We are huge fans of JD Meier’s Agile Results system here at Asian Efficiency. If you haven’t heard about it before – it’s a completely different (i.e., non-GTD) way of setting goals and well, getting them. Part of the system is something called Agile Results Sprints, which we’re going to look at in-depth today.
Sprints are basically a 1-month improvement focussed around learning, doing or being something. I like to think about them as a fun little aside that keeps you sane while working towards your goals.
While productivity is basically defined as the amount of time spent taking action towards your goals, everyone has other things that they often want to do. Be it play a sport, learn a new skill, practice their musical skills or otherwise… there are always “fun” and non-goal-related activities that we all want to do. This is where sprints come in.
- Sprints are a brief focus on one particular thing for 30 days.
- Applying sprints is just like applying any other outcome in Agile.
- Some frequently asked questions about Agile sprints.
Agile Sprints Defined
The official Agile Results documentation defines Sprints as:
Monthly Improvement Sprints. Pick one thing to improve for the month. Each month, pick something new; this gives you a chance to cycle through 12 things over the year. Or if necessary, you can always repeat a sprint. The idea is that 30 days is enough time to experiment with your results throughout the month. Because you might not see progress in the first couple of weeks while you’re learning, a month is a good chunk of time to check your progress.
And that actually sums it up pretty well. A sprint is a 1-month focus on learning, doing or being something else. It’s a 30-day experiment that lets your aptitude and abilities broaden outside of the focus of your goals.
- Learn a new language (or programming language) for 30 days.
- Get in shape in 30 days.
- Learn to cook a new cuisine for 30 days.
- Learn to do X for 30 days. X being anything you can think of.
- Do X for 30 days. X being yoga classes, meditation, a new habit etc.
- Be X for 30 days. X being a new change in behaviour you want to implement.
Agile Sprints Applied
Anyone can apply Agile Sprints – not just people using Agile Results as their main productivity system. Here’s how.
1. Set Sprints at the beginning of every month.
This is simple. You note down in your monthly journal entry, or create a project in OmniFocus, your sprint for the month. You’ll want to flesh it out a little bit and define some parameters. Usually 1-2 sentences is enough, but if you want to get fancy, check out our article on Goal Frameworks.
2. Ready, set, sprint.
The best way to go about “sprinting” is to work on it every single day.
Some sprints naturally lend themselves towards this – for example, if you’re implementing a new dental hygiene habit (flossing, mouthwash, tongue scraping), you’ll naturally do all those things everyday anyway.
Other sprints you want to “force” a bit, and the easiest way by far to do that is to set aside a fixed time every single day to work on them. This can go in your calendar or your task manager – I suggest both. In this post you’ll see that I have 7:30pm-8:30pm every day blocked out to work on my monthly sprint. This allows me to easily work on sprints like Learning Python the Hard Way, or perusing the wisdom of Mark Rippetoe.
You’ll want to review what you’ve done towards your sprint on a daily basis. A great place to do this is your daily journal entry. You could also just keep a simple 2-column excel spreadsheet with dates in one column and notes in the other.
At the end of every month, you want to review how your sprint went. The great thing about sprints is that they are not that serious. So if you get to the end of the month and discover that you’ve fallen a bit short to original intent, that’s absolutely fine. You can simply repeat the sprint again the following month, or later on during the year.
Frequently Asked Questions about Agile Sprints
Here are some of the more common questions we’ve received from Asian Efficiency readers about Agile Sprints.
Do I have to be using Agile Results to utilize Agile Sprints?
Absolutely not. The section above should be more than enough for you to implement Agile Sprints with whatever productivity system you are using. All you need is somewhere to record what your sprints are, and to track them daily. A text file, spreadsheet or journal works just fine.
Can Sprints constitute an outcome for the day?
This question is for users of Agile Results, asking if one of their 3 daily outcomes can be replaced by a “sprint” outcome for that day.
I don’t think there is an official answer to this, but my answer would be yes. If your other 2 outcomes are fairly substantial (about 3-4 hours each in length), then there’s no reason why you can’t set “work on monthly sprint” as an outcome for the day.
This being said, it would be better to set a greater quantity of smaller outcomes, and to include the 1-hour you spend on your monthly sprint as part of that set of outcomes.
Can Sprints be related to say monthly or annual outcomes?
Yes they can. JD Meier mentions that his sprints are geared towards the reduction of his “perpetual friction points”, which I interpret as sprints targetted towards improving your life systems.
I sometimes do sprints that complement my other outcomes – for example, learning a bit of coding to help with Asian Efficiency, or say learning to prepare meals a certain way to better my health. This is actually a very effective way to acquire skills or knowledge that you would otherwise miss out on (because they are only somewhat related to your primary outcomes).
What’s an easy way to pick sprints? There are so many choices!
Here’s the super-simple way to pick sprints. You take your broad areas of life, and pick something within:
Remember that part of the point of sprints is variety and to balance out the “seriousness” of your main outcomes.
I’m having trouble coming up with sprint ideas. Can you give me some?
Absolutely. Try these out for 30 days:
- Talk to 1 stranger per day for 30 days.
- Work out or exercise every day for 30 days. Check out CrossFit or BodyRock.tv or even P90X.
- Cook 1 new dish per week each week for 30 days, and perfect those dishes.
- Implement a new morning ritual for 30 days and make it a habit.
- Take the Tony Robbins positivity challenge – think no negative thoughts for 30 days.
- Save $x a day for 30 days in cash in a jar. At the end of 30 days, deposit it into your savings account.
- Track all your expenses for 30 days. Then analyze your spending patterns at the end of the month.
- Work through Rosetta Stone (insert language here) for 1 hour a day for 30 days.
- Work through (insert educataional training program here) for 1 hour a day for 30 days.
- Read 1 Asian Efficiency article per day for 30 days.
- Build a blog about X topic, by working on it for 1 hour a day for 30 days.
- Give away something of value (material, informational or otherwise) every day for 30 days.
Agile Sprints are a fun way to do something different or complementary for 30 days. Remember:
- It’s supposed to be fun.
- It’s only for 30 days.
Photo by: idovermani
Love this idea, gonna try it asap. What do you guys think about having multiple sprints in a given month?
It’s possible but it becomes increasingly more difficult. I’d suggest to do no more than two a month.