The Secret to Improved Productivity: 3 Daily Tasks

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“Is your day by default or by design?” J.D. Meier

Imagine if you wrote three things on a post-it note each morning, and allowed these three things to shape the rest of your working day. All emails, calls, meetings now take second place to these three things. Your time, energy and focus are dedicated to achieving these three tasks. Each evening, when you finish up for the day, you happily cross off each of the three tasks, and then write a new list for the next morning. Not only are there three things to achieve each day, but this expands into a list of three things for each week, each month, each year. And by approaching our tasks in this way we use our time, energy and focus to consistently work towards achieving our personal and professional goals.

Getting Results the Agile Way

This is the core concept behind the best selling book, Getting Results the Agile Way written by J.D. Meier, Director of Digital Transformation at Microsoft. In his own words, “Results was the name of the game, and I didn’t have the playbook. When I first joined Microsoft more than 10 years ago, I was overwhelmed… However, I hadn’t moved across the country, leaving everything and everyone I knew behind, to fail right off the bat. One of the first things I did to survive was study the best of the best. I found people in the company that got results, and I learned from them”. The concept is simple and explained clearly in the Manifesto for Agile Results:

  • Meaningful results over just doing tasks.

  • Fresh starts and clean slates over burdens and baggages.

  • Flexible results in an ever-changing world.

  • A bias for action over heavy planning.

  • Boundaries and balance over burnout.

  • Scenario-driven results over just doing “stuff.”

Not only is there a best selling book, but the ‘Getting Results the Agile Way’ website is an excellent starting point and has a wide range of resources, including the ‘30 Days of Getting Results‘ series which has an individual lesson for each day of your first 30 days. It’s well worth checking out. At this stage you might ask, “What’s the difference between this approach and all the other methods?” and this is answered in the introduction from Michael Kropp, GM Microsoft Dynamics. The answer is that this approach is agile and has “adaptability built into the entire framework, so you’ll be able to factor in and manage changes when they happen instead of them managing you”. You don’t need to be working in software development to reap the rewards of using agile concepts to pursue your personal and professional goals.

Two More Steps

After the 3 Daily Tasks, you can do two more weekly steps called (1) Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday reflection pattern and (2) Life Hot Spots.

Monday Vision

Identify the three most important things that you have to get done before Friday evening. This will be difficult at first as right now you probably feel that everything is urgent. There could be a trial and error phase.  As Meier says, “test everything”. If you are consistently failing to tick these three things off each Friday, it’s time to reassess. Try choosing smaller tasks to achieve by Friday, or pick different tasks. Keep testing until you find out what works. If you achieve all of your three tasks before Friday, well that’s great! And then you have room on your plate to take on something else. Daily Outcomes Each morning take a little time to reflect and consider this question: “What will be my three best results for today?” Friday Reflections Each Friday morning, start by asking yourself, “What are three things going well?” and “What are three things to improve?”.  Each week you can learn more about your capacity and bottlenecks, and bring that information with you to the following week.

Life Hot Spots

‘Hot Spots’ reflect what is going on in your life besides work. Some examples are relationships, mind, body, emotions, financial, fun etc. The approach here is to carve out time to spend on some of these elements each week. To do this, pick a selection of hotspots, it doesn’t have to be every single one. You’ll probably take on more than you can handle. Next, set a maximum time limit for those things that have a tendency to take up all of your time e.g. your career. This ensures that you have a cut-off point. And then set a minimum time limit for other areas that you tend to neglect e.g. fun. By setting a minimum time limit this ensures that you dedicate at least a certain amount of time to these hot spots. ,

Just a Brief Snapshot

This is only a very brief snapshot of the core elements of this approach and the book has some great chapters on Keys to Results, Motivation and Strategies for Results that will put some drive in your day. In particular the chapter on 5 Productivity Pitfalls and 30 Common Productivity Pitfalls will ring true for many people! Analysis Paralysis anyone? So grab the nearest post-it note, consider the three most important things to achieve today, and write them down. Repeat again tomorrow morning. And think about the three things you want to achieve by the end of the week, the month and the year. Who knows what you might achieve.

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