We all have hapless friends who would lose their head if it wasn't attached. Maybe we are that friend! Matt recently moved in with his girlfriend, Mirela Petalli (our co-host), and Matt realized losing his keys kept making them late. Can mindful agility help?
Matt and Mirela worked together. Matt is familiar with Scrum, an agile technique; Mirela is familiar with mindfulness. Together they take us on an exploration of how mindfulness alone can help us get more done. When we bring in agile, we raise the bar further. Does mindful agility help Matt keep track of his keys?
This is the first episode where we get more specific with agile—weekly sprints, measuring outcomes, retrospectives—all in the context of home life.
Do these practices bring knock-on effects? Let's see what happens with Matt's long-stalled exercise ambitions.
[00:00:00] Cold Open
[00:00:00] Matthew Zimmerman: If you're ever going to do this with someone, and if someone's going to be sort of your accountability partner, the most important thing in the beginning, Mirela said, I don't care if you lose your keys or your wallet. She said, I actually think it's cute when you kind of run around the house and and you're stressed and you can't find things.
[00:00:15] Daniel Greening: It's like having a pet.
[00:00:17] Matthew Zimmerman: but she said, it seems like you would like to do this so. If you still lose em and that's fine. And I don't even think you should worry this first week I didn't feel like I was walking around being, oh, I'm going to get in trouble if I lose my keys again.
[00:00:31] Daniel Greening: Welcome to the Mindful Agility podcast. I'm your host, Dan Greening. My co-host is Mirela Petalli. We're joined today by Matt Zimmerman. Matt frequently had to track down his keys, his phone, his wallet, et cetera. But he didn't notice it was a problem until he moved in with his girlfriend, Mirela Petalli. And then he decided to apply mindfulness and agility to see if he could stop losing his keys.
If you want to get useful stuff done faster, this podcast is for you. Mindfulness practices help us gain greater insight while agile practices help us get results. Each episode is an agile experiment to see if we can help you, our listener. The journey is half the fun.
[00:01:24] Daniel Greening: So Matt, you have a problem with forgetting where you left your keys,
[00:01:30] Matthew Zimmerman: Yes, not just my keys. I have my keys, my wallet, my glasses, my phone. my watch and my AirPods.
[00:01:37] Daniel Greening: What was happening?
[00:01:40] Matthew Zimmerman: Well, I lived by myself for a very long time, and then I've been living with Mirela for about a year. And I started to realize that I was always running around and trying to look for my stuff. Getting up to leave the house, I would look in my office. I would look in the bedroom. I would, open up the, cushions and couldn't find them.
It was frustrating. And I don't think I realized it until I lived with someone else because it probably just seemed very natural before. When it affects someone else, when that person needs to be somewhere and you're making them late .
[00:02:08] Experiment 1: Mindfulness
[00:02:08] Daniel Greening: You, and Mirela had a conversation about that.
[00:02:12] Matthew Zimmerman: Well, it came from you know, listening to the podcast and then our, Mindful agility community meetings. I had been thinking it was was nice talking about things, but what was the practical way we could apply this? I thought it was going to be something about going to the gym or something.
Mirela came up with the idea of maybe we can do some mindful experiment so you can not lose your things.
[00:02:33] Daniel Greening: What was your first experiment?
[00:02:35] Matthew Zimmerman: The initial plan was just to be mindful of when I was putting things down and to actually say, either out loud or to myself, " I'm putting my wallet on the coffee table," or "I'm putting my phone on the dresser" or "I'm putting my keys on my desk." The initial plan was not to actually stop losing them, but just to see what it was like to stop and think about what you were doing in the moment.
[00:02:58] Daniel Greening: You did that awhile like a day or a week,
[00:03:01] Matthew Zimmerman: We tried to be very formal and agile about it. So we did say it was going to be a week long and we said, we need to measure something. That part was a little hard to come up with because this was sort of week zero of the sprint.
Before this started, for about a month, I had put a basket next to the TV. My plan was okay. Whenever I come in, I'm going to put my things all in this little basket, but I wasn't doing that.
So Mirela's initial plan was what you should mark down on a piece of paper or something every time you remember to put your things in basket or, you remember where to put it, but I thought that would just be too much to track. So I said, I'd rather track how many times I couldn't find my things. Mirela was a little worried that was going to be like negative reinforcement like not counting your victories and just counting when you fail. But I thought it would just be too much to write down.
I put up a sign that said, where are your keys, your phone, your wallet, your watch, blah, blah, blah. I put one up above the basket. I put one in the bedroom above the dresser, and then I put one near the front door that I would sort of see coming and going.
On the one above the basket, Whenever I couldn't find things, I would put a little mark down. We also said each night I would take maybe five minutes and reflect on the day. And then in a week's time, we would get together and have a retrospective where we would discuss what went well, what didn't. Now I didn't do all these things, but that was the plan.
[00:04:26] Daniel Greening: You did do some stuff.
[00:04:28] Matthew Zimmerman: I said it out loud.
I think Mirela said, well, you don't have to say it out loud. You can just think to yourself, but for me it was much better to say, "I'm putting my wallet in the basket by the TV. I'm putting my phone in the basket by the TV."
And what I noticed was if I went to put it somewhere else, like on the coffee table or on the desk, as soon as I would start thinking about I'm putting it on the desk, I'd say, oh, you know what? I don't want to put it there. I want to put it over the basket. And was really good for this first week. I think I marked down that I couldn't find one of the things just three times in the week, but I would say I was forgetting things at least twice a day before that. So that was a significant improvement.
I didn't do the evening reflection, but we did a retrospective and sat down and talked about what worked well and what didn't and you know what I could do better the next week.
[00:05:16] Daniel Greening: So that was a great improvement and it was just from paying attention.
[00:05:20] Matthew Zimmerman: Yeah, it was amazing.
[00:05:21] Daniel Greening: And so that must have been funny, right? Like you would walk around the house and then you would see these signs that would remind you, you know, like where are your keys?
[00:05:31] Matthew Zimmerman: Yeah. And the talking out loud was the funniest part. Cause I really want to saying things out loud. Um,
[00:05:39] Daniel Greening: Did Morella laugh when you.
[00:05:42] Matthew Zimmerman: the one thing, if, if you're ever going to do this with someone, and if someone's going to be sort of your accountability partner, the most important thing in the beginning, Mirela said, I don't care if you lose your keys or your wallet. She said, I actually think it's cute when you kind of run around the house and and you're stressed and you can't find things. Um,
[00:05:59] Daniel Greening: it's like having a pet.
[00:06:01] Matthew Zimmerman: but she said, it seems like you would like to do this so. if you still lose em and that's fine. And I don't even think you should worry this first week about whether you're losing them or not.
Just try to notice, like That's the goal the first week is just to notice what you're doing. So I didn't feel any pressure from Mirela. Yeah. She was very supportive. So was, probably one of the most important things. I didn't feel like I was walking around being, oh, I'm going to get in trouble if I lose my keys again.
[00:06:27] Keys: Sprint 1 Review, Retro, Planning Sprint 2
[00:06:27] Daniel Greening: Was there any notion that you would maintain that the second week, like you had this retrospective and you reviewed what you did the previous week, but did you make any commitments for the week following
[00:06:38] Matthew Zimmerman: you know, When we said what worked well? I said, well, the thing that worked well is I only lost my keys three times. So obviously that was working. One thing. I didn't do was reflection, which I think would be helpful. So I said, okay, next week, I'm going to do that.
Mirela you also added this idea of, you said when you are going to go put something down or whatever you're doing, actually stop and take a breath. And then decide, okay, I'm thing down. down. I think that was the things we came up with. And then I said, I'm going to stick for that same goal. I said, let's see if I can times I I lost them and let's see if we can stick to only losing them three times. Yeah. So that was the goal for the second week.
[00:07:25] Daniel Greening: I see. And, uh, how'd it go.
[00:07:28] Matthew Zimmerman: Well, I, um, I want to say, I don't know, because I sort of lost steam and I had noticed the second week I wasn't the mantra as much as I'm putting my phone here. I'm putting my things there. I did lose them a few times, but I didn't mark it down. And then we actually didn't do our retrospective at the end of the second week, but I still think overall, I, wasn't losing them as much and wasn't stressed out as much. So I think it had already started to build up a pattern.
[00:08:00] Daniel Greening: Mirela and I had this goal that we were going to write every day, but we weren't making each other accountable. We weren't really accountability partners in any way. The results were haphazard.
[00:08:14] Matthew Zimmerman: Right. And I would say that's what happened the second week. It was haphazard, but also I wasn't paying attention. I can only say, I think I didn't lose them as much cause I wasn't actually tracking. yeah,
[00:08:25] Daniel Greening: Like, I don't know how many words I've written this week and
[00:08:29] Matthew Zimmerman: Right.
[00:08:32] Daniel Greening: but it's been three weeks or so. Right. And did you just stop?
[00:08:37] Matthew Zimmerman: I definitely haven't been losing them as much. I'm not as stressed about it, but I just seem to have lost steam and she said, what do you mean by that? I said, well, I'm not doing the ceremony of I'm putting my phone in the basket.
She said, well, why, and again, this is very important. She's like, I'm not asking you why saying it was wrong, but Mirela said I want be able to help people and try this with other so what what do you think it was? Were you trying to save too many things? Did you? And I said, no, I don't think that was it.
I think doing just my wallet would have been silly. I think doing them all together, it wasn't important, But I think the first retrospective, I think we actually scheduled, you know, we said, okay, Sunday at like three o'clock we'll do it. But then after that, we didn't have a plan.
We just said, oh, it's going to happen. We'll do the retrospective. So of course it didn't. And when I wasn't able to look back on the first week, I didn't have a plan for the second week. So the conclusion I came to is, that end of the week retrospective is really important. And we have I said, Mirela, you need to hold me accountable and make sure we have this meeting.
But we're doing this experiment for me, but also to figure out if this is helpful for people.
And Mirela said, well, what if you're by yourself? You know it's hard to Yeah You can't always have an accountability partner, , so I just said, well, we have to schedule it. Then we had to put it in our calendars that, you know, every Sunday at three, we're doing the retrospective, but Merle left.
Cause when she said, what do you think the problem is? I said, why now I've done agile. So I know some of that terminology. I said, well, there's no scrum master. I said, I'm both the team member. And I don't have a scrum master. You know, the scrum master's job is not to do the work and to organize and to get rid of blockers. I said you're sort of the scrum master in this,
[00:10:21] Daniel Greening: We have to find our own inner scrum master.
[00:10:24] Matthew Zimmerman: Yeah. yeah.
[00:10:26] Mirela Petalli: I like that, the inner scrum master Yeah.
[00:10:29] Matthew Zimmerman: Yeah.
I want to keep doing it. Cause I think it going to start becoming a habit. But I think at least for another month, I want to keep trying to be as formal about it as possible. Yeah.
[00:10:37] Daniel Greening: We're reading Atomic Habits. One of the implications of what we're reading is that over time you can ratchet it up a little bit, right?
[00:10:47] Knock On Effects: The Gym
[00:10:47] Daniel Greening: There may be other habitual behaviors that you want to do that are a little harder than your keys and you had some, you said, knock on experience with that, right?
[00:11:01] Matthew Zimmerman: I did. Yeah., I used to go to the gym maybe 10 years ago. I used to go all the time and then I just stopped. I'd say over the last 10 years, I probably started and stopped five times, you know, I would go for a week and then not go, and it was usually though, because I would sit down and make this big plan, like, okay, I'm going to go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at eight in the morning. And my goal is to lose 50 pounds , and then it wouldn't go anywhere.
I didn't make any plans about starting to exercise again, that wasn't part of our plan but doing it. I don't even know how it happened. I had a membership at the gym for months and I've never gone. And I don't know if it was like a Sunday night and I just said, all right, I'm going to go to the gym tomorrow morning.
And I did it. And after that I said, okay, I'm going to go three times a week. and I did mark it down. I use Trello at work for my backlog of things. So I made a little exercise one and it just has three things Go the gym And I've been doing it. Yeah. I've gone almost every other day for, I'd say two weeks now , I almost, can't not do it now when I wake up in the morning, it's like, I just want to do it.
And that was really odd.
[00:12:06] Habituating the Identity, Process , Outcome
[00:12:06] Daniel Greening: you know, You said before, when you were planning to go to the gym, that you were going to lose 50 pounds and it was going to be all this stuff. But what requirement was there when you went to the gym? Was it just you walked in the front door?
[00:12:20] Matthew Zimmerman: it was just to go, I guess. Yeah. Cause I, I do have a set workout. I usually do, and it takes about 30 minutes, have any plan of how many should go a week, at least in the beginning about losing weight. The first time I went there, I couldn't finish my usual workout, but I maybe did 15 minutes of it. And I was like, well that's fine.
And I always, at the end, I always take a shower, go to the sauna, take shower. So it's kind of like a reward at the end. I love going to the sauna. So, um, and sometimes it hasn't happened yet, but if I go and I don't think I can work out, go take go to the sauna you know,
[00:12:58] Daniel Greening: oh
[00:12:59] Matthew Zimmerman: I think so.
So yeah, I don't have a plan.
[00:13:01] Mirela Petalli: It's become now a step further from the outcome and you're working on the process.
[00:13:08] Daniel Greening: Yeah. There's this stuff in Atomic Habits where your habituation could be for changing the outcome. It could be for changing the process or it could be for changing your identity.
And, makes the argument that changing how you identify yourself is the more important and possibly easier,
[00:13:30] Mirela Petalli: if I agree with that.
[00:13:34] Daniel Greening: Yeah. I'm not sure either, but do you feel like now, as opposed to a month or two ago, a person keeps track of their keys?
[00:13:45] Matthew Zimmerman: I don't think of myself necessarily as someone who keeps track of their keys, but I almost immediately, after the first week started to think of myself as, oh, I'm someone who can get stuff done that they say they're going to do.
I made this promise to myself and I fulfilled it and I never felt like that type of person before.
And I'm like, wow, I can do things. Um, was, yeah an amazing feeling. So yeah, I did get this. I almost felt like I sort of had a little swagger. I was like, Hey, I'm one of those people that, uh, you know, I get stuff done. And.
[00:14:14] Daniel Greening: Yeah.
[00:14:15] Matthew Zimmerman: And I think that led to the gym and then I don't know, like, I even feel like that led to me feeling healthier.
And now I notice I used to just wake up and put it on like jeans and a t-shirt and I'm like putting on a collared shirt every day and,
[00:14:28] Daniel Greening: wow. Stepping
[00:14:29] Matthew Zimmerman: spiff. Yeah. Like I do, I don't know. I'm real if you've noticed that or not, but,
uh, yeah. It's, it's it's this, uh,
[00:14:38] Mirela Petalli: Well, I'm still on my pajamas here. Okay.
[00:14:41] Daniel Greening: Oh, yeah. Well, that's the life you want to lead, right? You
[00:14:46] Matthew Zimmerman: Yes.
[00:14:47] Daniel Greening: around you to be looking spiffy and you're still in your pajamas?
[00:14:51] Matthew Zimmerman: We have a game now we call it guess the European when two of us are standing together because I'm looking more.
[00:14:57] Daniel Greening: A more European.
[00:14:58] Matthew Zimmerman: Yeah.
[00:14:59] Daniel Greening: There used to be an online game called gay or Eurotrash.
[00:15:04] Matthew Zimmerman: I I told Marella about that,
She didn't get it.
[00:15:08] Mirela Petalli: Yeah,
[00:15:08] Daniel Greening: she didn't get it
[00:15:10] Mirela Petalli: no.
[00:15:12] What's Next?
[00:15:12] Daniel Greening: What are you going to do differently. This is kind of a retrospective what we're doing right now.
Are there things that you're considering or talking about, is it Monday that you have a retrospective that you do
[00:15:26] Matthew Zimmerman: Sunday?
[00:15:27] Daniel Greening: Sunday. Okay.
[00:15:29] Matthew Zimmerman: I mean, in general, I don't have a specific plan. I don't want to overwhelm myself. I feel like I'm doing well right now. The gym is great and I'm building these habits but. what I'd like to do in the future is with anything like this is
I just have to do this for a week and then we're going to talk about it. I think that's the best thing for me going forward, okay. We're going to try this for a week and see what happens and not okay. I'm going to work out for the rest of my life and lose 50 pounds. If I, when I stopped working out, then that means I failed, you
[00:16:00] Daniel Greening: oh
[00:16:01] Matthew Zimmerman: Um, yeah, it kind of goes along with the Buddhist idea of you're really just living in the moment, you know, in the real
sense that we're in. If like, I, it doesn't really matter if I'm going to work out Wednesday and Friday, if it's Monday, like I can only work out Monday on a Monday,
[00:16:17] Daniel Greening: Right. And all the habituation advice says we just need to complete the simplest possible cue to start a good habit. Like saying I'm going to walk into the gym today. Or when I set my keys down, I'm going to observe them mindfully. Uh, Those things aren't hard but then they cue the behavior we want.
[00:16:38] Mirela Petalli: We are most of the time in autopilot mode. Most of the things we do are automatic and we don't think about them. At times we find ourselves missing chunks of time. You commuted to work for 45 minutes, but you don't remember any of it, where you parked your car, or left your keys, or what did your wife ask you to get from the store?
The key experiment is a demonstration of mindfulness and agility in action. When we slow down and pay attention to what is happening we will notice things we had a notice before. We'll be more present and experience life. In the end. It is our life that we are or we are not paying attention to.
[00:17:22] Daniel Greening: Mindfulness alone seemed to make a big difference. I don't think the major contribution initially was agile. The first thing that Matt did was he paid attention to his behavior in a mindful way, even reciting what he was doing aloud to reinforce the knowledge of what was happening around him.
[00:17:48] Mirela Petalli: Yes. Agility came in into making that sustainable
[00:17:54] Daniel Greening: Also the metrics, right? You had a discussion about metrics, like how to measure what happened? You had to decide whether to use a count of the successful acts of having keys or to count the failures. And it just turned out to be easier to keep track of the failures, because those are the ones that were easy to see. It didn't seem to bother Matt too much to measure that.
[00:18:22] Mirela Petalli: I thought it would be a negative reinforcement. It actually turned out to have kind of an inverse positive reinforcement. The thought was I am losing them less times and that was positive.
[00:18:37] Safe to Experiment
[00:18:37] Daniel Greening: Yeah, I think part of it also was your attitude about it and your constant reminders that you didn't really care how it all went, but you want it to be supportive of his efforts. You were very kind when he would make mistakes, and you even found it amusing that he make these mistakes.
I think that created this sort of safe place to experiment.
[00:19:06] Mirela Petalli: Yes. I think there was one of the most important factors, together with just the plain mindfulness paying attention, coming back, noticing piece of it. Feeling safe and feeling supported and not judged. We learn better, when we feel safe, when we feel supported.
You also have to give that to yourself. It has to come from the people around you, your accountability partner, or the people you live with, or the people at work that you are trying to do this habituation with. But the most important thing is how do you treat yourself? The non-judgment compassion, kindness that you give to yourself. Those are very important.
[00:19:54] Daniel Greening: The whole focus meditation idea is that the point of it is not to stop your distracted nature. Focus meditation has us focus on our breath. And then when we notice that we actually aren't focusing on our breath, we're thinking about making a meal tonight, or what was happening at the football game, or other stuff like that.
When we notice it, we just gently bring ourselves back to focusing on the breath, but without judgment. That isn't intuitive to people who don't meditate. So they don't realize that point is not to force yourself to focus. It's more about just being aware of the fact that you're not focused and being cool with that.
That was interesting. Curious amusement in a way at our own silliness right?
[00:20:51] Mirela Petalli: It is about becoming aware and becoming an observer in a way. So we take a step back and instead of being the protagonist, the actor who is in the midst of doing something, we become the observer of ourselves doing something. So it's like a meta awareness process.
In this case, when we are about to do an action, putting our keys down, we take a step back and say, I am putting my keys down. That level of awareness is awareness of awareness. I am aware that I am doing this action. Hmm. That's where mindfulness and meditation helps us because it takes us away from being in the midst of it. It takes us away from being carried away and it gives us the opportunity to observe unbiased, to observe without judging. It's pretty cool. It's like watching yourself in a movie in a way, but also being in it at the same time.
[00:21:53] Daniel Greening: Scientists when they're doing experiments are being very careful to record everything and write everything down and be very observant. And to some extent there's some tedium to that. Watching television, you know, we're constantly being reactively rewarded by whatever's happening on the television. But when we do mindful behaviors, they take time and they take our attention it sometimes feels like we're not doing very much, but in actuality we're doing a lot.
[00:22:30] Mirela Petalli: The attitude is very important. there are two components to attitude. First, it is curiosity and openness which are very important. we have to approach this process with an open mind a curious mind of, I want to know what's going to happen. That's excitement, that expectation, that anticipation of things that are going to happen, rather than going into it with, oh, I know what's going to happen.
[00:22:57] Daniel Greening: Yeah.
[00:22:58] Mirela Petalli: Then there is no room there to observe anything different.
And the second part of attitude is compassion, non-judgment, kindness towards whatever is happening, acceptance. We cultivate an attitude of curiosity, openness acceptance kindness. And non-judgment. And in that way we allow for whatever is happening to just happen naturally.
Because we are one step removed from it, because we are in this observant mode, we have agency. We discover that, Hey, I don't have to be carried away by this thought. I don't have to get angry at this sound at this loud sound outside.
[00:23:42] Daniel Greening: I don't have to feel guilty about not putting my keys in the basket,
[00:23:50] Agile Goals and Metrics
[00:23:50] Daniel Greening: Matt is very familiar with agile. He decided to run an experiment. It was a one-week experiment. And so his goals were and you also participated in this you said the goals just that you're paying attention. It seems easy, but it's really important to pay attention.
So if you don't get the attention, right, you're not going to get anything else right in future sprints. So that was great. And then you established metrics, which is also a fundamental for really good agile. One of the things that we find in agile is that people don't understand the fundamentals.
Right. They don't understand the objectivity. They don't understand the metrics part. And then they just start doing agile as if that was going to solve all their problems by meeting every day in a daily scrum meeting, which is unstructured. And then not really having an experiment that they're running. I would say 80% of the people using agile don't realize that they're running an experiment, every sprint, and that they really need to structure the experiment well, or they're not going to improve. So the fact that you guys put together the basis for experimentation with nice objective measures was really great.
[00:25:16] Mirela Petalli: Oh, that's very interesting because it made me think, people come to mindfulness or to meditation, with different kinds of goals, right. They want to be less stressed or they want to, um, feel better or feel less depressed or, they might have lots of goals, but they come to mindfulness without having set objectives. So it takes them a long time to actually get benefits out of it because you're like, you're adopting a practice of meditation. You're sitting down and meditating every day. And definitely research has shown there is so much benefit to that.
That's what we did. And that's how we got here. But when we add that agility part to it, when we practice mindfulness with certain objectives in mind, then we can have outcomes that we can measure. Then we can see the
[00:26:08] Daniel Greening: uh,
[00:26:09] Mirela Petalli: like in, in the case of Matt, like we could see the effects and then we can see how they have the knock on effects on other things in our lives.
[00:26:18] Daniel Greening: Right, right. Yeah. I would say my approach for mindfulness and for meditation was all around anxiety reduction, you know, with respect to grief. I realized as I was monitoring that, that when I meditated that I was less anxious the day after, and I had less grief. but I don't think people. People just meditate because someone told them they should, don't know. I don't know why they do it. I guess the first few times I had meditated, it was like that too.
[00:26:58] Mirela Petalli: And that there is nothing wrong with that. but the misconception that meditation is just that, that's an important part too,
[00:27:06] Daniel Greening: um,
[00:27:06] Mirela Petalli: that meditation means just sitting on the, on the cushion or on and sitting still closing your eyes for 10, 15 minutes or whatever you're doing. that's the misconception.
Matt's experiments is an example of how mindfulness is beyond that. Mindfulness can be everything else during your day. It doesn't have to be limited to that sitting down 10, 20 minutes that you allocated in the morning, it is something that you can practice and you can apply to so many things. There is research out there, mindfulness to quit smoking for anxiety like you did.
There are so many , mindfulness based stress reduction programs. So mindfulness is being used for so many things outside of just that 10, 20 minutes sitting meditation.
[00:28:00] Daniel Greening: so another thing that I noticed about this interaction was that. You guys had an intention to check in daily about how things were going, but that daily check-in didn't happen. I'm curious about your thoughts about that.
[00:28:17] Mirela Petalli: The daily check-in was supposed to be something self regulated, so it was supposed to be Matt reflecting at the end of the day. It didn't work out. I wasn't surprised at that because like our daily writing project, that the two of us are doing, we have had issues with maintaining a daily habit. Are we trying to do too much at once? Reflecting at the end of the day is also a habit. Is also something that you commit to and you need to habituate to. It's something that you need to learn to do every day.
Reflecting at the end of the day about this exercise. It is a similar, as to saying, I'm gonna journal every night or I'm going to meditate every night before bed. So it is also about creating a habit and maybe we're not ready to do that, to do two habits at the same time.
[00:29:12] Daniel Greening: I have two thoughts about that. First that the daily check-in traditionally in agile is done in the morning. There are definitely studies that show that we're more objective and more engaged in the mornings than we are in the evenings. At the end of the day, we've typically made many decisions. we've had to confront many challenges. Depleting the ego is how researchers describe it. Maybe having a daily check-in in the morning is better.
[00:29:47] Mirela Petalli: The daily check-in that I had in mind for this specific experiment or for any type of habituation was more of a self-reflection at the end of the day, which we as Westerners are not very comfortable with actually. We review our day and we say, okay, what did I do today? How did it go?
What could I have done better?
[00:30:12] Daniel Greening: I see what you're saying. You're doing it at the end of the day. So you have all of that sort of fresh in your mind of what happened during the day.
Whereas the next day you forgotten all about what happened yesterday.
[00:30:25] Mirela Petalli: Another element to that is, why we have a hard time, I think, doing it is we have a resistance to, doing a retrospective of our day and being critical and regret. , there are some strong words that might come with it. We might have a resistance of just reviewing our day and like, oh, did I waste my day? Or, oh my gosh, I did so many silly things during the day. I was not productive. I wasted so much time. There are lots of thoughts that can come with it.
[00:30:55] Daniel Greening: Yeah. Actually in agile practice they're called daily scrums. Those daily scrums, there is a resistance on the part of teams in doing that. They think of it as time wasted talking to each other, even though it's only 15 minutes long.
Retrospectives, too. The retrospective is the meeting that happens once every sprint and in Matt's case, he was doing a one-week sprint.
The retrospective is often a long meeting where you're actually trying to examine the things that you did and people phone it in. I don't know if you've heard that term before. it's from reporters who would have an article with a particular deadline and then they would be out drinking all the time and goofing off, and then they would go, oh no, I have a deadline in a half an hour. I'm going to call my editor and I'm gonna talk through what the article should say. So that's called phoning it in. Very frustrating for editors.
Habituation around these ceremonies may be something worth building.
If we're doing Mindful Agility, one of the first efforts that we might do for individuals is to help them habituate the mindful observation of behavior, as well as this scheduled experimentation, that is, you know, the daily scrum and the retrospective. That might be all that we do in a first experiment when we're dealing with individuals and trying to approach this notion of Mindful Agility.
They may have something super simple that they're experimenting on, like Matt with his keys. But the measurement of what happened should also include compliance to this daily check-in and this weekly retrospective. Does that make sense?
[00:33:01] Mirela Petalli: Yes. And I was thinking we can probably use some mindfulness tools to help with that habituation of daily check-ins. One thing that I have had trouble with, with my writing project, has been that I can't have a scheduled set daily time to do it.
I remember reading about the ceremonies. If we say, I am going to do my daily scrum review or my daily check-in. And with that, we're going to have tea, for example. We're going to have something pleasant, so we're going to make it a ritual.
[00:33:35] Daniel Greening: mm.
[00:33:36] Mirela Petalli: So we're going to add an element to it that is pleasant.
And this comes from the Plum Village tradition that when they talk about having check-ins, they say we'll make it around something pleasant. Like we're gonna sit every day, we're going to make tea, and we're going to talk about the day
if I want to writes a gratitude journal every night, then I can say, okay, I am going to light a candle, for example, make herbal tea and sit down and write on my journal for 10, 15 minutes.
So associating it with something pleasant to turn it into a ritual.
[00:34:13] Daniel Greening: I want to talk more about the retrospective, you and I do a retrospective every week. Of course it's because we're a team we're producing a podcast. We initially allocated an hour for that, but we ended up spending a couple of hours. I guess there's multiple things happening there.
We're reviewing the work that we did the previous week, and sometimes we're doing the last minute stuff to get those things done. And then we do a retrospective, which is about the process. Were we measuring the right things? Were we, meeting at particular times where we doing a daily check-in, which we have recently added, and how is it going in the market? Like how are our downloads and that sort of thing. And then we make decisions about new processes that we might consider or new ways of thinking about how we're creating this podcast. . And then finally we plan our next week. What are the things that we're actually going to try to get done? So that takes a couple of hours.
In the case with Matt, it's not a complicated thing. But I could see a retrospective every a half an hour. Like if he and his accountability partner, namely you, were to get together every week and talk about, how's it going with your personal improvement project, I guess, because Matt's will likely evolve.
Right? He's exercising now, he's probably finding his keys more often, but there are other things that he wants to improve. Is that something that you guys have talked about?
[00:35:59] Mirela Petalli: yes. We have talked about doing the retrospective. Our retrospective lasts a couple of hours, like you said. Although we have a structure in place, an outline of what we're going to talk about and what we are going to do. For Matt and I we'll use that time actually to review and do a check-in about all other things that we want to check in, as a couple.
It helps to do that all together at once. That's what I was thinking of doing. I would think that doing that, having a scheduled time at the end of the week and say, okay, we're going to do our retrospective plus check-in for the week. And we go over the experiment about the keys or anything else that is related to that as well as our relationship, which I find it's a very good thing to do.
[00:36:50] Daniel Greening: That'll be really interesting, like relationship building with Mindful Agility.
[00:36:55] Mirela Petalli: Yeah.
[00:36:57] Daniel Greening: That would be pretty cool.
[00:36:59] Heather and Son
[00:36:59] Daniel Greening: I guess we're potentially going to be talking with Heather about her mindful agility project with her son coming up.
[00:37:09] Mirela Petalli: Yes. We have an adult who did an experiment and then we have a four and a half year old who did an experiment and it worked same way. It worked beautifully. Also there are two things in Heather's example. Her work that she did with herself to become the mindful, nonjudgmental, supportive, compassionate accountability partner.
[00:37:33] Daniel Greening: Hm.
[00:37:33] Mirela Petalli: I'm very interested in that process. So she took, the example of what Matt and I did. Before she even started that experiment, she needed to become that accountability partner that her son needed to get through that experiment.
So that was very important. I think,
[00:37:52] Daniel Greening: Yeah, that'll be very interesting. You haven't put your retrospective together yet.
[00:37:58] Mirela Petalli: No, it's going to be this Sunday.
[00:38:00] Daniel Greening: You know, how we have metrics in our retrospectives, you and I, so we are talking about three different major areas. I'm going to look at this board to remind myself what those areas are. Here we go. Work, how did we do on the things that we said we were going to do? And then reach, which is how well did we communicate with the outside world? And then the last one is, how happy are we with the process and basically everything.
Those three areas for scrum teams are important. They're like, how did we go with our commitments? Did we actually do the things that we said we would do? And then how did we do with the outcome? Reach is a measurement of the outcome of the podcast, are we reaching more people? And then our happiness is, basically are we drinking tea at our meetings? Are we happy with what's happening. And so I would encourage you guys to think about those three areas when you have your retrospective.
Like if you want to do a structured retrospective.
[00:39:14] Mirela Petalli: Yeah, I like that. Especially the happiness part, because it's where we could apply mindfulness more.
[00:39:22] Daniel Greening: Yeah.
[00:39:22] Mirela Petalli: Because it's a place for exp exploration. If we're not happy or if we're neutral, why is that?
[00:39:29] Daniel Greening: I'm happy with the happiness metric that we use, but, because it has been solidly at one. What should I say. From an experimenter's point of view, if a metric remains the same every sprint or every experiment, it means you're measuring something that isn't helping you decide whether you're doing the right thing or not.
So if it varies up and down, like if sometimes it's negative and sometimes it's positive, that is very valuable for an experimenter because they can see that things that they did had an effect on the happiness in this case, but I think what's happening is we're both, pretty happy most of the time anyway, and we're treating this very carefully to make sure that we are sustainably happy.
[00:40:21] Mirela Petalli: Yeah, also we are doing this very mindfully.
[00:40:25] Daniel Greening: yeah.
[00:40:26] Mirela Petalli: Uh, so the whole process of making the podcast, the work we put in it, the way we collaborate. The way we're doing it is built on all the practice that we had so far. So we both come from long professional experiences with people and teams and challenges, but we also come from a practice of mindfulness, both of us. So we are applying those, whether consciously or not we are applying all of that. We have learned from our both professional experience and mindfulness experience to this project that we have.
[00:41:05] Daniel Greening: Right, right. So we've pegged it at one, but, but, uh, what's it I'm going like, well, what would we put there instead, I guess we could put, 'reached enlightenment,' you know, like some ridiculous, goal that maybe we would achieve once or twice a year.
[00:41:24] Mirela Petalli: yes
[00:41:27] Move this part below
[00:41:27] Daniel Greening: Well, I'm looking forward to continuing our experiments together, Mirela.
[00:41:33] Mirela Petalli: Me too.
[00:41:35] Daniel Greening: It was great to have you with us in this episode. A few of you might imagine Morella and I know what the heck we're doing. Nope. Sometimes we're as surprised as you are when things turn out to show that mindful agility really works.
Mindfulness alone can help us achieve our goals. Just being aware of our behavior can help us improve.
Mindfulness helped Matt keep track of his keys. And having an accountability partner really helped. Some people, including some bosses, think accountable people are the ones you fire when the project fails. I think accountable people are messengers that tell us the truth in a compassionate, mindful, friendly way. I want more of those people around me.
We also started getting into the nuts and bolts of agile practice in this episode. Short sprints, easy to measure metrics, daily scrum meetings and sprint retrospectives were all touched on in this simple initiative of Matt's, to keep track of his stuff.
Mirela's compassion, curiosity, and even amusement made her an ideal accountability partner. But I also loved Matt's guilelessness. We didn't talk about it in this episode, but Matt took a self-compassion course recently. And cites many benefits from it.
May we all be compassionate, mindful, curious, accountability partners to people around us. And to ourselves.
[00:43:14] Daniel Greening: Many thanks to Matt Zimmerman for sharing his Mindful Scrum experiment with us.
Subscribe to the podcast, by going to your favorite podcast app and searching for Mindful Agility. Don't forget to hit the Subscribe button. Or go to our firstname.lastname@example.org, listen to the podcast there, and sign up for email notification. We'll let you know when new podcast episodes drop, share new blog posts from Mirela and me, and send you invites to our biweekly zoom calls.
About half our episodes feature folks from our private Facebook group, which you can join by searching for Mindful Agility Community and hitting Join. We might be reading a book together. And at the time we recorded this, we were reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. Great book.
The show notes provide references as well as links to additional content.
Our cohost and meditation guide is Mirela Petalli.
Hey, Matt, can you give me a ride home when we're done recording?
[00:44:23] Matthew Zimmerman: Sure Dan. Let me just find my keys.
[00:44:26] Daniel Greening: I'm Dan Greening. See ya next time.
[00:44:30] Optional Meditation Introduction
[00:44:30] Daniel Greening: If you're still with us, Mirela will guide an optional 10 minute meditation to observe ourselves with compassion and curiosity. This perspective can help us discover new things about ourselves and improve more readily. You can find this meditation and others at Mindful Agility Meditations on your favorite podcast app. These meditation seek to strengthen neural pathways around mindfulness and agile. They're in a separate podcast, so you can conveniently use them whenever you like.
Pause now to subscribe, rate, join, or share. Those are great contributions you can make to keep us going. We want you to be able to end your meditation in peace though. So we won't be reminding you to help us out after Mirela starts.
Here we go.
[00:45:20] Mirela Petalli: In today's meditation we'll use the practice of noticing and labeling by keeping an open awareness, paying attention to what is happening, labeling what we are noticing and then letting it go.
This practice takes us out of the autopilot mode, brings our attention back to the present, so we can fully experience what is happening right now.
Thank you for taking this time to meditate with us today. You'll hear a bell at the beginning and one at the end of the meditation. The bell is an invitation to come back to the present moment.
First find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. It can be any position where you feel comfortable, but also alert. While we maintain an intention to be still you can adjust your posture at any time if needed. You can either close your eyes or keep them slightly open, focused downward in front of you.
Let's start by taking a few deep, slow breaths. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Fill your lungs with air. Relax your belly. And then let the air out slowly through your nose.
See if you can release any tension, and relax your body a little bit more with each out-breath.
There is nothing to do right now.
Let's take one more deep, slow breath.
Now allow your breath to return to normal.
Focus your attention on the breath where you feel it most: nostrils, chest, or belly.
We will use that spot without holding too tightly to it, as an anchor, as a place to return to while we allow for anything else to arise naturally in our awareness. Thoughts, sensations, emotions, sounds.
I invite you to be curious about what is going on without searching. Rather than look for things to notice, we rest our awareness slightly on the breath and are receptive to whatever rises without judgment.
Whatever arises in our awareness is neither good, nor bad. If we notice that we are judging, then we label that judging.
When we notice something, we softly label it, make a mental note in our mind: thinking, sound, tingling, aching, cold, warmth, restless, anxious, sleepy.
Don't try to be too specific or get carried away. Say to yourself thinking rather than thinking about work, or thinking when this meditation is going to end.
We notice, label, and allow it to pass as we keep our attention open to whatever is happening around and within us.
Let's take two minutes in silence and practice noticing and labeling.
When we practice, noticing and labeling this way we learn that, and we can notice without judgment and let go without getting carried away
you can use this practice to notice and label whatever arises in your awareness like we did today or focus only on thoughts, or physical sensations, or sounds.
Now let go of the practice and return your attention to your body.
Notice how you feel, without judgment.
And when you were ready, you can open your eyes.
Thank you for taking this time to meditate with us today