Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
The Microsoft team that started it All …
Agile Results is a simple system for time management. Agile Results is fully explained in the action guide, Getting Results the Agile Way.
Getting started with Agile Results is easy. Here's how:
Say your answers out loud first, and then write them down. Writing your answers down helps them stick. Saying your answers out loud helps simplify your answers. If you get tongue tied or elaborate or lost when you say your answers, then find another way to say them until they are simple, clear, and concise.
Clarity is the key to driving results.
If you do nothing else, but want to get started right here, right now – then simply grab a piece of paper and write down three wins that you want for today. Congratulations – you’re doing Agile Results.
One way to remember the heart of Agile Results is to simply remind yourself of the following mantras:
It's simple, but highly effective. If you get in the habit of nailing your three wins, you will spin circles around others that don't. You will also build an important muscle when it comes to articulating your wins. You will suddenly be perceived as somebody who demonstrates clarity in purpose and results. You gain trust as a productive member of the team.
Most importantly, you build your belief in you as somebody who can make things happen. This little momentum goes a long way and will help you rise above the crowd and stand out in terms of execution excellence.
Agile Results works. It works because it does the following:
I could say more. But I'd rather you just test the system for yourself. If you don't already have the book, check it out online at http://GettingResults.com , or buy the Kindle version on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Results-Agile-Way-ebook/dp/B005X0MFD2
If you want to absolutely change your game and drive your results to the best in your life, then take the Agile Results 30 Day Challenge.
In a world of ever-increasing competition, you have to get every advantage on your side. Use Agile Results to get the system on your side and to help you flourish like you've never flourished before.
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What if you could do 40 hours of work, in just 4 hours? It sounds crazy, but it's very possible.
Time management tips # 1 is -- Add power hours to your week. Adding power hours to your week enables you to use your best energy to produce exponential results. A "power hour" is simply where you are in the zone and you got your groove on. Of all the time management tips I’ve learned, this little time management tip could be one of your biggest breakthroughs.
Here's what makes it possible to produce 40 hours of work in only 4 hours:
Let's focus on point #3: use your best energy. Simply by shifting the mix, you can do way more, in way less time. By identifying your power hours throughout the week, you can then use them for your greatest work.
Have you ever been on a roll? Have you ever felt unstoppable? Have you ever felt on top of the world, or on top of your game? When you are in this mode, you find it easy to solve problems, take on big challenges, and crank through your work pile. That's you in your power hours.
A quick story … Several years ago, I was frustrated that the bulk of my week felt like unproductive chaos. While I was producing strong results, it felt like only a handful of hours were effective. Out of 40 hours, it felt like only about 4 really mattered. I checked with my peers, only to find that they felt that only a few hours each week were really productive.
I started to pay attention to my hours each day, and I found that I was really productive at 8:00 AM, 10:00 PM, 2:00 PM, and 4:00PM. But, forget about 3:00 PM ... it was like siesta time. (In fact, the book Brain Rules talks about this phenomenon.) Armed with this insight, I then started to push the bulk of my most important work into these hours. I shoved my lesser work to the surrounding hours. I also pushed any meetings I could to the surrounding hours.
Now, instead of having 4 power hours per week, I was having 4 power hours per day.
When I wasn't aware of my power hours, I was letting other people step all over them, and I was wasting them on things like administration, or things I could do with my eyes closed. Worse, I was trying to do my heavy lifting during non-power hours, and it was like pushing rocks uphill.
By shifting my schedule to make my power hours a first-class citizen, I took my productivity to new levels that made my manager’s head spin. (In a good way, not exorcist style).
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and time management tips for Power Hours to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.
You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
What if you could improve your time management week over week? Well, you can. Imagine the pay off over time.
Time management tips #7 is Friday reflection. Friday reflection is a way to check what's going wrong, and carry forward what's going right.
To do Friday reflection, simply give yourself 10 or 20 minutes on Friday mornings to ask yourself two things:
The goal is to carry the good forward and build better habits.
Before you answer the questions above, really reflect on your week. Did you do what you set out to do? If not, did you trade up for the right things? Did you get randomized? Did you bite off more than you can chew?
See what starts to happen? You start to notice your own patterns. This awareness becomes your advantage, when you use it to change what's not working, and do more of what is working It's a way to improve your personal habits and streamline your results.
One of the most common patterns is to simply lose sight of what we set out to achieve for his week. That's why thinking of three wins for the week is so powerful. It gives us a target. We check ourselves during the week, and adjust our course, but Friday is where we really peer into our personal process improvement.
The key to exponential results is to work on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy. With Friday Reflection, the overall goal is to improve your little loop of results: identify the value, carve out things you can do, make the time for it, use your best energy to amplify it, and streamline your habits to support you.
Use your Friday as a way to invest in yourself.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to reflect on Fridays and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis. You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
The backbone of Agile Results is the values, the principles, and the practices. To make Agile Results easy to adopt, and easy to customize, I based it on a small set of core principles, patterns, and practice. The beauty of principles is that, because it’s not a bunch of rules, you can simply implement the principle, in a way that works for you, in your specific context.
I had been pointing people to the chapter on Agile Results Values, Principles, and Practices, but I wanted more focus. Now I have a specific page for each, and you can easily get each page from the sidebar on Getting Results.com:
One thing I’ve learned during my Microsoft adventures is that it is a lot easier to share a system if you organize it using values, principles, and practices.
The values help shape what’s important and identify some of the big decisions or considerations. For example, Approach over Results is one of the values. The idea is that you can’t control your results. But, you can control your attitude, actions, and response. And, you can use your results as a gauge and for feedback.
The principles help shape the practices and the mindset. For example, one of the principles is Continuous Learning. The idea behind Continuous Learning is that as you change and as things change around you, use your learning to improve your results.
The practices are the actual methods or techniques that you do. For example, one of the core practices in Agile Results is Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection. The idea behind this practice is that you use your week as a rhythm for results. On Mondays, you identify three wins you want for that week. Each day, you identify three wins you want for that day. On Fridays, you identify three things going well, and three things to improve. Your learnings and insights here then feed into the next week. It’s a path of continuous improvement.
Although it’s not called out explicitly, simplicity was a focus throughout building Agile Results. In fact, my favorite tag line in the halls for explaining Agile Results is that it’s …
“A simple system for meaningful results.”
The idea that it is a system is important. The idea that it is agile or flexible is key. And the idea that rather than just focus on getting things done, you are focused on meaningful results is another crucial key. The emphasis on meaningful results helps you focus, scope, and prioritize … and flow more significant value to yourself and others. This focus on meaning also helps provide motivation and drive from the inside out.
The more you study the system, the more the ideas unfold. There is a lot of elegance baked into the system. It’s a synthesis of many concepts that play well together, and the elegance is how the integration works, simply by adopting Agile Results. When you perform the practices, you automatically take advantage of many of the proven practices we have learned around thinking, feeling, and taking action.
It helps you make the most of what you’ve got, without you having to get mired in the details of how it works.
Best of all, it’s a system that scales up and down … whether you are leading teams or simply focused on your personal results. After all, the sub-title for the book, Getting Results the Agile Way, is:
“A Personal Results System for Work and Life”
That’s ultimately what it is … a system for helping you drive your best results in work and life in a way that helps you flourish based on timeless principles, patterns, and practices for effectiveness.
You're going to do a bunch of stuff this week. A bunch of things will happen. On Friday, when you look back, did you accomplish what you wanted to?
Time management tips #3 is – Three wins for the week. If you have your list of three wins that you want for the week, you have a fighting chance to make your week worth while.
One of the most important time management tips I use each week is to identify three wins for the week. Each Monday, I identify my top three wins that I want to achieve. For example, for this week, my three key wins are:
By having my short list of wins, I can easily prioritize my To-Do list. No matter how long my To-Do list is, I add my three wins to the top. This helps me prioritize and focus on the tasks that directly relate to my wins. It’s a healthy reminder throughout the week when I am in the thick of things or in the trenches. It’s a fast and easy way to take the balcony view.
Just like features are not benefits, tasks are not wins. When you add three wins for the week to the top of your To-Do list, you have an instant way to help you rise above the noise and stay focused on value.
It works for teams too. One of the best ways to get everybody on the team firing on all cylinders is to go around the team and do a fast rundown of your three wins from last week, and your three wins for this week. This helps the entire team stay connected to the goals, what's on the radar, and what's important, in a very simple and agile way.
Imagine what happens when everybody starts focusing on wins, and your team actually knows the big wins for the week? When you focus on wins, impact is front and center, and all the noise of tasks, go-dos, and blah, blah, blah ... fades to black.
It's transformational, and it's how high-performance teams are born.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and three stories to drive your week to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.
“The system is so good, I don’t recommend it to people…I want to keep it to myself :-)”
That comment cracked me up. I came across it on an article at Asian Efficiency.
It turns out that Asian Efficiency has a great resource to get you started on Agile Results:
It has a fantastic overview of Agile Results.
It starts off like this …
“Agile Results is a revolutionary productivity system developed by JD Meier.
We’ve experimented extensively with Agile Results at Asian Efficiency, and think that it’s an amazing way to track your goals, keep you focused and basically help you get things done. To this end, we’ve written up an introductory guide to Agile Results which will help you get up and running with Agile right away.”
First of all, I like that Aaron Lynn and Thanh Pham have a great mission:
"Aaron Lynn and Thanh Pham want to show you how to live your life to the maximum by being more productive, so you can go after the things you want in life."
Second, what I like is that Aaron and Thanh walk you through step by step in terms of adopting Agile Results. They share their tips and tricks of what they learned as they went along. It’s powerful stuff.
Here are direct links and summaries to the articles they have written on Agile Results
Are you a night owl or an early bird? When are you at your creative best?
For me, I found that I tend to be my most productive in the mornings, but most creative at night. I also found that some of my best ideas happen in the space of early Saturday or Sunday mornings.
Time Management Tips #2 is -- Find your creative hours. If you know when you are at your creative best, then you can shape your schedule around that to support your most creative times.
I've found that structuring my time is my single best way to get exponential results in less time. Originally, I structured my time to focus on productivity. What I was missing was the think time, and the creative time ... the space for creative inspiration. In the world of knowledge work, you can't "be what's next" if you don't make space to figure it out, and if you don't make space to think up, experiment, and play at your ideas.
It's really an awareness thing, but if you start to pay attention to the state you're in during the week, you'll start to notice patterns. Maybe you feel inspired and smarter in the morning. Maybe you ease into it throughout the day.
There is a big difference between grinding through work to be done, and stepping back, taking a breath, and using your creative abilities. If you feel you never get a chance to take your creative breath, then bake it into your schedule, and carve out the breathing room.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and time management tips for Creative Hours to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.
If you like quotes, I have an extensive quotes collection at Great Quotes. I continuously expand this collection. Each page of quotes is a labor of love. I take time and care to organize each page of quotes into a simple structure that makes it easy to browse many quotes at a glance.
Here are ten examples of pages of quotes from the Great Quotes collection that you can use for work and life:
If you only have time to explore one of the quotes collections, then explore the Life Quotes. They are powerful quotes that can help you see life in a new way, or remind you of what’s important in work and life.
As a preview, here are the top 10 life quotes from that page:
As one of my friends puts it, “life’s better with the right words,” and I think quotes help us make that come true.
P.S. – If there is a particular quote collection that you would like me to add, be sure to let me know. So far, I am working on a “Mental Toughness” quotes collection that a few colleagues have asked me for.
Little things that get in our way, wear us down. By creating a few glide paths in our day, we can jumpstart and maintain our momentum. Daily momentum is a key ingredient to making things happen.
Time management tips #5 is -- reduce the friction in your day. Friction is the resistance we feel, when we go to do something. It might be extra steps in our process. It might be clutter that gets in our way. It might be the inconvenience of where we put things. All these little friction points add up.
The goal is to reduce the bottlenecks in your day, and give yourself a handful of friction-free experiences. For example, paths in your house should not be an obstacle course over laundry or toys. Your computer desktop should have fast access to your most common apps. You shouldn't have to do awkward moves whether it's reaching for shampoo, or getting a glass, or throwing out the garbage (and finding the garbage should not be a game of hide and go seek.)
Your key measure is how you feel, and whether you have to work too hard, to do something simple. The more you have to do something each day, the simpler you should make it.
Here are a few examples that have worked for me.
If you get creative, you can find a lot of ways to simplify your daily moves and experiences. Some of the main ideas are:
The mantra is … the more friction free you can be, the more momentum you can build. Don’t let things break your stride, and don’t let things slow you down.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and Reduce Friction and Create Glide-Paths for Your Day to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.
Nothing helps you stay the course, or pick up the pace, or deal with setbacks like purpose. One of the best ways to focus, get your groove on, and make things happen is the power of purpose.
Time management tips #8 is power up with purpose. Purpose is they "why" behind what you do. It gives you a meaningful mission to apply your strengths, experience, and talent. In the absence of purpose, you lose your drive. After all, it's hard to bring out your best when there's no motivating mission.
Purpose comes in all shapes and sizes. Some say, "Go big or go home." For many, that's a way to step up to the plate. A way to swing with all their might. A way to dream big dreams. Here's what this might look like:
- I’m the researcher who finds the truth. - I’m the developer who writes the code to change the world. - I’m the coach who helps make others great. - I’m the musician who makes people feel alive. - I’m the poet who makes people think.
Purpose doesn't have to be grandiose to be effective. For others, a simple meaningful purpose is all they need. Heres' what this might look like:
- I’m the technical specialist who helps customers succeed on the platform. - I’m the Program Manager who helps customers share cool experiences. - I’m the glue who connects the UI to the developers.
Roles and goals are a simple way to find purpose. Take your role, line it up with the goal, and make that your mission or your purpose. Here are some that I have used:
- I am the PM who shapes the cloud story for end-to-end engagements in the Enterprise. - I am the PM who shapes the Microsoft application story for customer success. - I am the Pm who shapes the security and performance story for LOB apps.
You can make the purpose for the day, the week, the month, the year, etc. You know you nailed it when it inspires you to action, and it helps you get out of bed in the morning.
Create a one-liner reminder of your purpose that you can use today, to make your mission more meaningful.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to find your purpose and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis. You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
What do you get when you combine the power of project management with proven practices for productivity and leadership?
You get an extremely productive leadership … the kind that takes your execution capability to new heights and makes your competition jealous (or at least take notice.)
I’ve put together a set of 10 Proven Practices for More Productive Leadership in a guest post on Michael Hyatt’s blog. It’s my take on how skills from project management, combine with productivity and leadership to create a deep ability to make things happen. Project management skills are a force multiplier because they teach you to really understand the work, really understand the risks associated with performing the work, really understand the constraints and impacts of budget, resources, and time, really understand how to manage multiple stakeholders and competing concerns, really understand what progress truly looks like, and really understand how to get the right people working on the right things to drive change and flow value.
These are some of the hallmarks that underpin execution excellence and set the stage for high-performing teams.
Productive leadership is more than just making things happen. It’s creating compelling vision with clarity and conviction that inspire everyone around you to bring out their best. It taps your talent in a way that amplifies and produces exponential results. It provides meaning and motivation for everyone involved to give their best where they have their best to give.
When you think of productive leaders, who makes your soul sing or makes the blood rush through your veins, excited by their visionary capabilities and their ability to mobilize the team to fire on all cylinders? Who inspires you to believe that you can and will change the world in meaningful ways? Who do you look up to, when the chips are down, so you can fight the good fight and keep on keeping on?
Hopefully, you have several of these productive leaders right around you. If not, why not step up to the plate and set the example? People all around you are always looking to be inspired and leadership is a game where everyone can play, and everyone wins. The price of admission is courage, conviction, and compassion. If you have those, that’s a great start. But there’s a little more …
The boldest, the brightest, and the best leaders have several patterns in common and success leaves clues. The most productive leaders share a set of practices that sets them apart from every Joe. Productive leaders have a set of proven practices that gives them the edge to make things happen in any scenario.
… But what are these proven practices for productive leadership?
You can find out what these proven practices for productive leadership are in my guest post for Michael Hyatt:
For those of you on high performing teams, you’ll nod your head in acknowledgement and the practices will resonate with you loud and clear. For others, you may have to break past some of your mental models and paradigms, and explore the ideas with a curious mind.
I want everyone to get the edge and to use these practices to build more high-performing teams that flourish. I believe that everybody deserves a chance to work in an arena that allows them to bring out their best, and give their best where they have their best to give. Work can be your ultimate form of self-expression and your ultimate dojo for personal growth.
Enjoy and be sure to stop by and say “Hi” at 10 Proven Practices for More Productive Leadership. Also, be sure to share your insights and actions that you’ve learned about productive leadership.
I’ll be following closely and I’ll be looking forward to learning any new patterns and practices for productive leadership that you share.
If you are a Stephen Covey fan, I think you will like my latest edition to my Great Quotes Collection. In tribute of Stephen Covey, I have put together a comprehensive set of Stephen Covey quotes, organized into key themes:
The themes include:
Here are the Top 10 Stephen Covey quotes to start you off …
Read more at Stephen Covey Quotes, and share with friends, family, and colleagues that might enjoy Covey’s timeless wisdom for work and life.
What's the best way to do it?
Time management tips #9 is pair up. Paring up simply means find somebody that will work with you on something, rather than go it alone. When you pair up, you create a team of capabilities and you learn how to love the things you might otherwise hate. Worst case, you at least make doing what you don’t enjoy, more fun. Best case, you find a new passion for something you didn’t know you had.
We all have things to do that we're not great at, or slow us down. Maybe it's because we don't have talent for it. Maybe it's because we hate doing it. Maybe it's because we just don't know a few tricks of the trade. (Sadly, I find the that it’s missing the tricks of the trade, that holds us back the most … and learning the tricks, actually unleashes a passion in us, because we no longer suck at it … it’s such a chicken and an egg scenario time and time again.)
Chances are you know somebody who is great at whatever it is that you need to do, or at least better than you. Just because you might hate to do something, doesn't mean that somebody else does not live for it. One person's trash is another's treasure. And that's a good thing.
Pairing up is the fastest way to transfer tribal knowledge. It’s visceral. You *feel* it. You immerse yourself in it. You get to see how somebody that likes doing this activity, actually goes about it. It's your chance to learn everything from the mindset they have, to the questions they ask, to the short-cuts they use, or how they make it fun.
One of my favorite phrases at work is, "Show me how."
So many experts love to show and share how they do their magic. It puts them in their element. Sometimes they will genuinely want to help you succeed. Other times, it's just so they can show off. Either way, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you make the most of it.
One of the best pairing situations is where you find a "workout buddy" for work. Maybe you are good at doing slides, and maybe they are good at technical details. When you pair up, you can both look good, and you both have something to gain.
Pairing works best when it's a mutual gain, so it's always helpful to bring something to the table. Sometimes, all you bring to the table is appreciation for their amazing skill, and sometimes that is enough.
Another great pattern for pairing is if you are a "starter" -- you like to start things, but you aren't a strong "finisher." A strong "starter" and "finisher" pair is like a dynamic duo in action that amplify each other's success. One's strength is another's weakness, and your goal is to build a mini-team of capabilities over a one-man band.
It's not just effective, it's strategic. By doing what you do best, and supplementing where you are not, you maximize your ability to make things happen in the most effective way, while staying true to you.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to be a more effective starter or finisher and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis. You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
Personal growth is one of the best ways to get more from life. How do you achieve personal growth? Well, one way is to take on big, hairy challenges. Personal growth is what happens to you in the process of testing your skills and experience against the real world.
I like to think of personal growth as expanding your capabilities.
You can grow deeper in a particular domain, or you can grow your cross-cutting abilities. Sometimes, the best way to grow deeper in a domain, is to focus on cross-cutting concerns like focus, setting goals, motivation, productivity, time management, etc. For example, when I was working in security, I had to do a lot of stakeholder management across teams. It required a great deal of influence without authority. I had to deal with extreme conflict, and negotiate for win-wins in a number of highly-competitive scenarios. I had to practice emotional intelligence under high-stress scenarios. I had to stay focused, and use goals to help drive the team forward. I had to achieve our security goals, while making sure the team was highly productive. I had to improve my own personal productivity. All of these skills, helped me learn about security in a much broader way, from a much wider set of people, and in a way that was much more profound that if I simply focused on the principles, patterns, and practices of security. It was through personal growth, that I expanded my abilities to be effective at driving security changes in a much wider range of scenarios and situations.
Personal growth is powerful. It’s the backbone of personal empowerment. For example, sometimes when you wonder what’s holding you back … it’s you. Whether it’s limiting beliefs, or having a limited toolset, or simply having a limited perspective or experience. The key is to expand your capabilities, along the journey of work and life.
My 30 Days of Free Training for Getting Results, is a collection of self-paced modules to help you achieve personal growth. When I originally ran the self-paced training, I did it as a daily release for 30 days. It was highly effective for many people because they liked the little daily actions, and the focus for the month. Since that original series, I’ve made the 30 Days of Free Training for Getting Results available here:
It’s a highly-focused set of personal growth exercises at your finger tips. It’s also a very simple system for time management. I’ve tried to keep the layout as simple and as clean as possible. If you’ve seen the earlier version, then this should be a marked improvement. I put each day on the sidebar, so that you can easily hop around. For convenience, I’ve listed the days below, and provided a link to each lesson. This way you can get the bird’s-eye view and quickly explore any lessons that might interest you. (Personally, if this is your first time, I would check out Day #27 – Do Something Great.)
30 Days of Getting Results
Note that just because it says 30 days, that doesn’t mean you can’t flip through at your own pace. Find what works for you. Explore the ideas that you find the most interesting.
If you experience a breakthrough, be sure to share it with others. Even though this is free, it’s pretty intense. Folks have told me about their amazing breakthroughs … somehow dots have connected, and they’ve gotten over hurdles they’ve faced for years.
BTW – If you do start with Day 27 and decide to do something great, I’d love to hear about what it is.
I have a very special guest post about leadership and how to build a team of leaders. It’s by Bob and Gregg Vanourek, the authors of Triple Crown Leadership.
It’s special because it reminds me of the leadership culture we created in the early days of the Microsoft patterns & practices team – where everybody was expected to demonstrate leadership. Everybody up and down the chain was expected to influence without authority, drive for results, be accountable, take ownership of issues, strive for excellence, etc. It was a culture of empowerment, excellence, and growth.
This management philosophy, where everybody is a leader, created a culture of learning and execution that I just hadn’t seen, heard of, or experienced anywhere else before that. To put wood behind the arrow, management significantly invested in each of the members of the team, up and down the chain, so that they could operate and be effective as individual leaders, regardless of their position. As individual leaders, they could lead themselves with skill, as well as influence across organizational boundaries more effectively. The impact was a high-performing team of federated leaders that shared common values, while driving the mission and vision, and embracing the operating principles of the culture at large.
Our training included learning how to influence without authority, how to ask precise question and give precise answers (especially when dealing with executives), how to have crucial conversations, and how to manage crucial confrontations. Our training also included balancing connection and conviction, and knowing how to better relate with conflicting interpersonal communication styles. People learned rapidly from each other and accelerated each other’s growth. People also had deep respect for each other because the leadership skills shined through. People were skilled at looking at the bigger picture and focusing on the tactics within the strategies to realize the future and take bold action.
The “team of leaders” is a powerful concept. I would say it’s actually transformational. One way to grow a group is to decide that there is a leader, and of course, behind the leader are followers. If you’re a follower, even a good one, you aren’t necessarily expected to demonstrate strong leadership skills. After all, you have a leader for that. If on the other hand, everyone is a leader, then everyone is expected to bring out their best. You now have a team of forward looking, fully engaged, people asking better questions, and using influence, not coercion, to get things done. The motivational philosophy that drives the team is to win the heart, and the mind follows … so you now have an inspired band of leaders, ready to take on big challenges, and make things happen.
You get what you expect. You can choose to set the stage of whether to lead a team of leaders, or lead a band of followers. In today’s hyper-competitive world, I think you set yourself up for success when you leverage the full capacity of what your teams and people are capable of.
I forgot just how important this little idea was until I was reading the guest post. It’s a great example of how little things like attitudes and beliefs, truly shape the reality in ways that become self-fulfilling.
Have you heard of the big rocks story? If not, the idea is that if you don't first make room for your big rocks, all the fillers of life will fill up your day for you.
Time management tips #6 is -- schedule the big rocks. If you don't have an appointment on your calendar for XYZ, it's not going to happen. If you don't have a recurring appointment called, "Write Your Book," it won't happen. If you don't have a recurring appointment called, "Workout," it won't happen.
Maybe you want to build an app to change the world. Do you have a recurring appointment on your calendar called, "Build an App to Change the World"? I know some people that do. And even if they don't change the world, they are making the time for it, and that's exactly the point.
You don't have time for this. You don't have time for that. You only have time for the things you make time for. Carve out time for what's important. Schedule it, and make it happen.
What are you making time for?
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to Carve Out Time for What's Important and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis. You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
"What are your three wins for today?"
That's the one very simple test I ask myself and my team, on a daily basis. It instantly helps focus and prioritize our massive backlog, our incoming requests, and competing demands. It's how to cut "Crazy Busy" down to size with one simple question ...
“What are your three wins for today?”
It’s a way to carve out and shine the spot light on the value we will create today. It sets a target to aim for. It flips the haystack. Instead of finding the needles of value lost among the hay stack of stuff, we start with the needles. Clarity of value, trims the To-Do tree down to size.
After all, no matter what's coming your way, and what's on your plate, you can only do so much. The trick is to figure out what's the next best thing to spend your time and energy on. When you answer that question, you give yourself peace of mind, knowing that you are working on the smarter things you can for the day. You also give yourself creative freedom to achieve your goals, rather than get stuck in “the how trap.” (To-Do lists have a nasty habit of making you slaves to administration and getting stuck in tasks instead of focused on goals and value.)
Just by identifying your three wins for the day, you give yourself a way to succeed. You've just identified your personal tests for success. At the end of the day, it's easy to check your progress against your goals. It's also easy to use your wins throughout the day, as a way to stay focused or to re-prioritize.
My three wins for today are:
I keep the wins, simple and punchy. The key is saying them out loud. Actually verbalize your wins. This simplifies them. Then write them down. Say them out loud first, as if saying your wins for the day to your manager, and then write them down. The simpler you can say your wins, the easier they are to remember. The simpler you can say your wins, the easier it is for your manager to follow, and to actually appreciate your contribution. The simpler you can say your wins, the easier it is for other people to follow or help you achieve your goals. The simpler you can say your win, the easier it is to get others on the same page, whether that's your team, your allies, or winning over the forces of evil, by setting a shared goal.
This is an extremely key habit for unstoppable you. Whether you want a better review, or to be a better leader, or to simply be more effective at time management, focus, and setting priorities ... this is a daily habit for success.
In Time Management Tips #3 -- Three Wins for the Week, I shared how you can use your three wins to shape your focus and priorities for the week, as well as give yourself a way to acknowledge your impact. Otherwise, it's easy to have another week fly by, do a bunch of stuff, and yet not even be able to articulate the value you delivered or the way you change your world. even in some small way. The wins accentuate the positive, focus on what counts, and rise above the noise.
By using Three Wins for the Day and Three Wins for the Week, you have a way to zoom in on your day, or zoom out to the week, so you can see the forest for the trees, and take the balcony view. It also gives you an easy way to readjust your priorities if the focus is off. This two-pronged approach also helps you connect your daily work toward weekly impact. It also helps you see what's right in front of you, and lean in, knowing that you are spending the right time, on the right things, with the right energy.
Say your three wins for today and write them down, and see if you can nail them.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and three stories to drive your day to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.
I hate quotas. For me, I'm about quality, not quantity. And yet quotas have consistently helped me get the ball rolling, or find out what I'm capable of.
Time management tips # 10 – set limits. When we set a quota, we have a target. It helps turn a goal into something we can count. And when we can count it, we build momentum.
In my early days of Microsoft, my manager set a limit that I needed to write two Knowledge Base articles per month. I did that, and more. Way more. It turned out to be a big deal. Before that limit, I didn't think I could do any or would ever do any.
A few years back, I set a limit that my posts would be no longer than six inches (yeah, that sounds like a weird size limit, but I wanted to fill no more than where the gray box on my blog faded to white.) My blog ended up in the top 50 blogs on MSDN, of more than 5,000 blogs, and my readership grew exponentially that month. The reason I set the size limit is because my original limit was "write no more than 20 minutes." The problem is, when I'm in my execution mode, I write fast, and my posts were getting really long, even if I only wrote for 20 minutes.
Setting limits in time, size, or quantity can help you in so many ways. Especially, if getting started is tough. One great way to start, is simply to ask, "What's one thing I can do today towards XYZ?" Limits also help us avoid from getting overwhelmed or bogged down. If we’re feeling heavy or overburdened, start chopping at limits until your load feels lighter.
Here are some example of some limits you can try:
Once you set a limit, you suddenly get resourceful in findings new ways to optimize, or new ways to make it happen. When there is no limit, it's tough to optimize because you don't know when you are done.
While I'm a fan of quality, the trick is to first "flow some water through the pipe" so you can tune, prune, and improve it.
If you're feeling rusty, try setting little limits to bootstrap what you're capable of.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to be more effective and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis. You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
One of the simplest ways to get your groove back on, is to do things differently.
"Do the opposite" is a great strategy.
For example, if you've been staying up late, try getting up early. (Getting up early can help you go to bed earlier. And the secret of waking up earlier, is to go to bed earlier. See the loop?) Getting up earlier changes your world ... the traffic you see or don't, the people you pass or don't, the quiet times, the busy times, your state of mind. It all changes because you changed your structure.
And all you had to do was change your “When”.
You can apply "Do the opposite" to many things. It's a great way to cut the baggage. For example, if you normally write long and lengthy posts, try some short ones. Set a simple limit, like, “the post must not scroll.” You might find that you suddenly drop a burden from your back, and now you are light and ready for anything.
Another way to do the opposite is if you always decide that something must be done later, try doing it now. If you always do things slow, try doing things fast. If you always try to be right, try being interesting, useful, or insightful. Shake it up.
Rattle your own cage.
When we shake our cage, we wake up our possibilities. We surprise ourselves.
Getting Results the Agile Way, is “The Book that Changes Lives.”
You can also think of it as “Agile for Life.”
It’s the book that changes lives because people have used it to build high-performing teams, transform their business, and best of all … transform themselves and unleash what they are capable of. My Mom even uses it for projects on the house.
It’s also the playbook I wish Microsoft gave me when I started, but it’s also a playbook for life … in terms of how to make the most of what you got.
It’s a simple system for meaningful results … and integrates the life-long lessons I’ve learned from folks like Ward Cunningham and others.
The stories I get from people and how they’ve used it to find the fire inside, or to start a business, or to get back on track, or to build a high-performing team, or how to get a great review, or to get back on their feet, etc. have been amazing.
I’ve used Getting Results the Agile Way to build high-performing teams wherever I go, but lately, I’ve been giving more talks to other teams. I’ve been giving talks to teams over the years, but now there seems to be a growing interest in how to build high-performing teams and high-performance individuals.
I’ll find a way to share the talk in the future. I have done variations of it for some companies outside of Microsoft. Consulting companies especially care because it’s a way to amplify the productivity of individuals, teams, and leaders. After all, who doesn’t want exponential results?
Until I create the video, your best bet is to read the kindle version of Getting Results the Agile Way, and explore the Getting Results Knowledge Base, which includes checklists, guidelines, and how tos for topics like focus, goals, motivation, prioritization, and time management.
The beauty of adopting Agile Results, is not only will it help you be YOUR best at work, but it’s focused on meaningful results, so you will automatically start to live the three paths of happiness: The Pleasant Life, The Good Life, and the Meaningful Life.
Live your extraordinary life … with skill.
Do you have something that you've been wanting to learn, but just don't have the time? Do you have an area at work that you struggle with? Do you dabble in too many things at once, and never make real progress?
Enter 30 Day Sprints.
Time management tip # 11 is 30 Day Sprints. 30 Day Sprints let you try something out for 30 days and make progress. 30 Day Sprints also give you a way to cycle through something new each month. It’s a great way to embrace continuous learning. Each month you can add something new to your portfolio of skills, so at the end of the day, you can have 12 big changes under your belt.
I adopted 30 Day Improvement Sprints several years ago to deal with a couple of challenges:
What I learned is that committing to 30 days of improvement in a focused area, is easier to swallow than changing for life. However, improving an area for 30 days, is actually life changing.
With 30 days, persistence and time are on my side. It's a big enough time box that I can try different techniques, while building proficiency. Using 30 days makes working through hurdles easier too. A lot of the hurdles I hit in my first week, are gone by week 2. Little improvements each day, add up quickly. I look back on how many things I tried for a week and stopped thinking I hadn't made progress. The trick was, I didn't get to week 2 or week 3 to see my results.
That last point is a big deal. When you stick with something for more than two weeks, you get over the humps and hurdles that hold you back. It's like chipping away at the stone, and sometimes the breakthroughs don't happen until you're a few weeks in.
This is also a powerful way to add habits or change a habit. Why? Because you can do something small today. And tomorrow you can do another small thing. You can keep little commitments with yourself. You can glide your way into your habit, versus run out of steam. If you’ve ever been gung-ho for a week, and then fizzled out, 30 Day Sprints can be your answer.
As we turn the page to a new month, pick a focus for the month, and make it your 30 Day Sprint.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis. You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
Stephen Covey has past away, but his legend lives on:
Covey will be missed, but not forgotten. I see him all around me every day in the halls of Microsoft …
Many of my mentors, mentees, and colleagues are avid Stephen Covey fans. I know a lot of Softies around Microsoft that echo the patterns and practices of Stephen Covey’s work. One of my early managers, was a raving fan of Stephen Covey and he made it real. He absolutely practiced what he preached and he was one of the most inspiring managers that I ever worked for.
One of the most important lessons I learned from that same manager was that I had to be OK with failure. I had to risk enough to be able to fail. I had to be open to the idea that I couldn’t make everything succeed all of the time. He said it was this vulnerability that would become my strength. He also said that if I could embrace the idea of letting others fail and learn from their mistakes that it would be more empowering in the long run. People flourish when we give them the room.
He also taught me that you get more power, the more you give away. When you trust people, and they know you have their back, they reciprocate. The trust grows in two ways. People go out on a limb, because they know it’s OK to be vulnerable. People tell you stuff that they would only tell you when there is trust. This creates a powerful loop of learning and growth.
Anyway, I think Stephen Covey’s impact was powerful and pervasive. He is with us everywhere. The next time you hear somebody say, “Let’s start with the end in mind,” or “Are we focusing on what’s important, or just reacting to what’s urgent?”, smile and nod in acknowledgement that Covey has forever shaped how we lead ourselves and others.
Please enjoy Stephen Covey Leaves a Legacy.
I wrote a post about how to embrace the effort. Effort is something I knew very well, and it's helped me differentiate in many scenarios.
It's easy to downplay the benefit of effort, especially because you aren’t rewarded for effort, you’re rewarded for results. I never got an A for effort (although I did get an E.)
But here's the catch: YOU have to reward yourself for your own effort. And just because you don't get the results you wanted, you still need to acknowledge and appreciate your own effort. It’s critical to your long-term success.
Effort really is an essential ingredient of your personal greatness. Sure, you can luck into success some of the time, and talent can get you so far, but effort is the difference that makes the difference, and it’s the maker of more consistent success. Effort is also the key to making more meaning in your life, and it's an integral part of the path of fulfillment. Yeah, fulfillment happens more when we give our best, where we have our best to give, on a meaningful mission. Giving your best takes effort, and meaningful missions are always filled with challenges. That’s why in life … it’s the journey AND the destination (and sometimes the journey is all we’ve got.)
It's wise advice that we should focus on what we control, and let the rest go. One of the toughest lessons in life is that we can't control everything … and many times, the results are out of our hands. Sure, we get to influence, but the bigger the challenge, the less we control how the cards will fall.
But what do we always control? The effort that we put in. That’s the difference maker in our lives.
If you're not getting the results you want in work or life, take a look at the effort you are putting in. If you aren't putting in the effort required, try adding some effort to see if that makes the difference. In fact, embrace the effort. Effort is what expands what we're capable of. Feel the effort, and feel your growth.
When effort is not the trick, it's often a matter of strategy. Working harder isn't always the answer (though sometimes it is.) A lot of times it's working smarter. In many cases, the answer is "AND" ... it’s about working smarter AND working harder. (What a powerful combo.)
The beauty is that well-applied effort, often pays off.
And if you acknowledge and reward yourself along the way for the effort you put in, that always pays off.
Check out embrace the effort, and put the power of effort on your side.
WHAM! ...POW! ...WONK! ... SLAM! ...
No, it's not Batman. Those are the sounds of a friendly neighborhood Microsoft foosball player ... "En Fuego."
"En Fuego" is the expression we would say at our humble foosball table, when somebody was "on fire." On fire is like when you are in your element and all of a sudden you are firing on all cylinders and playing at another level.
That is "En Fuego."
I remember the first time I was "En Fuego” on the foosball table. It was unreal. It was as if my shots were not done *by* me ... they were done *through* me. The ball sizzled. My wrists snapped at just the right time. The ball whizzed by the defense and slammed against the metal back ... TWHACK!
Ah, if you've never experienced "En Fuego" ... you haven't lived. Anyway, I think you get the idea of what it's like to "be on fire."
Now let's switch gears and talk about another scenario.
It's "Hair on fire."
That's not a good thing.
There are all sorts of expressions for this, some better than others, but the main idea is that somebody is running around, as if their hair is on fire. It's no better than running around like a chicken with your head cut off.
It has many causes. Some of the top ones include:
Maybe you know a certain someone? …
Anyway, there is a solution. It's "Peaceful Calm." Peaceful Calm is the term we used on our team, when we were relaxed, resourceful, and ready for anything. It’s like James Bond, poised for success. Anticipate more, get surprised less, be ready for anything.
Help a friend go from "hair on fire" to "En Fuego."
The first step is Peaceful Calm.