By January 16, 2013 16 Comments Read More →

Setup Agile Results as Your Personal Results System to Master Productivity

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I was trying to figure out what is the most powerful thing that I could give you that would help you the most with work and life.

At the end of the day, I think it’s a results system.

Not just any results system.  A personal results system.

One that lights your productivity on fire.

It’s the real deal.  It’s a system for extreme productivity.  It can be your edge for high-impact results and to stay on top of things.

Master Productivity, Time Management, and Work-Life Balance

Whether you want to achieve your goals, improve your focus, master productivity, master time management, or master work-life balance, this system can help you do that.

Whether you want to be a “productive artist” or a “high-achiever” or simply “find your flow”, this system will support you.

Operate at a Higher-Level of Effectiveness and Efficiency

When you have the system on your side, you wake up ready for anything, and you spend more time on the things that matter most.

You can use your new results system to have a better day.  You can use it to take on big challenges.  You can use your results system to achieve great things in work and life.

You can use your results system to change a habit.   You can even use it for your New Year’s Resolutions.   (By the way, if you feel you got off to a bad start for the year, no problem, catch the next train … start your year in February.)

The system works for individuals.  It works for teams.  In fact, it’s the same system I’ve used to lead high-performance teams around the world.

When you have a reliable system for getting results, you expand your options.  More importantly, you expand what you’re capable of in ways you can’t even predict.

The Agile Results System in a Nutshell

The system is Agile Results.  I introduced it in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.  The fastest way to learn the system is to think in Three Wins:

  • Three Wins for the Day
  • Three Wins for the Week
  • Three Wins for the Month
  • Three Wins for the Year

There’s a lot more to it, but that’s a great start.  For example, what are the Three Wins you want to achieve today?   Maybe one of your wins is, “Win a raving fan.”  Maybe one of your wins is, “Have a great lunch.”  Maybe one of your wins is “Draft complete.”   After all, would you rather “Call back a customer”, or “Win a raving fan.”

Rather than focus on activities, you focus on outcomes.  You focus on value.  Value is the short-cut, and wins build momentum.  You can zoom in to your day or zoom out to the year.

If you can write your Three Wins down on a piece of paper, you can do Agile Results.

And, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Relaxed and Ready

If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, the first time you look out over the edge, it takes your breath away.  It’s a quick and silent moment as you take it all in.   You’re in the moment.  Your mind is clear.  It’s like a breath of fresh air.

When you use Agile Results, you get that breath of fresh air.  It’s like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time in that your mind enjoys a peaceful calm.  The peaceful calm comes from knowing that you are spending the right time, on the right things, the right way, with the right energy.

It’s a powerful way to rise above the noise, while being fully engaged with anything and everything that work and life have to offer.  It’s the power of full engagement at your fingertips.

I mention this because for many people this is an experience they’ve been trying to recapture, and they want to feel on top of things and on top of their game, but in a relaxed and ready sort of way.

3 Steps to Build Your Results System the Agile Way

There are lots of ways to get started.  I’m going to use the following approach because it seems to work really well:

  1. Start with paper – a “paper-based” approach
  2. Integrate Agile Results with your favorite tools
  3. Walk your workflow

I start with paper so that you can learn the basics.  Once you get the idea, you can use Agile Results with your favorite tools of choice, whether that’s EverNote, OneNote, Outlook, you name it.   And, for some people, they will always stick with pen and paper, and that’s fine, too.

Let’s get started.

Start with Paper

This is a 10 to 20 minute exercise in total.  It consists of three parts:

  1. Monthly Wins (10 minutes)
  2. Weekly Wins (5 minutes)
  3. Daily Wins (5 minutes)

Don’t worry.  We’ll walk through each one, one at a time.  You’ll get the hang of it.

The goal is simply to map out our wins on paper for the day, the week, and the month.  The process is easy, but it’s worth really stepping into this.  It will pay you back instantly.   You don’t have to believe me.  Just try it and see for yourself.

If you do this exercise well, you will save countless hours throughout your days and weeks ahead.   This is because you’ll have a simple map of all the important things on your radar, as well as a short-set of key wins.   This will help you focus and prioritize all the time and energy that you already spend.  Now, you will channel it for great impact.  You’ll also spend your time better because you’ll know where the value is.   Additionally, you’ll experience a peaceful calm because you can slow down to speed up, and you can actually be here, now.   No more rushing through things, because you carve out time for what’s important and can actually enjoy the time you spend.

So get out a piece of paper and a pen, and let’s start.

Exercise:  Monthly Wins

In this exercise, we dump everything that’s on our mind for this month, we identify what’s hot, and we identify Three Wins that we want to achieve.   In other words, by the end of this month, what are Three Wins that you want to be able to say you achieved?

Here is a sample to inspire how you might structure your page:

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Don’t worry about the content.  Just notice the simple structure:  Three Wins, Hot, and the long list under A-Z.

Use three steps to guide you in creating your map of Monthly Wins:

  1. Write down all the things on your mind for this month.   What are the things that are really on your mind.  In this step, we just list out all the things we want to achieve by the time the month is over.   You will likely have a long list of things that were on your mind.  Write them all down.    At this point, just dump the list.  Don’t worry about whether you alphabetize it, but keep in mind that if you do name the things on your list well and alphabetize them, you will have an even more powerful list.  So you can do it later, but for now, just get what’s in your head, down on paper.
  2. Identify what’s hot for this month.     Create a short list of the key things that would support your Three Wins.  It’s your short-list of things that if you nail them, you will be set to achieve your Three Wins for the month.
  3. Identify your Three Wins for the Month.    This is your chance to actually take a pause to get clear on what are the Three Wins you want out of this month.   This is your chance to slow down to speed up.   You’ll gain speed because you’ll know where to put your time and energy to create the most value, for yourself and others.

You can also note any big events, or key pressures or drivers that are important.  You should note any windows of opportunity that you really want to hit.

Keep in mind, I put the toughest exercise up front, so that we create a glide path.  The Monthly Wins is the most difficult, but also the most valuable because it’s your chance to take the balcony view for the entire month.

If you wonder how valuable this exercise is, just ask yourself, what were your Three Wins for last month?  You probably spent a lot of time and energy last month on a bunch of things.  In fact, I bet you spent a whole lot of time and energy on a bunch of things last month.   How easily can you “put a bow on it” and actually say what your Three Wins from last month were?

As soon as you start using this Three Wins habit, you will instantly start creating more opportunities for value.  And, best of all, you will feel a sense of fulfillment, and rise above the chaos.

I’ll also point out that if you lead teams, this is one of the fastest ways to get your team on track, inspired, and ready for action.  It really creates clarity and clarity is the breeding ground of high-performing teams.  People like to know what what they are working on matters, and they like to see how it translates into progress and results … and most importantly … wins.

Exercise:  Weekly Wins

In this exercise, we dump what’s on our mind for this week, and we identify our Three Wins for the week.  This will be a lot easier now that you’ve already done your all up month view.

Here is a sample to inspire how you might structure your page:

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Use two steps to guide you in creating your map of Monthly Wins:

  1. Write down all the things on your mind for this week.   Don’t over-think it.  Just dump it.  Write down your big rocks for the week.  Write down the little rocks, too.   Get it on paper.   Thinking on paper is more powerful than letting things swirl around in your mind.
  2. Write down your Three Wins for the Week.     If this were Friday, what are three things you wish you accomplished during the week.   What would make it a great week.   What would be your three victories.   Write those down.

One of my favorite wins for the week is “House in Order.”  It’s actually a metaphor, but if I feel like I’m behind on a lot of things, and if I feel I’m mired in messes, I choose “House in Order” as one of my wins and I make that a goal for the week.   I’ll take a little time each day to clean up the things that are bugging me, or bogging me down, or just getting in my way.  It helps me get on top of things and get back on top of my game.

If “House in Order” is too abstract for you, you might make it specific such as “Desk Cleared” or “Files in Order.”  Play with it until you find what inspires you and helps you define what a great week would be for you.

Productivity is a personal thing so you need to tailor the system to suit you, not the other way around.

Exercise: Daily Wins

In this exercise, you focus on what’s on your mind for today.   You simply list the things that are top of mind, and the Three Wins for the Day that you want to achieve.

Here is a sample of how you might structure your Daily Wins:

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Use these two steps to guide you:

  1. Write down all the things on your mind for today.   What’s really on your mind for today.  Write it down.  Even if it seems silly, put it down on paper.  Go ahead, even make yourself laugh, as you wonder why that was on your mind.     You can go over your list multiple times, so first just get it on paper, then you can play around with it.   Maybe all you need to do is list little two-word phrases that remind you of what you want to accomplish, or things you need to do, or things you need to check on.  It’s OK for this to be a mix of activities and outcomes because in the next step, you’ll bubble Three Wins to the top.  This instantly makes your list get a whole lot smarter.   In fact, no matter how you do your To-Do lists today, you can instantly make it better by bubbling up your Three Wins to the top.  It’s how magic happens.
  2. Write down your Three Wins for the Day.   Go ahead and write your Three Wins for the Day down.  Connect them to things you enjoy.  Maybe you like to learn.  Maybe you like to do a good job.  Maybe you like to do a GREAT job.  Connect your outcome to the values that inspire you.   For example, I like making customer impact, so rather than “Call back a customer”, my win is “Win a Raving Fan.”   You can imagine I’ll show up a whole lot differently when I have may mind focused on winning a fan.  And, I’ll enjoy the process a whole lot more, too.   So even mundane activities can be reframed or rephrased into more compelling outcomes.  Get creative.  Inspire yourself to a whole new level.

Notice how in the example of Daily Wins above that there is some space.  It’s some “white space” between the Three Wins at the top and then everything else.   That’s another advantage of doing this on paper.  It’s easy to create some “breathing room” and some space.    The space is nice because it reminds you to guide your day using your Three Wins as your North Star.  They will keep you on track, no matter what comes your way.   They will also help you make better trade-offs when you have to prioritize.

Your Three Wins for the Day are your single best way to defend your time and make the most of it.

Exercise:  Integrate Agile Results with Your Favorite Tools

In this exercise, you take the time to figure out where do you actually want to store and manage your simple lists:

  1. Monthly Wins
  2. Weekly Wins
  3. Daily Wins

Rather than say “use this tool” or “use that tool”, I’d rather guide you with a few simple questions:

  1. Where is one place you can look each day?
  2. Where can you keep simple lists?
  3. Where can you easily update your information?

That’s how you know your system will actually work.

That said, the most common tools I’ve seen people use with Agile Results are: EverNote, OneNote, and Outlook.  And, of course, pen and paper.

But don’t measure by what other people use.  Measure by what makes you more effective.  That’s a great rule of thumb.  You can always whether something improves your effectiveness, and that’s really the name of the game.

Exercise:  Walk Your Workflow

In this exercise, test how well you can use Agile Results.  This is where the rubber meets the road.

  1. It’s Monday morning, what do you do?
  2. It’s Tuesday morning, what do you do?
  3. It’s Wednesday morning, what do you do?
  4. It’s Thursday morning, what do you do?
  5. It’s Friday morning, what do you do?

Here are the answers:

  • On Mondays, identify your Three Wins for the Week and Three Wins for the Day.
  • On Tuesday, identify your Three Wins for the Day.
  • On Wednesday, identify your Three Wins for the Day.  As a bonus, you might do a quick check against how you are doing against your wins for the week, and adjust accordingly.
  • On Friday, identify your Three Wins for the Day.  As a bonus, and we didn’t cover this, but on Friday’s I like to do what I call Friday Reflection.  Simply identify three things going well and three things to improve.  It can be the best 20 minutes you spend all week because you can carry forward your lessons learned into the next week.  You will rapidly improve your performance.  It works for teams, too.

if at any point, you ever get really off track of really confused, just pull out a piece of paper, write down what’s on your mind, and then write down your Three Wins for the Day.  It’s that easy.  It works.

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to actually do.

So what’s the challenge?   Remembering to actually do it.   But there is an answer.  If you do this next step, you are actually set for life.   You’ve just added Agile Results as a part of your routines, and you will get better each day.  Success is like a snowball and the momentum is powerful.

Add Reminders to Your Calendar

This is such a simple step, and yet so powerful.

  1. Add a Monday Vision Reminder (My Three Wins for the Week)
  2. Add a Daily Outcomes Reminder (My Three Wins for the Day)
  3. Add a Friday Reflection Reminder (3 Things Going Well, 3 Things to Improve)

In fact, if you did nothing else, and even skipped the exercises above, adding these three recurring appointments would do more for you throughout the year, than just about any single tip or trick in the bag of productivity tricks.  Why?  Because you get the power of the compound effect, as well as you build a habit that reinforces focus, and puts value front and center.  It also helps you build momentum while you add up your little wins that lead to bigger wins.   It’s a way to generated powerful progress all from a simple and lightweight system.

It really is a simple system for meaningful results.

People have told me they can do the next three actions in under three minutes.  (I think that’s about how long it took me, too.)   The beauty is, you do it once, and then you’re done.  Your favorite calendar will do the rest and it will remind you each day to practice the habit of getting results.

If you add these three reminders, you reinforce the most important pattern in Agile Results:

Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection

It’s the secret sauce for how everyone can have a better week, a day at a time.  And if you can have a great week, you can have a great month, and if you can have a great month, you can have a great year.

Action: Add Monday Vision Reminder

To add Monday Vision to your calendar:

  1. Create a recurring appointment for your Monday Vision reminder on Mondays.
  2. Add the following to your reminder:

“What are your three wins for the week?”  (Write them down.)

Action: Add Daily Outcomes Reminder

To add Daily Outcomes to your calendar:

  1. Create a recurring appointment for your Daily Outcomes reminder for each day of the week.
  2. Add the following to your reminder:

“What are your three wins for TODAY?”

Action: Add Friday Reflection Reminder

To add Friday Reflection to your calendar:

  1. Create a recurring appointment for your Friday Reflection reminder for Friday.
  2. Add the following to your reminder:

“What are three things going well?”

“What are three things to improve?”

The System is On Your Side

Congratulations.  If you’ve followed along, you now have the system on your side.  Agile Results can help you through thick and through thin.  You will have those bad days where your Three Wins might be, “Great Breakfast,” “Great Lunch”, and “Great Dinner.”  After all, we’re human and life throws curve balls.

At the same time, by having a system that helps you carve out Three Wins, you will find yourself responding to challenges instead of reacting to problems.  You will find yourself achieving great things you didn’t even know were possible.  You will find yourself getting incredible clarity on the things that really matter, and slowing down so you can speed up, and actually enjoying the journey … a moment at a time.

Agile Results gets better when you share it.  Maybe you don’t need it, but maybe somebody in your life does.  It can really help them win in work and life.

Get the Book

GettingResultsTheAgileWay2

Getting Results the Agile Way is the book that changes lives.   It’s all about helping you think, feel, and be your best in any situation.  It’s easy to flip to any page and find things you can use right away.   Aside from really taking you through the Agile Results system, it is also a cornucopia of productivity and time management techniques you can use to really get an edge.

The system, Agile Results, is more than 10 years in the making, and is a synthesis of proven practices for productivity, time management, and work-life balance, integrated into a simple system.  I’ve been teaching it to the people I mentor, as well as using it for teams around the world, and I’ve been sharing the system with companies of all shapes and sizes.   It’s a powerful advantage in today’s ever-changing world.

Even if you don’t get the book, you at least can have the heart of the system on your side.   I know this post was especially long, but I really wanted everybody to have a chance to build a personal results system so you can have your best year. Ever.

Best wishes for your best year ahead.

Image by mac.rj.

16 Comments on "Setup Agile Results as Your Personal Results System to Master Productivity"

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  1. Chris Smith says:

    Great post JD. I especially like the daily reminders tip.

    In your examples above, you reference work-related wins. How do you roll life/family daily/weekly/monthly wins into this system?

  2. JD says:

    @ Chris — Thank you.

    Great question. I tend to add life into it, especially at the daily and weekly levels.

    That said, I keep separate lists for work projects and separate lists for personal projects. This makes it easy for me to quickly draw from each day and each week.

    So I’ll scan my personal/life and quickly add it to my day or week.

    This helps me find ways to leverage existing workflow as well as see at a glance if I’m stretching myself too thin and need to reel back.

    When it’s working well, you create great synergy.

  3. Viv says:

    I agree with your method. Focusing on the outcome keeps you focused and weeds out non-value added activities. Great reminder.

  4. JD says:

    @ Viv — You might say, it keeps you out of the “weeds.” ;)

  5. I guess this is more of a promo than a comment :) I’ve gone through JD’s 30 days of Getting Results and it’s revolutionized how I approach my day. There is a ton on Time management out there that’s very administrative, but this is compelling, and more like writing your day as a story.

  6. JD says:

    @ Aaron — Hey, a promo works fine … it’s music to my ears.

    I know what you mean about heavy administration. I wanted Agile Results to be a light-weight system for rapid planning. I’ve continuously simplified it over the years.

  7. Oliver says:

    Great overview. Just added my reminders. I love using David Seah’s “Emergent Task Planner” for my daily list and keep the weekly ones digitally.

    Is this a new version of the book (I have the one with the blue cover)?

  8. Oliver says:

    I want to echo what Aaron said. I’ve been using it for three months now. At the start of the day you feel like an architect designing a great day. Friday Reflection allows you to identify waste/friction in your process so your next week goes smoother. It’s a system that grows in value the longer you use it.

    Complex systems suck up your willpower and fall apart quickly when you leave them alone. With a simple system every day is a fresh start. Build rituals for the mundane so you can carve out clean time slots for the results.

  9. @JD – I’ve turned my morning routine (based on Getting Results) into half-sheet with 5 images. I’m very visual, so this really simplifies it.

    @Oliver – I agree with your statement about Getting Results making you feel like an architect at the beginning of the day. I feel like I drive my day now instead of being driven by tasks.

  10. Curtis says:

    Great post. I use a very similar system in my life which I came up with a few months back – and it works VERY well. I like the idea of ‘wins’ better though. One thing I do is on Friday I set 3 goals for the following week and then send it to myself using ‘@followupthen.com’ to be sent on Monday morning as a nice refresher reminder. I use that same system to clean out my inbox on Sunday, which serves as kind of a clean-up and prep day for the week.

  11. JD says:

    @ Oliver — “Build rituals for the mundane so you can carve out clean time slots for the results.”

    Extremely well put. I have a hard time getting this point across, especially to people that hate routines. But the big idea is that by putting some lightweight scaffolding in our day, we create more room for our art parts and smart parts.

    It’s probably an area I should take deeper to show people how to find things worth making routines for, how to make routines fun, how to mature routines, how to change routines, and how to get rid of routines.

    @ Curtis — Reminders work wonders. It’s also great that you have a routine so you always have a clean slate and fresh start.

  12. Vidya Sury says:

    I currently follow the “master list” which is an ongoing list in a notebook. I just note everything in series…and when complete, go back and put the dates next to it. Of course, I have a month-at-a-glance calendar where I jot down my daily and weekly stuff.

    But your post today has given me better focus.

    :-) I just maintain separate columns on my sheet for home/work – and it works for me. I am a list freak.

    Thanks, J.D. The Agile way book is simply fantastic to focus and accomplish what we want.

  13. JD says:

    @ Vidya — Way to go!

    I’m with you on lists. I’d rather have things down on paper, than bouncing around in my head. Plus, I can think much better on paper.

    Some people see lists as enslavement. Others see lists as freedom. For me, lists free me up to focus on higher things.

    It’s all about the mindset.

  14. Curtis says:

    So I caved and bought Getting Results the Agile Way – great stuff! I gained a lot of value from it and enhanced my own results system (consider me a raving fan).

    What program do you use to keep track of your system? I have been using Evernote, which has been working well, but I had to make a lot of customizations and a template for daily lists and it is still missing a calendar and reminders feature. Sometimes I contemplate starting up my own app to get the job done.

  15. JD says:

    @ Curtis — Thank you.

    I’ve varied tools over the years, but for the most part, I use a combination of pen and paper, plus Outlook, plus Evernote.

    I carry a little yellow sticky pad with me so I can always put things down on paper.

    I use Outlook for calendar reminders. I have a recurring reminder on Mondays for Monday Vision, a reminder each week day for Daily Outcomes, and a reminder on Friday for Friday Reflection.

    I use Evernote for simple lists. The trick in Evernote is to title each list with a date format and sort the title so you see the latest at the top. I title mine with YYYY-MM-DD.

    My favorite approach in Evernote is to have a notebook with notes:
    - Daily Outcomes
    - Weekly Outcomes

    Daily Outcomes
    2013-01-30
    2013-01-29
    2013-01-28
    … etc.

    Weekly Outcomes
    2013-01-28
    2013-01-21
    2013-01-14
    … etc.

    Notice that Weekly Outcomes is the date of Monday for the week.

    This gives me a fresh note each day, each week. At the top of the note, I list my three wins, and then I make some whitespace and then dump everything else for the day or week that I need to worry about.

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