GTD (Getting Things Done) is a methodology for organizing and controlling tasks. It was invented by David Allen, a famous business coach and management consultant. After reading several of his books and reading about other people’s experiences in magazines and blogs, I was inspired to change my life according to the principles of GTD.
I read different articles and recognized myself. I was thrilled with the unified and coherent system of collecting and processing incoming information, managing cases and tasks – everything matched.
However, applying GTD, I began to notice that “I couldn’t see the forest in the trees”: every day I brought with me a large list of tasks to complete, with no end in sight. I seemed to accomplish quite a lot of them thanks to GTD, but the satisfaction of doing them and the feeling of moving forward were not always there. I realized that I lacked a connection between what I do and my long-term plans and desires, as well as a simple tool that would help me choose tasks to perform.
And this is where another methodology came to my aid, which I want to talk about today – Agile Results. The methodology was developed by one of Microsoft’s senior managers, J. D. Meier, and is described in the books “Getting results the Agile way” and “30 Days of getting results”.
The system is based on the following simple rules:
1. Choose 3 top things to do
Think about the top three things you’d like to do that would make you feel like this day, this week, this month, or this year was not lived in vain. Write down your answer.
Limit yourself to the top three things, and you’ll focus on what’s really important and not chase the number of tasks.
Start each day, week, month, year “with a clean slate”. Don’t postpone undone tasks until tomorrow, but simply ask yourself: What do I want to have done by tonight?
2. Change your daily routine during the week by this scheme
- Monday Vision. Plan the results of the week by Monday. On Sunday evening or Monday morning, plan the top three things you need to do this week;
- Daily Outcomes. Plan the daily results everyday. Take a few minutes in the morning and formulate the top three outcomes you want to get done today and don’t forget your weekly plan. Throughout the day, just do what you need to do to get what you want;
- Friday Reflection. Take a sum of the week. At the end of the week, evaluate what you accomplished and what you didn’t accomplish and for what reason. When debriefing, don’t evaluate specific results, but rather the approach. You can’t always influence the outcome, but you always control your actions, attitudes, and responses. Be prepared to change your approach if something doesn’t work.
3. Have a map of hot spots in front of you
Hot spots are the areas of greatest attention, that is, the most important areas in your life. It is a map of what occupies your heart and your mind. Everyone can have their own map of areas of attention, but if you have three areas- Life, Work, and Home-at the highest level, it is very likely that the sections of this map can be represented as follows:
|Mind||Current activity||Current activity|
|Body||Active Projects||Active Projects|
|Emotions||Backlog tasks||Backlog tasks|
Fill out your map, and it will help you see clearly what is really important to you, as well as keep a balance between the individual areas. Time limits can help keep the balance: set a maximum or minimum amount of time per week that you want to spend on a given area.This is not a strict rule of the table and its meaning. My grouping is a little different, but the general principles of selecting the three areas of attention: Life, Work, and Home – remain the same.
How have I implemented Agile Results in my life and my work?
I immediately liked Agile Results for its simple focus on the main tasks and its focus on action rather than planning. Instead of operating with big to-do lists, carefully planning, and then prioritizing tasks, you should simply start each day “with a clean slate,” remembering only the top things of the week. And areas of attention will help you connect current affairs with long-term plans and desires.
It’s great, isn’t it? Such themes should be implemented faster! But life made its adjustments, and it didn’t work out all at once.
The first mistake I made was when, instead of following the step-by-step implementation methodology described by the author in 30 Days of Getting Results, I started using only daily plans, highlighting the top three results of the day. This helped with the day’s priorities, but it broke up the basic workflow of the system (“Week Results – Day Results – Summing Up”).
The second attempt was more successful, and last fall I had the basic “Quick Results” process up and running, when I fully appreciated the benefit of focusing on the main things of the week and the ease of reviewing the results. That said, in real life, there were still additional things to do besides the three main things (not to mention a week, much less a month or a year), and all of these things must either be remembered to do or monitored.
It turned out that a “pure” Agile Results would not work in my case. I needed a combined option, combining the connection to the long-term goals, flexibility in planning and prioritizing tasks in Agile Results with keeping a complete list of all the to-do’s and GTD reference information.
This is how my current system of managing matters and results was born. It has no name, it is based on GTD and Agile Results, with elements that I highlighted from experts in our community. The system is built on the maintenance of several plans: long-term, medium-term and short-term. The shorter the planning period, the more precisely and concretely the goals are formulated.
Key elements of the system
- Intentional Lifestyle Map. This is a view of life from the highest bell tower (analogous to GTD’s “50,000-foot view”). It is a mental map with thoughts about how I would like to live in 5-10 years, how to work (not where or who specifically, but how: what to feel, what to do), communicate, rest, see, hear and feel;
- Goals for the year. These are the desired results that I want to get during this year. I work on the formulation of goals for the year in the format of mind maps in the structure of areas of attention on Agile Results, and of course I coordinate these goals with Intentional Lifestyle Map;
- The main goals for the next 100 days. A separate branch in the mind map with the goals for the year is used to keep goals for the hundred days, which allows you to see the connection between the goals of the hundred days and the year;
- Weekly Goals. The Agile Results plan for the week is made on Monday morning or Sunday evening, highlighting the top three results for the week. When making the plan, I open a map with the goals of the current day, as well as a list of all GTD tasks;
- Goals for the day. Every day, I make a plan for the day’s major results by Agile Results. In doing so, I open the note with the weekly plan, as well as reviewing the list of all GTD tasks.
The system uses the following tools:
- Mind maps on Xmind. I use it for keeping long-term plans and goal maps. But beyond that, I use mind maps very widely: when thinking about something, preparing for meetings, taking notes, and structuring information;
- MyLifeOrganized app. This is a system of maintaining all GTD tasks, with Inbox and contexts. It allows you to maintain an unlimited number of subtasks for one task, work with projects, and is very flexible. I have been using MLO since 2008 and am very satisfied;
- Evernote. This is the most convenient service for storing notes, allowing them to be structured into separate notebooks and tagged. I use Evernote as a place to store notes and reference information on GTD, as well as to keep plans for Agile Results: in a separate notebook in Evernote I keep plans for the week and summarize its results, and in another notebook I keep daily plans.
I have described my system, but I will say honestly that implementation of all methods of Agile Results in my life is not over yet. In the book “30 days of getting results”, there are still techniques and methods that I would like to apply. I intend to fill this gap in the nearest future.
Implementing the Agile Results technique has helped me:
- Link what I do to long-term goals and desires;
- Build a balanced system of areas of focus that I use in both long-range plans and in structuring tasks in MLOs;
- Focus on what’s important using simple weekly and daily planning;
- Understand what is going well and what can be corrected by doing a simple weekly review with a focus on processes.
Give it a try, maybe Agile Results will be the “missing brick” in your life or work management system!