By Pedro Ribeiro Simões from Lisboa, Portugal — “Exhaustion” and Sadness, CC BY 2.0,

Now that I’ve been trying to write every day for a month, I’ve come to realise something that should have been obvious.

Any strategy that involves just breathing out is going to encounter problems.

At some point, you need to take a breath and breathe in.

I think I’m getting to that point. I also think that that point is probably nearer two weeks than three or four.

Sustainable pace is a crucial idea in Agile — it’s alluded to in the Agile principles that come with the Agile Manifesto.

“Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.”

I’m nearly there for this thirty one days. This is (by my counting) day twenty seven.

But this is something that’s often forgotten when thinking about “Delivering the Impossible.”

Every now and then, you need to take a rest. And I was going to spell that “wrest.”

You need to wrest yourself away.

Take a break.

“Trench Warfare,” which is what I would call one approach to delivering the impossible, is to not take a break. Just keep going, as hard and as fast as you can. Stay late, get in early, miss weekends.

Hurt yourself, hurt your family.

Show you really care about the project by working “silly hours.”

It doesn’t work.

Part of the reason is that the only things that you can keep doing, day after day. The only things you can keep doing without rest and relaxation and the reflection that comes with it are dumb things.

I was once in an “emergency” meeting on a Saturday.

There was no emergency. An emergency is something that emerges. That comes up unexpectedly.

There was nothing surprising about this state we were in.

Everybody knew that this thing wasn’t going to be delivered when it was “supposed” to be delivered. None of us knew where this supposition of the date had come from.

In this emergency meeting, one of the things that we talked about was what we were going to about our emergency meeting running on so long that it had run into the next emergency meeting.

This was a doomed project. It had at least three “brick without straw” problems. OK, one of those bricks-without-straw problems was that secretly one of the people who was dialing into the meeting was refusing to help. But there were also two bricks-without-straw problems in plain sight.

The most basic was that we didn’t really know if the solution we’d come up with worked and we certainly knew that we couldn’t prove it worked in the given time frame.

Nobody was adding value in that meeting. Nobody was making things any better in any way. We were all just costing money and getting tired when we should have been resting, kissing our loved ones, arguing with our loved ones, watching endless re-runs of Lovejoy. Anything. Anything, would have been better.

But we’d all been brought into the deadline theatre of emergency meetings. Which was stopping us resting, reflecting and seeing that what we were doing is folly.

In the end, I did manage to do something sensible with this project. I walked away.

This does bring me to an idea that’s important, and which I hadn’t realised up until now. And that is that there’s a kind of poker going on in project delivery. You have to be prepared to walk away. Or at least, you have to make it look as if you will walk away. That’s great. That’s a post that’s got a picture of Kenny Rogers at the top of it — that’s for another day.

Originally published at

What daemon possessed me that I behaved so well? - Henry David Thoreau