Use 3 Stories to Drive Your Week


3 Stories to Drive Your Week

“If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life.” —Siberian Elder

We’re wired for stories. Stories help us make meaning and they help us remember things.  They can also help us simplify and avoid getting overwhelmed in our everyday things.  The big idea to keep in mind here is that you’re the most important story teller in your life, and you can use little stories for getting results.

You can use 3 stories to drive your day.  By using the power of stories, we turn the “daily grind” into the “daily great.”  … “Call the customer” becomes “win a raving fan.”  … “Clean the living room” becomes “create a powerful sanctuary for recharging and renewing.”  … “Create a project plan” becomes “Share the playbook for my game winning plan.”  These are all little stories that help you write your story forward and connect with your results.

3 Stories to Drive Your Week
You can also use 3 stories to drive your week.  Just stepping back to ask yourself what are 3 stories you want for your week helps you carve out a compelling path forward.   In fact, I use this to drive my project teams.  On Mondays, I ask the team, “What would be our 3 best results for the week?”, or “if this were Friday, what are 3 results we want under our belt?”  This forces us to step back and design a compelling week before we spend our time and energy.  This connects us to the end in mind, in a very simple way and it helps us create a shared vision of what good looks like.

Keep Your Stories Simple but Compelling
Your stories for the week don’t need to be complicated.  Ideally, you keep them simple so you can recall them whenever or wherever you are.  In fact, my 3 stories for this week are: 1) Get clarity on my career, 2) Finish off the outstanding issues for my open project, and 3) Create a compelling vision/scope for my next project.  I say the stories as simple one-liners so that I can easily remember them, but the one-liners remind me of the results that I want and they help me stay on track.  Whenever I get lost in my day to day, I can step back and ask myself, what were my 3 stories for the week.   If I need to find more drive and motivation, I tune my stories by tapping into my values and connecting to the things that give me juice.

3 Ways to use Stories to Drive Your Week
Getting started using stories to drive your week is pretty simple, and it gets even easier with practice.  The key is to just start.  Here are 3 ways to use stories to drive your week:

  1. On Mondays, identify 3 stories.  As part of Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, and Friday Reflection,  identify 3 stories for your week.  Simply identify 3 results you want to accomplish.  Next, spruce them up as simple one-liner stories.  If you have trouble turning them into stories, just the fact you identified 3 results you want to accomplish goes a long way.  You’ll become a better storyteller as you go along.  One thing that helps me is I think “villain and victory” and what the hero needs to do to win.
  2. Each day, use your stories for the week as a guide.  As you figure out your stories for each day, consider them against your bigger picture for the week.   Wednesday is a great mid-way checkpoint to see if you need to significantly change your stories or change your approach for a strong finish.
  3. On Fridays, reflect on your stories.  How well are you doing against your stories?   … Either you’re nailing your stories or you’re not, and either those results are compelling for you or they are not.  The beauty of this is it helps you see if you are biting off too much.  It also helps you learn how to package up your results.  Most importantly, it helps you see your wins, even if they are only partial.  Chalk your partial wins up to making progress and celebrate your successes.  When you miss results, rather than get down on yourself, turn it into lessons and carry the good forward.   Remind yourself that each week is a new chance at bat.

While 3 stories might sound too simple, you’d be surprised how much clarity this adds to your days and to your weeks.  The little stories add up and that’s how you create your epic adventures in your life … moments at a time, and a story at a time.  Remember that it’s a numbers game, and the more you get up to bat, the more chances you have to hit the ball out of the park.

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  1. Hehe this was my favorite example –

    “Clean the living room” becomes “create a powerful sanctuary for recharging and renewing.”

    Who doesn’t want a powerful sanctuary!

    I also do something similar with visualizing when I am trying to motivate myself to do a particularly unpleasant task – I tell myself how that task fits in with my larger plan, and like you said, make it part of a story =)

  2. I always find innovative time management and planning techniques here. There are lots of other resources that just rehash the same strategies over and over. This — three stories to get things done — is new to me. Thanks, JD.

  3. I started using 3 weekly/daily stories…
    It sticks and it works for me very well.
    I am now extremely overwhelmed with avalanches of info as I am moving into another position.
    Sticking with 3 simple stories is actionable and effective.
    Love it.
    Love the most “win a raving fan” – it is very consistent theme I am hearing these days… 😉

  4. I already told you, JD, I love your 3 stories approach. Simple and powerful and quite brilliant really.

  5. Hi J.D.

    Great way to start our self evaluation. The 3 stories will help us being on track. And that’s for sure if we are on track we sure can see some good results coming out of it. Awesome!!!

    Cheryl Paris

  6. Hi JD,
    I have problem to understand from this post the differences between goals and stores regarding to Monday reflection etc’.
    If you can show an example of goal story it will be great


  7. What a thought-provoking article! This is definitely a great way to move beyond procrastination and right to production.

    I have become really interested in the idea of telling stories lately. I have started to use them more deliberately in my business advisory practice (examples and case studies) and also as a writer – instead of developing an idea for a non-fiction book with a self-help slant, I am writing a novel and letting a story communicate the message. Thanks for an excellent example of another way to use stories…


  8. @ Eduard

    There’s definitely an art to it. I think it’s a spectrum too — minimally you can identify a goal, but ideally a compelling story that gets you jazzed.

    @ Sid

    One great forcing function of stories is they force you to figure out what you really care about.

    @ Melissa

    Thank you. I figure as a writer this must really resonate with your approach.

    @ Alik

    Your 3 story approach will server you well, to keep you grounded as you move forward on your new adventures.

  9. @ Lana

    Thank you. Good things come in simple packages.

    @ Cheryl

    It’s a nice loop of setting our eyes on the prize and savoring our results, or even just progress.

    @ Dror

    Goals tend to be mechanical, while a story let’s you spin a tale and change the “how” or the “why” or the amazing “result.”

    I think goals are a good way to start to get clarity on what you want to accomplish, but a lot of people are bored with goals. They can spruce up their goals by simply turning them into compelling stories.

    At the end of the day though, use what works for you. The key thing is just to have a simple set of results that inspire you and keep you on track based on what you want to accomplish.

    @ Jennifer

    Thank you!

    I originally thought stories were overhead, but I hadn’t considered how succint they could be. What clicked for me was that I could write tickler-lists or one-liner stories that are a hook for elaboration in my mind or in a story I tell the team.

    I can always fall back to just plain goals or compelling goals, but the I can leverage a villain, victory and hero thread, the more people get engaged.

    Additionally, the Microsoft culture is reenforcing for me … people are always asking me “what’s the story?”, so I get lots of practice.

  10. I just LOVE the positive spin you give the stories! The best energy!! I’ve already done so much creating of positive recharge zones today.

    Next week, my stories will be creating lands of enchantment in song, sharing ideas of hope via and shining my torch in the dark for those looking for light.

  11. It’s nice to read, hear, or watch stories, specially a positive and life changing stories. There are moral values you can pick up. Not only stories, you can read some poems and quotes too.

  12. Hi JD – I love the way you keep endorsing the power of 3.

    Stories too – they are simple ..and if they are ours we should be able to remember them and bring them to the fore, to keep us on track.

    And, of course, we have 3 again … three weeks for the habit to stick … practise makes remembering and each task better and better

    Thanks – great post – 3 stories to drive my week .. Hilary

  13. @ Jannie

    Thank you!

    You took the ball and ran with it … your stories already teed you up for a great week.

    @ Vered

    I use stories to keep the stress at bay. I add 3 stories to the top of my gnarly To Do lists as a way to simplify and make meaning.

    @ Dlysen

    Stories and quotes definitely share wisdom and know-how. I like the fact that we can spin our own tales forward to conquer the trials and tribulations of our everday life.

    @ Hilary

    3 is the magic number. It’s funny how simple constraints in time, or space, or just quantity can really help us simplify and get results.

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