Cliched, but true : the thing I love the most about Microsoft is the chance to work with some of the smartest people around! One such guy is J.D. Meier, GPM at P&P in Microsoft by day, and amazing life-coach by night (well, in non-working-hours J)running Sources of Insight, a treasure trove of proven practices for personal effectiveness.
I met him in June last year to seek help managing my work schedule. It just seemed like I was putting in endless hours at work answering zillions of mail, attending hours of meetings – but it felt like I was getting lost in a sea of info and drifting endlessly without a feeling of achievement. JD introduced me to his system of Getting Results the Agile Way as a framework to help me organize my work. I LOVE agile. So, the idea of using agile principles beyond software engineering had instant appeal for me. But boy –it needed a lot of discipline to practice this each and every day! However, as I put this into use in my daily life, I realized how effectively it was helping me find my way through my amorphous barrage of work. And I thought I would share it on my blog.
There are 3 principles that I adopted from the system and snapshots from my One Note notebook that I use to track them:
1. Rule of 3
2. Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection
3. Hot Spots
The Rule of 3 helps me focus. It helps me identify the top 3 results I want out of any activity(ies) and provides direction. I use this to define 3 primary outcomes I want off each day and each week. At the start of every day, I list these 3 outcomes and direct my day accordingly.
Monday Vision helps define 3 outcomes I want for the week, daily outcomes track 3 key results for the day and each Friday, I update my weekly results based on how well I did on my outcomes through the week. Since I have a backlog of outcomes built up already, each day, I can pick the top 3 prioritized backlog items to attack in a day. It’s simple agile! Friday reflection functions as a retrospective on what went well and where I can improve things for the next week. This provides a clean start each week.
The 2 items below the blue line are not really outcomes – they are tasks. So, they are not part of the big 3 for the day, but I put them down as a todo list so I make sure to complete those to achieve the outcomes listed
Monthly results are a great way to track your outcomes each month so you don’t have to scramble at annual review J It helps if you pick a theme for each month so you run that as a background thread in all the activities you do that month. Here is a partial snapshot of one of my monthly results with some confidential info blurred out
Hot spots are useful to identify the key areas of your life/work that you want to focus on. It’s useful to list this to ensure you are not working on too many things( which is one of my chronic problems). I currently classify this as work-in-progress :D
Surprisingly, all the practices in the system take very little time to do. For instance, I spend barely 10 minutes in my One Note each day tracking this. Also, a very pleasant side effect of this was that it stopped me being constantly driven by Outlook. I regularly hit zero mail on my inbox every day, despite getting over a 150 pieces of mail explicitly directed to me! People at MSFT especially, will realize what a wonderful feeling this is! J All my pending items are tracked in my unified prioritized backlog and other mail is acted upon immediately.
JD received so many positive responses to his system that he has now converted this into a book. I strongly recommend the book to anyone that wants to achieve more effective results. Bonus points if you already believe in agile development. There are more aspects of the book like planning your week, managing energy and working by themes that I haven’t tried yet, but I am hoping to try sometime soon.
Do you have practices that make you more effective? I’d love to hear from you!