J.D. Meier's Blog

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Making 30 Day Improvement Sprints More Effective

Making 30 Day Improvement Sprints More Effective

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In my 30 Day Improvement Sprints post, a reader asked, what tips do I have to make 30 days sprints more effective.  Here's my short list

  • Buddy up.  Seriously.  One guy's hurdle, is another girl's breeze.
  • Don't beat yourself up.  If at first you don't succeed, tell yourself you just learned another way how NOT to do something.
  • Count your improvements, not your blunders.  It's a pick you up vs. put you down approach.
  • Make each session count.  Keep your sessions short and sweet.   Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Focus on your improvement process vs. the result itself.  Make the process your reward.  I enjoy learning again for learning's sake.       
  • If you're churning, change your approach.  Don't mistake churn for awkwardness. Growth feels awkward and is a precursor to proficiency. 
  • Find experts you can model and learn from.  Success leaves clues.  If you can find somebody who does a great job at what you want to do, you have a head start.  I leverage lots of mentors.  I used to just see an amazing pool of people around me.  Now I see an amazing team of coaches.
  • Journal your lessons learned.  Each day, reflect on distinctions you made.  What's one little thing you learned you didn't know the day before.  You'll be surprised how simple notes can shine a spotlight on your gains.
  • Repetition is your friend.  Remind yourself that repetition is the mother of skill.  World class experts master the fundamentals through repetition and refinement.
  • Set your own bar vs. follow others.  Don't compare yourself to others; compare yourself to you.  Be your personal best.  I remember a point John Wooden made some time ago.  He didn't think his team should gloat over wins, or beat themselves up over losses.  His point was, if you won, but didn't play your best, did you really deserve to win? ...  If you lost, but you played your personal best, did you really lose?
  • Focus on the thinking, feeling and doing.  Sometimes the inner dialogue is more important than what you see or hear.  While something might seem purely physical, sometimes, there's a lot of self-talk an expert does that might not be obvious.  What do they think about when they perform the technique?  When they mess up, how do they get back in the zone?  What's their decision tree?  For example, when I do a customer arch and design review, they see me put stuff on a whiteboard.  They hear me ask precise questions.  What they might not know is the matrix of questions and reference examples I draw from.
  • Be your own best coach.  Use questions to shape your improvement.    
  • Ask for feedback.  Find those you trust to point out things you might otherwise miss.  

Few problems withstand sustained focus.  There's a bit of captive genius in everyone that just needs to be uncorked.  30 days of focused improvement seems to be a great way to pop the cork.  I'm finding improvement sprints refreshing because I now have a schedule for exploration.  I can rotate through more interests.  Most importantly, rather than tackle everything all at once, I just wait for my next 30 day focus.  It's easier to put something aside for the moment, if I know I'll have a chance to immerse myself in it in the future.  If I enjoyed something so much and I want to continue, I just do another 30 days.

Hope that helps!

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