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What Did You Do Yesterday?

Can you answer that question now? There are people who can, everything is kept in mind and they can easily describe their previous work day.
Instead if this sounds a hard question to you, well you're not alone. In my case it can be quite complicated to produce a good picture of my previous day. This is a recurring question at stand-up meetings for Scrum practitioners.
Scrum is a project management method aimed at boosting productivity. Widely used among high-tech companies as a tool or even a working style.
Scrum is based on very brief meetings where all attendees stand up and in turn tell about their progress, or flag issues if any. It's a matter of few minutes and everybody in the team has a clue of how things are going on.
This happens smoothly and quickly, a stand-up meeting shouldn't take more than a tens of minutes.
Quite different than a standard meeting.



Stand-up Meetings

I'm a Scrum enthusiast and have used it at work for some 6 years.
What I like most is the efficient way to share how a team is moving forward. Stand-up meetings are the key to communicate and save time.
I like Scrum, in 10 minutes the whole team can catch up and share any important project info.
Most of all, in case of impediments the daily meetings allow to flag them clearly and keep up to date.
Anyway – in every stand-up meeting – there's a hard question for me to answer: what did I do yesterday?

For the purpose of Scrum methodology that's when all your team-mates know what you're up to.
You don't have to go deep into details, no long explanations, no white-boarding is required, no context, just get to the point and in few words tell other attendees what you did yesterday and if you were blocked on some issue. That's that.

The counterpart is that a short description may sometimes lack some of the important nuances of communication and become incomplete or even misleading.
Especially when some details are skipped because of memory lapses.
We all know our memory can fail and this is not necessarily a sign of dementia. There are various aspects affecting our ability to remember things, like the lack of sleep, stress, alcohol to name a few.
I'm one of those people who barely can tell what happened in the past days. Should I answer now - at the time I'm writing this page - what I did yesterday?
Yesterday I did.. some debugging, wrote an email,... Well, my genuine answer would be: sorry, I can't remember. Which is in fact the truth. I can roughly provide a vague description of the tasks I worked yesterday, and what's worse I can even forget to mention some of them at all. As a result my poor report could even give the wrong impression that yesterday my work engagement was not that great. That's not true, yesterday I worked after hours and was a long work day. This is something I know very well and I wouldn't be surprized to see big differences when I compare my best description of what I did yesterday with my detailed to do list of yesterday.

"People are spectacularly bad at doing things with agility and efficiency.
Best laid plans go up in smoke. Teams often work at cross purposes to each other. And when the pressure rises, unhappiness soars."


At the daily stand-up meetings it's important everybody gives a clear yet concise picture of what happened and how things are going on.

First solution: make use of a notepad.
This helped me enough but not that much. I was not so diligent to jot down all my activitities during the day.
Some important detail was still missing.

Second solution: Use XorTime and watch the previous To Do list.
This gave me a clear picture of the tasks I worked in the last day. The counterpart was to have too many details.
What I needed was just an overall description of the worked tasks. An overall count of the time spent on each project.

Third solution: I added a new page to XorTime called 'Previous Day' .
This page reports what tasks were worked yesterday and which was their effort.

Previous Day page


Also, the pie-chart on the left gives you a quick overview about what kind of activities involved you mostly.
The pie-chart on the right shows the time spent per project.

It started as a hidden feature because it was created just for my own needs. In fact the page was not visible unless you typed a special combination of keys.
Later on I saw my work-mates were willing to adopt it, so I released a version with it.

XorTime Previous Day Page

All the tasks you worked yesterday - or the last day you launched XorTime - are listed in this page.
Tasks that were completed are grouped first.

More details here

Beside the Scrum meetings, this page allows you to keep an eye on your efficiency. A poor list of worked items can quickly flag a fall of your productivity and bring to attention that some impediments are affecting your work.
Instead a nice long list of worked and completed items can boost your self-confidence.

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