A little while ago I was asked about how I plan, in a comment on this ‘March retrospective’ post. There are lots of planning habits I learned in digital development (like ‘Retrospectives’ to review progress) that I’m finding useful.
In website development, I used so-called ‘Agile’ methodology. Agile planning can be complicated, but is basically just three steps, repeated.
Once you have a plan, you start doing it. You periodically step back to review progress and revise the plan. Then repeat.
Everyone knows that there’s bound to be lots of changes on the way to your goal so you don’t obsess over planning the details and you get stuck in quickly and learn by doing.
Here’s a more realistic diagram:
Key to the agile methodology is to have a clear idea about what you want, but lots of flexibility about precisely how to get there.
For the garden, I have a plan for the first half of this year, but it’s deliberately short on detail.
I’ve split the plan into broad themes, such as ‘groundwork,’ ‘sowing’ and ‘harvest.’ Each month there’s a broad goal in that category, eg sow summer flowers in March. Once I have a broad goal, I can then get started on doing the little steps, like planting a few more seeds every few days, sorting out what needs to be planted next, and pricking out and potting on. I know what I’m like for getting overwhelmed occasionally, so I try not to have too many seeds on the go at once.
Day to day, I like to jump in with the first garden project that takes my fancy, as there’s always a few things to do that seem immediately appealing or urgent. I’m easygoing about what to start with, but determined to get SOMETHING done. And so long as the job fits into a theme for the month (eg sow summer flowers) it’s in The Plan and so worth Doing.
Another agile method that I find motivating and helpful is to review progress by documenting what’s been done. A massive TO DO list can be intimidating, but a Daily Done list is a thing of pleasure.
So for me, the process goes as follows
- Do Stuff. Take small steps frequently to get more good things thriving in the garden. Lots of little things done each day adds up to a lot done over the month.
- Review. Note down what was done and when, and keep observing and thinking about what’s working out and what’s what’s not.
- Plan. Check what’s done so far against what’s hoped for in future, and set out a few next steps to get a bit closer to your goal.
For example, I want lots of summer flowers, so I’m always reviewing what’s growing in the sunniest spots and I keep a mental list of favourite flowers to pick up whenever I spot a bargain. I do lots of little things each week to get more summer flowers, and I jot down what’s been done. But I don’t obsess over sowing deadlines, and If I don’t get everything it’s no problem, and I’ll accept missing out on a few of the flowers I’d hoped for.
My sketched plan of the flower garden is vague, and it is sure to change depending on what’s available and what grows well. The ‘minimum viable product’ for this part of the going for is lots of colour and somewhere to sit. The first iteration of this area is almost complete.
The garden will reveal its nature and character as time goes on, almost certainly some of what’s been planted here will not thrive. I know that not everything will go to plan, and that’s OK when you’re agile.
So although I really do like a planning and I love good spreadsheet*, I like an agile approach to the garden development, rather than a really strict list of precisely what to do and when.
*On the subject of a good spreadsheet, check out this work of majestic propagation planning by The Propagator.
In our little rose garden, we’ve sketched a plan, set out a path, and planted out roses. It’s a first iteration of this section, and its likely to change, but it’s done for now and I love it.
If you read this far I’d love to hear what you think – do you like to have a clear plan of action, or do you prefer to go with the flow?