Part 3! In this and the next segment of our Agile Results series, we’re going to show you how to take Agile Results – which is a pretty awesome system – and modify it to work alongside GTD, and other productivity principles.
Part 3 is an overview of all the different pieces and technology that you can use to make this modified system work. It will also outline how to set up and use the system the first and subsequent times through (i.e., the core of Agile Results). Part 4 is about implementing the non-core components of Agile, using devices from GTD or other productivity systems.
The work and process of how this works comes from my own implementation of Agile. In the Agile Results book, Meier states that you should use what you’re comfortable with – whether it’s pen and paper, a spreadsheet or custom software – to implement Agile. I’m going to show you how to do it with tools and apps that you’re already familiar with.
It’s important to make the point that while Agile is a phenomenal system, you need to change it to suit your personality and working style. There’s no need to completely throw out your existing system – just add in Agile components and make them work together. Agile is all about making tweaks, iterating and evolving you and how you work.
The implementation that we’ve come up with at Asian Efficiency is about lining up your goals from the daily through to the annual and beyond level, while creating accountability through support structures. It all goes to this core idea:
Productivity = the amount of time you spend directed toward your goals.
Let’s start by looking at the different component pieces of our modified Agile system.
Here’s a mindmap of the different components of our modified system:
Areas of Life. These are Agile’s Hot Spots. Essentially, they line up with our breakdown of the different areas of your life (health, wealth, relationships, play, projects, mind, passions). We’ll be implementing these using Stories.
Journals. This is one half of the Rule of 3. It’s the written component, where all the nitty-gritty detail goes. Journals work at the daily, weekly, monthly and annual level. You’ll also be creating journals for Areas of Life, alongside Stories.
Roadmaps. This is the other half of the Rule of 3. It’s the “overview look” of all your outcomes and progress. You’ll only have 2 roadmaps – an annual one, combining annual, monthly and weekly outcomes, and a weekly roadmap, containing weekly and daily outcomes. In case you’re wondering why we recommend 2, it’s come out of extensive experimentation and tracking.
Daily Reminders. This is your list of affirmations, important questions and other reminders you want to see on a daily basis.
Lists. Every productivity system needs lists. In our implementation of Agile, lists are 3-fold: 1) action lists sorted by area, for sprints, single actions, projects, reviews, future lists and life management lists, 2) a how-to-work list that implements a lot of Agile’s inner game concepts, and 3) systems, processes and scripts for life that you use on a regular basis.
Stickies. Confession time: I have a minor post-it notes obsession. I’ve found that posting daily outcomes on a post-it note (digital or otherwise) is useful as a quick reference throughout the day to help with focus. The roadmaps you’ll create can also serve this purpose.
Triage. Like GTD, items still get dumped into an Inbox, and then triaged accordingly.
You’ll need a few applications to set up our modified Agile Results system. You can use ANY applications really, but we recommend:
- Evernote, for journal entries, Stories and area of life journals.
- MindManager, for roadmaps. Feel free to use any mindmapping application however.
- A personal wiki program. You can use Evernote, DevonThink or VoodooPad on the Mac. OneNote, Evernote and ZuluPad work on Windows.
- A task manager. Whether it’s a simple todo list system, Things, OmniFocus or anything else.
System Setup and First Run Through
Let’s look at each part of this setup.
The journals you will keep are where it all begins. Load up your journal application of choice (I suggest Evernote if you don’t have one), and create the following notebooks/folders:
- Annual Journal.
- Monthly Journal.
- Weekly Journal.
- Daily Journal.
- Journal Templates. This is where you will set up templates in advance and copy-paste them into each journal, in order to save time and retyping.
- Life Stories.
- Areas of Life.
The first thing you want to write down are your life stories. The reason for this, is that clearly writing out statements about each area of your life, clears out and ties together a lot of the inner game and core concepts of Agile Results.
This does not have to be complicated. It’s pretty much a statement of “this is what I’m here to do with each area of my life.” Take your time with this, and realize that it could take up to a day to come up with all the different stories you have going on the first time you do this.
Here are the areas we recommend covering:
- Your mission in life. This is your overarching mission about what you’re here in existence to do. You can make it as spiritual, or as practical, as you want.
- Your health, both physical and mental (i.e., psychological well-being, state of happiness etc).
- Your wealth, which you can further break down into personal finances and career. Essentially, everything about money.
- Your relationships, social, romantic and familial.
- Your growth and development (mind), such as skills, classes, knowledge and personal development.
- Play, namely fun and downtime.
- Passion projects, if not covered elsewhere.
- Personal projects, if not covered elsewhere.
The structure of how to craft these stories (modified from The Power of Story), is this:
- How each story relates to your mission.
- The truth. Make sure you call yourself on any BS.
- The old story, including: faulty thinking, faulty logic, content and voice and faulty assumptions. Make sure you dig deep.
- The new story, which must: 1) align with your mission, 2) reflect the truth, 3) inspire you to take action. Be sure to include the truth, what would happen if the old story were to continue, show connections between your past and present circumstances, and a rough plan for action.
- Read your new story, and ask: 1) Does it take me where I want to go?, 2) Is it grounded in reality?, 3) Does in inspire genuine hope and make me want to take action?
Here’s the structure of each journal template. You’ll want to create these within your journal software.
For each outcome, you want to use this format:
- Outcome: Name of the outcome.
- Why: Why you’re pursuing the outcome.
- How: How you’ll pursue the outcome. Your plan.
- Result: What it will look like when it’s done.
- Timing: When this will happen.
- List of annual outcomes.
- List of sprints.
- A month-by-month plan. You can also create this as a roadmap instead, which is what we recommend.
- Systemized months. Roughly, the pattern of how each 4 weeks flows for you.
- Systemized weeks. Roughly, how Monday to Sunday flows for you.
- Systemized days. Roughly, how every 24 hours flows fo you.
- Review of annual outcomes.
- Annual outcomes for reference.
- List of monthly outcomes.
- A week-by-week plan for the specific month.
- Details of this month’s sprint.
- Review of monthly outcomes.
- Monthly outcomes for reference, including the monthly sprint.
- List of weekly outcomes.
- A weekly plan, Monday through Sunday.
- Review of weekly outcomes.
- Weekly questions:
1. List 3 things that went well and why.
2. List 3 things that need improvement and why.
3. Any other reviews, such as time tracking or focus tracking.
- Weekly outcomes for reference.
- List of daily outcomes.
- Daily questions. See our article on journal entries to select questions to ask.
- Review of daily outcomes.
Now that we know what each component entails, let’s walk through setting it up.
We want to do this by timeframe. This means, that the first time through, you’ll have to complete all timeframes. But then each subsequent month, week, or day, you’ll work with those timeframes to keep the system going.
- Create a copy of your annual journal entry template into your annual journal notebook.
- Fill it out. This should be straightforward. When selecting outcomes, remember the key Agile question: “If this were next year, what are 3 great results I would want?”
- Do an evergreen check or an Agile projection check. See if your selected outcomes are evergreen, in the sense that they benefit you forever, or run your outcomes against different timeframes – 1 year, 5 years, 10 years.
- Create an Annual Roadmap. Start a mindmap, and create months January through December. Put in your Annual Outcomes as branches when they’re due. If they’re due at the end of the year, put them in December. Bold and Highlight your outcomes to make them bigger.
- For each month in your Annual Roadmap, create a branch for sprints, a branch for that month’s outcomes, and a branch for major events occurring that month (anything that has a significant impact on your time, like a vacation or house renovations).
Here’s an example of an Annual Roadmap:
We create roadmaps like this in MindManager.
- Create a copy of your monthly journal entry template into your monthly journal.
- Fill it out. Remember that your monthly outcomes should flow directly into your annual outcomes. When mapping out your month week-by-week, remember that it’s a rough plan that can be changed as the weeks happen.
- Take the monthly outcomes, and put them into your Annual Roadmap under outcomes for the current month.
Here’s the updated Annual Roadmap, with monthly outcomes:
- Create a copy of your weekly journal entry template into your weekly journal.
- Fill it out, remembering that weekly outcomes should be related to monthly outcomes.
- Create a Weekly Roadmap. Start a mindmap, and then create branches corresponding to each area of life: health, wealth, relationships, mind, play, passion projects, personal projects.
- Put your weekly outcomes into the Roadmap, and bold/highlight them.
- Put your weekly outcomes into your Annual Roadmap too, under the monthly outcome that they correspond to.
Here’s what that looks like:
- Create a copy of your daily journal entry template into your daily journal.
- Fill it out. Set your outcomes so they line up with weekly outcomes. Leave journal questions until the end of the day.
- Put your daily outcomes into your Weekly Roadmap.
Here’s a fleshed-out Weekly Roadmap:
Congratulations! You’ve just done your first run through using Agile Results, and your system is now rocking and ready to go. Now let’s see how it works on a day-to-day basis.
Using Agile Results Daily
Using Agile Results (or any other productivity system for that matter) is basically about remembering to follow the system, and to keep it updated. This may take some willpower in the beginning, but with something like Agile it becomes second nature within a couple of weeks.
- Do this the last week of December.
- Review the current year’s outcomes. Spend as much time as you need, and write out as much detail as you need.
- Do an annual journal entry and annual roadmap for the upcoming year.
- At the end of every month, review that month’s outcomes and plan the following month – new monthly journal entry and update your Annual Roadmap. Remember to put the hard stuff at the beginning of the month.
- Be sure to pick a sprint. Sprints occur during your spare time, for example, picking something to read over breakfast.
- Remember that your week-by-week plan can be adjusted to incorporate new information and results of trying things. This is Agile’s system of versioning and iterations.
- Every Sunday, review the past week and plan the next week. New weekly journal entry and a new Weekly Roadmap. Update Annual Roadmap too.
- Have a rhythm to your week. Friday is usually a good day to clear inboxes and post-it notes. Remember to put your heavy loading (i.e., hard stuff) up front Monday through Wednesday.
- As part of your morning ritual, write your 3 Daily Outcomes. Update your Weekly Roadmap with these outcomes.
- As part of your evening ritual, review your completed (or not) outcomes, and answer your journal questions.
- Have a rhythm to your day. Lock in your sleeping, eating, working out and working times, and plan activities around those.
What To Do Next
You now have the nitty-gritty details of how to setup and use a modified Agile Results productivity system. You can start right away – grab the tools you’ll need (our preferences – Evernote, MindManager, DevonThink, OmniFocus) draw up your journal entries and roadmaps, and start planning.
In the next (and final) introductory article on Agile Results, we’ll be looking at how to implement some of the more abstract concepts of Agile Results, using some neat processes, tools and systems.
Do you want to see more examples of our personal systems and workflows? We reveal them all on our 3 Lifehacks seminar. It’s completely free and you’ll get to see the exact step-by-step systems and workflows that we personally use to be insanely productive. Register for the next available seminar here.
Photo modified from: imgur