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Productivity System Overview: “Getting Results the Agile Way”

Productivity System Overview: “Getting Results the Agile Way”
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    If you have read anything that I have written on Lifehack.org, you probably already know that I am a complete Getting Things Done junky. But, like any good lover of productivity pr0n, I tend to look online for the “next best thing” when it comes to productivity systems and implementations.

    Recently I listened to Scott Hanselman’s software development podcast, Hanselminutes, on his own personal productivity system. This guy is a telecommuting, programming animal, so I was intrigued to see what he had to say.

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    Besides the normal use of GTD, Steven Covey’s 7 Habits, and the infamous Pomodoro Technique, Mr. Hanselman mentioned a book by another programmer, J.D. Meier, called Getting Results the Agile Way. This system takes some cues from the Agile software development methodology (more here at Wikipedia) and is a system based on producing results rather than activities, having boundaries and set tasks and goals you want to accomplish, and making time your best friend.

    This system seems pretty interesting and effective once you read into it. Let’s take a look at the key points of the Agile Way productivity system.

    What’s so different about this system?

    If you are a GTDer you may sometimes feel that you are bogged down in the minutiae of everyday task management, blindly checking off tasks as you finish them. If you are a 7 Habits kind of person then you may get caught up in the question, “What’s my life purpose?”.

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    The Agile Way offers a slightly different approach . It concentrates on the outcomes of your actions rather than the activities of checking things off your list. This approach has more of a directive off the bat, whereas GTD says that you need to clear the runway level before you get to defining what you want to do with your life.

    The Agile way also is all about reflection and making sure that you are producing some sort of results in your days, weeks, months, and years. The system takes the idea that projects and tasks are always changing, and because of that it is important to make sure that your plans of action are still valid and still producing results.

    Something else that Meier’s stresses is the power of “3”, and the first he lays out is the idea of using your Time, Energy, and Technique to continuously produce results. He says that if you manage your energy effectively by living with passion regarding your work, you can use your time, energy and passion, to produce better and more quality results.

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    The system explained

    You are probably thinking, “OK, enough with the na-na-nu-nu, energy equals results stuff. How do I use this system?”

    Meier’s has a really great “getting started” guide on the book’s site. Basically the system revolves around the power of “3”. Here are the basic steps:

    • Define 3 outcomes for your day
    • Define 3 outcomes for your week
    • Define 3 outcomes for your month
    • and define 3 outcomes for your year

    Basically, you want to identify the 3 things you want to accomplish for your day, week, month, and year and then at the end of each respective period review your results, find where you can grow and improve your technique, and plan again.

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      The Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, and Friday Reflection pattern is a simple habit for daily and weekly results. source: http://gettingresults.com/wiki/Getting_Started_with_Agile_Results

      Another nice idea is the “Weekly Results” paradigm where you first identify your “Monday Vision”, review your “Daily Outcomes, and then follow up the week with your “Friday Reflection”. This reminds me of the GTD weekly review, but allows you to be even more active with reviewing your actions and results.

      There are a ton of extra subtleties to the system, like creating time boundaries for certain portions of your life (Meier calls them “hotspots”) like, work, family, fun, creativity, spirituality, etc. By setting minimum and maximum times for these areas of your life, you are creating some sort work/life balance.

      First impressions

      Overall, I am extremely impressed with Meier’s system. So, impressed that I couldn’t believe that I haven’t heard of it before. What I like about it most is that it gives you some sort of direction for your days, weeks, months, and years. GTD is awesome at helping you identify and organize what needs to get done, but sometimes falls short in the actual “doing” part of the process. I could totally see a hybrid approach with GTD and the Agile Way to take stock of your current workload and then define what needs done during your weeks.

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      Another nice thing about the Agile Way is that it is instantly implementable. You can sit down with a pen and paper (or a spreadsheet, Evernote, OneNote, text file, etc. for you geeky types) and start to define your day and week. This allows you to start concentrating immediately and isn’t filled with the initial overhead of GTD.

      So, I highly suggest that you take a look at Getting Results the Agile Way. You can pick up the dead tree edition at Amazon or read the entire book at the book’s site.

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on July 21, 2021

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

      More on Building Habits

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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      Reference

      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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