If you’re a busy professional, following a productivity system like GTD or the Pomodoro method seems like one of the most effective ways to sustain your productivity.
However, if you’re in a creative role or leadership role, these systems can be extremely challenging to adopt since your work can’t always be broken down into specific tasks and time increments.
If you struggle with traditional productivity management systems, the agile results method will likely work for you. It’s a goal-driven system that uses continuous improvement to ensure you’re always focused on the tasks that drive your success.
Using the Agile Results Method
The system consists of five steps:
- Plan the top 3 results you hope to achieve each month
- Choose the 3 results that will make your week a success
- Identify 3 tasks to make each day productive
- Engage in Friday reflections
- Tackle the most difficult tasks first
This article will walk you through how to implement each of these steps and suggests tools to implement it.
1) Plan the Top 3 Results You Hope to Achieve Each Month
Coming up with three goals to focus on each month can be challenging so, agile results uses hot spots to focus your brainstorming. Hot spots are the areas of your work that are most important to you. They can be long-term projects, KPIs, responsibilities etc. that play a huge role in your success.
Limit your hot spots to three to five areas that directly contribute to your goals for the next one to five years.
Here’s an example that a department leader might have:
- Hiring eight new employees and getting them 100% up-to-speed within three months of their start dates.
- Improving your overall team performance by 8% this year.
- Launching two to three new initiatives to improve team culture
- Collaborating with other departments to create implementation plans to hit your company’s five-year goal.
All of these hot spots are specific so that it’s easy to create measurable monthly and weekly goals. Once you’ve picked your hot spots, choose three results to focus on each month that directly contribute to them.
The results you pick should be broad enough to base all of your weekly and daily goals based upon them.
2) Choose the 3 Results That Will Make Your Week a Success
Using your monthly goals, map out three projects you need to complete each week to achieve them. Setting weekly priorities makes larger goals more achievable and ensures you stay focused on the right activities.
To be effective, your goals must be:
- Specific and measurable
- Realistically able to be completed within the designated week
- Able to completely achieve your monthly goals when combined
Depending on how dynamic your schedule is, you can choose all of your weekly goals in the beginning of the month or at the beginning of each week. The benefit of doing the latter is it allows you to shift your priorities based on your progress the previous week, new information you gain, and other occurrences that may influence your ability to achieve your monthly goals.
3) Identify the 3 Tasks You Need to Do to Make Each Day Productive
Weekly goals give you focus, however, it’s easy to get so busy putting out fires and dealing with miscellaneous responsibilities that, by the end of the week, you haven’t made much progress.
To avoid that, the agile results method recommends choosing three tasks each day that directly contribute to your goals. The tasks can be small as long as together they enable you to achieve your three weekly priorities.
Not only does completing daily results-oriented tasks boost your productivity, it’s also a great motivator. Leaving work every day knowing that you’ve accomplished something significant lets you experience sustained satisfaction in making progress toward your goals.
If you regularly fail to complete your daily results, be honest with yourself and determine if you’re not finishing them because they’re too ambitious or if you’re not setting aside enough time.
If it’s the former, reevaluate how realistic your monthly and weekly goals are and adjust them accordingly. However, if it’s the latter, block out some time on your calendar each day to work on achieving that week’s results.
If your schedule is packed, use times that are often underutilized such as between meetings, gaps of time before or after lunch, the first hour in the office, or other times that are specific to your schedule.
4) Engage in Friday Reflections
Continuous improvement is a core value of the agile methodology. To ensure that you’re focused on the right projects, you need to constantly reflect on your progress and assess if you’re tracking to reach your goals.
Research shows that people who frequently reflect on what they learn at work perform an average of 23% better than those who don’t. This performance boost exists because engaging in reflection enables you to frequently pivot your approaches and drive better outcomes.
Here are some questions to drive your Friday reflections:
- What went really well this week? Why was it successful?
- What failed? Why did it fail?
- What did you learn this week?
- Did you fully achieve your results for the week or did you fall short? Why?
Your goal for your Friday reflections is to identify ways to improve the following week. So, you should be deeply critical about what you’ve accomplished in order to learn as much as possible.
5) Tackle Your Hardest Projects First
Since the agile results system is based on achieving progressive goals, falling behind on just a couple of weekly tasks can prevent you from achieving your goals.
One of the most effective ways to stay on track is to tackle your hardest projects first. According to the American Psychological Association, willpower is a limited resource and, as time goes on, you’re increasingly likely to avoid difficult tasks and give in to distractions.
To prevent a lack of willpower from hindering your progress, you need to:
- If possible, schedule your most challenging weekly priorities for the beginning of the month
- Complete your most difficult weekly tasks Monday through Wednesday
- Do your hardest tasks in the first half of the day
Completing your highest priority tasks as early as possible increases the likelihood that you’ll consistently achieve the results you need to reach your long-term goals.
Using the agile results system, you can reliably all of your long and short-term goals without dealing with the logistical and time burden of mapping out your entire day.
Tools to Implement the Agile Results System
If you’ve decided to give the agile results system a try, the first step is setting it up. Below, I've explained how to do so using three different tools.
At the start of every month, I review my team’s quarterly goals (my hot spots) and use them to choose my monthly results. Then, every Sunday night/Monday morning, I pick my three weekly goals and my fifteen daily tasks. Choosing all of my daily tasks gives me the flexibility to pick which ones I complete each day based on my bandwidth.
However, if you prefer more structure, you can pick which tasks get completed each day at the same time that you choose your weekly goals. If you do this, you can add daily due dates to the cards.
To track my progress, I add red (not started), yellow (started), and green (complete) labels to each of the cards.
Standard Calendar Apps
If you don’t use Trello, you can adopt the agile results system using your calendar app. Here’s how to track your results:
- Monthly - List your monthly goals on the first of the month or a notes section.
- Weekly - List your weekly results as a week-long event that covers the entire day but shows you as free. This should create a banner over your week to keep your goals top of mind.
- Daily - Block off time every day to complete your three daily results.
If your calendar has other features, you can customize these steps to make your goals look more organized and/or to track your progress.
Goal Tracking Apps
If you want advanced features such as getting sent reminders, the ability to easily track progress over multiple months, or the ability to easily track milestones (such as x weeks of successful goal completion), then you may want to use a goal tracking app like Strides or GoalsOnTrack.
Since the features vary based on which one you choose, the key to using them is starting by setting up your monthly, weekly, and daily results. Once that’s done, enable any other features that will help you be successful.