard to grasp subject, I welcome it.
Are there other experiments I could run to find out more things about my limits or what constitutes as my "pace"?
As an example, let's consider the amount of tasks.
Sometimes if there is a long list of things to handle it feels like there is a lot to do, even if all of the tasks are small or easy or enjoyable. Just seeing the long list is sort of tiring. On the other hand it's fun to tick off that long list of things once they actually get done. Doing one thing after another without wasting time or getting stuck watching cat videos on YouTube is a nice experience somewhat like being in a flow state.
On the other hand, stumbling around and having a long list of unfinished tasks after a day spent on something random is a really bad experience. One that might leave you both tired and unsatisfied.
How about the pure number of hours spent working in general? Amount of breaks had? Quality of the breaks had? All these would need actual experimenting as I'm just bad at intuiting these kind of things about myself (see the beginning of the post).
This turned out to be a harder subject than I anticipated. I will return to this subject later and maybe at that time I have tried out more things and will have some more generally applicable insights or ideas to share. Thank you for coming along on this more personal rollercoaster ride with me.