In my last post about Succeed Faster, I mentioned that I would be writing an article about the 45-day sprint experiment.
I am excited to share this information with everyone. This system is an adaptation of the agile software development life-cycle. I truly hope that at least a few of you that read this will find some beneficial information in the text below, put it into action, and achieve a goal you haven’t been able to before.
This post aims to inform as well as solicit feedback, so please share your opinions by commenting at the end of the article.
For the first 22 years of my life, I considered myself a professional procrastinator. For nearly every text, essay, or class project I would wait until the last possible second to begin work. This unhealthy pattern of waiting until the last second also created an unpredictable pattern of high productivity. I would wait until I could not wait any longer, then in one brilliant burst of focus, I would bulldoze through the project and generally perform well. The problem with this is that I would lose productivity immediately after I completed the project. I could never sustain high levels of productivity like that for long.
This was manageable in high school, and for most of college, but became a real issue whenever I wanted to accomplish anything outside of school. I was unorganized, unstructured, and extremely unproductive.
I know there are those of you out there that can relate to this. I also know there are plenty of you out there that have never had this issue. Some people are disciplined enough at an early age that they never fall into the trap of procrastination and are able to complete complex projects early, and on time. These people are able to maintain their high levels of productivity indefinitely.
A sustained level of high productivity is exactly what this article is meant to jump start in anyone willing to give it a try.
The 45-day sprint is a system that can be applied to any type of project with a little tweaking. The system is built around:
- Organization (Get organized here)
- Accountability Partners
- Consistent progress to create momentum
Organization is an important component to getting things done. You have to have a plan, and you have to stick to that plan.
Accountability keeps you motivated and on track with your plan. Everyone needs a little kick in the butt to remind them not to stop working towards their goals, and that is what the Accountability Partners are for.
Consistent progress is the byproduct of being organized and being held accountable. It will also create momentum in your work that will keep you going. When these 3 pillars are being utilized, any person can get into the habit of maintaining a high level of productivity at all times.
The rest of the article will outline how to get started.
Step 1: Define your 45 days End Goal(s)
By End Goal, I mean the goal that all of your smaller goals are going to build towards.
For me, during this particular 45-day sprint, I have four End Goals:
- Build my network within the Austin Tech Community
- Lose at least 20 pounds
- Lease house, and create automated processes for landlord
- Write at least 8 blog posts to practice my writing
There is a specific reason I chose these 4 end goals to accomplish during this 45-day sprint.
Each of these goals satisfies a different aspect of my life:
- Improve my relationships
- Improves my health/body
- Increases my passive income
- Increases my skill set and creativity
Relationships, health, wealth, knowledge, and imagination
I believe if I can successfully grow these aspects, I will be building a satisfying life.
** Throughout the remaining steps of the 45-day sprint, I will be using my first goal of networking with techies in Austin as my primary example for each. If you would like to hear how I am breaking down my other goals, please send me an email and let me know, or leave a comment below.**
Step 2: Define your success criteria
If you can nail down some success criteria for your End Goals, then you can determine what needs to occur for you to feel like you’ve successfully achieved your End Goal.
These need to be realistic metrics that can be completed in 45 days.
You want to manage your own expectations appropriately.
Let’s do that now with one of the goals I provided above.
To feel I have accomplished my goal of building my network within the Austin Tech Community, I want to have met the following criteria:
- Had coffee or lunch with 15 people to talk about technology, startups, software, etc.
- Attend 2 technology based meetups
Step 3: Break the goals into smaller chunks or milestones
Again, nothing really groundbreaking here.
We’re just going to be taking a big task, and breaking it into smaller, manageable tasks.
We’re going to do this again later when we get down to the weekly, and daily tasks, but for now let’s focus on breaking my goals down to accomplishable milestones.
Build my network and influence within the Austin Tech Community
To achieve the Success Criteria of meeting with 15 people to talk tech, I need to
- Meet with 5 people by day 15,
- 10 people by day 30,
- and 15 people by day 45
To achieve the Success Criteria of attending 2 technology based Meet Ups I need to
- Attend the first meet up by day 22,
- and attend the second meet up by day 44
You get the general idea. I’ve broken up both success criteria into achievable milestones.
This way I can progressively accomplish my ‘end goal’ in smaller, manageable pieces, throughout the 45-day sprint.
This concept has made a monumental difference for me personally since I am prone to procrastinate when I’m faced with a task I cannot accomplish in one sitting. I tend to prioritize tasks that I can accomplish immediately for instant gratification.
The next two steps will continue this trend further, all the way to the day by day stage.
Step 4: Weekly Goal Setting and Accountability
The next step in this process is broken down milestones into weekly goals.
This is also where your Accountability Partners come into play because this gives them an opportunity to hold you accountable on a recurring basis.
Before I get to the specific goal setting example, I want to expand more on the accountability aspect of this.
As humans, it is typically much more difficult for us to let down people we care about, than it is for us to let down ourselves.
We simply don’t want to risk disappointing these important people in our lives.
Which is why, when working towards a goal of any importance, it is critical to enlist the help of an accountability partner. These accountability partners will keep us motivated and moving forward when we would have otherwise given up
Every week, my accountability partners and I have a 30-45 minute one on one conversation about what we accomplished throughout the week.
We loosely follow the agenda below:
- Review goal sheet. What was accomplished, what wasn’t?
- What did you struggle with this week? What came easily?
- Set goals for next week
- Which of your goals do I need to prioritize in holding you accountable next week?
- Hug it out, or words of encouragement if over the phone
As stated above, these goals are a breakdown of the milestones set up.
Here are a few possible goals I could choose that would get me close to reaching my 15 day milestone for networking
- Meet up with 2-3 people throughout the week(end) to talk about tech. Can be individual or group
- Use the MeetUp app to find a suitable Austin based Technology MeetUp and RSVP for an event
- Inform Accountability Partner of the date of the event so I won’t bail
By sharing these goals in the weekly goal meeting, your Accountability Partner knows what to ask about, and can expect a follow up throughout the week. Also, by announcing the goals out loud to others, you are immediately making them real.
Once you’ve both established your goals for the week, write them down, and keep them somewhere visible. In the next step you will be creating daily to-do lists that will push you to complete these weekly goals.
Step 5: The daily to-do list
This section is much less of a “do what I do” section, and more of a “do what works best for you” section.
I’ve tried many different online tools for note taking (Evernote, Trello, Asana, Google Cal, etc) and none of these tools could keep me using them long enough to get anything done.
I eventually came across a good ol’ pen and paper strategy, and it has worked out really well. The layout that I use was inspired by the YouTube video below.
The way I create my to-do list is a little bit different. Since I use Outlook for work meetings, and Google Cal. for personal events, meetings, etc. I ended up creating my own flavor of the list shown in the video above.
Here is a picture of my to-do list from August 5th, 2o14. (9-5 job tasks were purposefully removed)
As you can see above, I prefer to break my tasks into specific projects for work, and ‘end goals’ for side projects outside of work.
This is my own personal way of keeping track of what I need to, ideally, get done in a day.
Making a list like this for each day creates a rhythm of getting things done that keeps me on track to accomplish my weekly goals, which then brings me closer to completing milestones, which then brings me closer to completing my 45 day sprint ‘end goals’.
You get the idea, right?
In the end…
What works best for me to stay productive may not be what is best for you to stay productive. Maybe it is.
What I can say, is for anyone to maintain high levels of productivity over an extended period of time, they need to create work habits that propel them towards their goals. Habits can only be formed when you repeat something enough times that it becomes a natural part of your routine.
The 45 Day Sprint is accomplishing this habit forming process for me.
It could do the same for you.
If you DO try this method, or some variation of it, please reach out to me with your questions, comments, and results. You can always reach me here.
For those of you that already have established productivity habits, please share them with me in the comments below. I am always looking to learn great ways of getting things done.
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