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30 Day Improvement Sprints Revisited

30 Day Improvement Sprints Revisited

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“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”  -- Voltaire

With New Years, coming, I think it's a good time to remind you of a technique you can use to increase your success exponentially.

It's 30 Day Improvement Sprints.  If you have a goal in mind that you seriously want to nail, then 30 Day Improvement Sprints might be exactly what you need to help you knock it out of the park.  I've talked about 30 Day Improvements Sprints here on this blog, but I've also shared them in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

What You Need to Know About 30 Day Improvement Sprints
Here's what you need to know about 30 Day Improvement Sprints

  1. Chip away at any stone.  30 days is a great way to chip away at any stone.
  2. Use them as a force multiplier.  By doing a little something each day toward your goal, it adds up.  It's a force multiplier.
  3. It’s easier to sustain, because it’s not forever.  It's a sprint, meaning you can apply extra force and focus, since you don't have to sustain it forever.   This is especially helpful for experiments and changing behaviors or habits.
  4. Get a fresh start each month.  You get to choose a focus each month.  Each month is a new page.  A fresh start.  A do-over.
  5. Meaningful months.  Rise above the noise.  When you have a theme for the month, you have something bigger you are working towards.

Born Out of Necessity
I originally created 30 Day Improvement Sprints as a way to deal with the fact that I had competing priorities.  I had a lot of things I wanted to focus on, but then I was constantly hopping back and forth, and not making enough progress on any one thing.  Then I stepped back and look at my year as a portfolio of possibility.   I have 12 months to invest and play around with.  I then asked the question, what if I used each month as a way to focus on something I really wanted to learn or improve?  Then each month, I could either pick the same thing again, or choose something new.  Finally, rather than do everything at once, I could focus on one key theme for the month, knowing that next month, I could then focus on my next big thing.  The side benefit of this is peace of mind.   When you have a time or a place for things, you can put them to rest.  Otherwise, they keep competing for your attention, until you finally say, next month is when I’ll focus on XYZ.

Benefits of 30 Day Improvement Sprints
30 Day Improvement Sprints turned out to be one of my biggest game changers.  Here are some of the benefits I experienced:

  1. Monthly Themes.  I had a specific focus or theme for the month.  This alone was worth it's weight in gold.
  2. Breakthroughs.  I was suddenly having breakthroughs because I was spending enough time on a problem.
  3. Exponential learning.   Because it was a longer stretch of time, I started taking on new challenges, and learning new things.
  4. Changing habits.  Changing habits became easier because I could easily set a theme and focus for the month, and just do a little each day.
  5. Domain deep dives.  The distinctions and insights that I learned from focusing on a goal for the month, lead to some deep discoveries and self-awareness.

Examples of 30 Day Improvement Sprints
I used 30 Day Improvement Sprints for everything from learning Windows Azure to improving roller blading to experimenting with eating living foods and getting 10 years younger.   One of my most memorable 30 Day Improvement Sprints was a focus on 30 Days of Getting Results.   Each day, for 30 days, I took 20 minutes to write about one thing that really helped me achieve better, faster, and simpler results.   The results was a large body of insight and action with mini-lessons for getting your groove on and changing your game.   (I ended up creating a free 30 Days of Getting Results eBook to put it all at your finger tips.  If there’s enough interest, I’ll figure out how to put it on the Kindle too.   It’s the perfect thing to help you start the New Year with some of the best patterns and practices for getting results on your side.)

Results at Work
I’ve also used 30 Day Improvement Sprints to focus and energize teams at Microsoft.   For example, when I first joined the Enterprise Strategy team at Microsoft, I made one of the themes a focus on “simplicity.”   This theme caught on, and soon our General Manager was driving action and focus on simplicity.    This helped us take a fresh look at one of our products and find ways to dramatically simplify the experience.   As the simplicity focus gained momentum, more and more breakthroughs started to show up, all in the name of a simplified experience.

Use 30 Day Improvement Sprints as Your Unfair Advantage in the New Year
I’m a fan of Voltaire’s original quote, but I would twist it a little … “Few challenges withstand the assault of sustained action.”   Using 30 Day Improvement Sprints really does put the advantage of time on your side, as well as the power of focus and motivation.   It also creates an incredible learning loop.   Your little actions and feedback loops each day teach you distinctions you can use each new day to keep improving and getting over the humps.

Here are a couple ways you can use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to get exponential results in the New Year:

  1. Use January to go through 30 Days of Getting Results.
  2. Turn your New Years Resolution into a 30 Day Improvement Sprint.
  3. Choose one of your most self-defeating habits and go up against it in a 30 Day Improvement Sprint.

Think about it … A New Year.  A fresh start.  Twelve months in which you can choose a new theme or focus each month.   Maybe you learn a new language?   Maybe you learn the Tango?   Who knows.    There are a lot of opportunities and potential when you have a system on your side.

If you’ve used 30 Day Improvement Sprints, I’d love to hear how you’ve used them.  I’ve had various folks send me their stories on their breakthroughs and changes.   I always enjoy reading the stories, so keep sending my way.

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