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Productivity System Overview: “Getting Results the Agile Way”

Productivity System Overview: “Getting Results the Agile Way”

    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.

      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.

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      Last Updated on August 16, 2018

      16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

      16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

      The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

      How about a unique spin on things?

      These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

      1. Empty your mind.

      It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

      Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

      Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

      Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

      How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

      2. Keep certain days clear.

      Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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      This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

      3. Prioritize your work.

      Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

      Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

      Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      4. Chop up your time.

      Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

      5. Have a thinking position.

      Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

      What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

      6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

      To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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      Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

      7. Don’t try to do too much.

      OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

      8. Have a daily action plan.

      Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

      Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

      9. Do your most dreaded project first.

      Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

      10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

      The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

      11. Have a place devoted to work.

      If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

      But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

      Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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      Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

      12. Find your golden hour.

      You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

      Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

      Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

      Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

      13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

      It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

      By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

      Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

      14. Never stop.

      Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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      Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

      There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

      15. Be in tune with your body.

      Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

      16. Try different methods.

      Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

      It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

      Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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