Chapter 1 - Why Agile Results

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Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind. —Bruce Lee


In This Chapter

  • Learn how Agile Results is different from other systems.
  • Learn how to improve your life with effective results.
  • Learn the three keys to results.


This chapter explains how Agile Results differs from other systems you may have seen or tried, as well as what distinguishes it as effective for everything you apply it to. You can even apply Agile Results to your existing productivity system by applying the principles and practices.


Before going into the nuts and bolts of a solution, it’s important to know the problem it solves and what sets it apart. Agile is the ability to respond to change. In a changing world, your ability to learn and respond is one of the most crucial skills to go from surviving to thriving. Agile Results is a flexible system for getting meaningful results. It’s a cross-discipline approach for results that combines some of the most effective techniques in human performance for your mind, body, and emotions.


One of the most important concepts in Agile Results is the idea of agility. Maybe when you grew up, you thought you could go to school, learn a job, maybe switch careers once or twice, and then retire happily ever after. This big up-front design and long-term planning, just doesn’t work in today’s world. That doesn’t mean give up planning. Instead, learn how to adjust your sails to the winds and tides and sail wherever it is you want to go with your life. Rethink your goals. Rather than a static set of dreams and ideals, test your results along the way and carve out the path that works for you. Mini-goals and actions go a long way towards your biggest and most impactful results.


Agile Results is elegance in action. It combines the art and the science of results. Don’t let the simplicity fool you. It’s been tested in some of the most complex working environments, as well as in private life.


The State of the Art vs. the State of the Practice

There are many state-of-the-art techniques people around the world are using every day to improve their results and amplify their impact. For example, sports psychologists have great techniques for improving the energy, focus and results of world class athletes. They even help athletes use stress to be their best. Highly effective project management techniques are available today for managing scope, estimating work, and scheduling. In software, Scrum and Agile practices are helping individuals and teams prioritize more effectively, get to working results faster, and respond to change.


Yet, the full potential of all this learning is rarely achieved in practice. There’s a gap between the state of the art and the state of the practice. The state of the practice looks more like this:

  • You can’t keep up with change, and things are changing faster than ever.
  • You don’t finish what you start.
  • What does get finished isn’t what you actually wanted.
  • You feel like there’s never enough time.
  • You regularly feel overwhelmed and drained.


The problem is, while you may learn a lot of things in school or on the job, you learn the least about the most important thing that can change your life. What’s needed is an understanding of the art of results.


What Makes Agile Results Different?

What makes Agile Results different is that it integrates the world’s best techniques for results.

  1. Outcomes over Activities. Outcomes provide a lens for focus. Outcomes are the results you want to accomplish. Just doing more activities, checking off items from a task list, and throwing more time and energy at problems won’t necessarily produce the results you want. By starting with outcomes, you define what good will look like and you give yourself a compelling path to work towards. Working on the right things to produce the right results for your current situation is a recipe for success.
  2. Time as a First-Class Citizen. In Agile Results, time is a first-class citizen. Windows of opportunity are important. It’s about doing “good enough” for now, and versioning your results. Time changes what’s important. What was important last month or last week might not be what’s important now. That’s the agile part—be responsive to what’s important now. This also includes using timeboxes effectively. For example, rather than try to figure out how long something might take, start by figuring out how much time you want to invest in it. Identify up front at what point do diminishing returns become unacceptable. This will help you cut your losses and figure out how to optimize your time.
  3. Fresh Start. If you fall off the horse, you can get back on. You get a fresh start each day, each week, each month, each year. What you take on is just as important as what you let go or “slough off.” You don’t want to be a beast of burden where one more straw breaks your back. It’s about thinking in terms of delivering value over simply working through your backlog or crossing off a laundry list of to-dos. It’s about asking and answering what’s your next best thing to do.
  4. Test Your Results. Have a bias for action. Rather than do a bunch of analysis and commit to a big plan up front, start taking action and testing you results. Use feedback to improve your plans. Testing your results is a way to find the risks and surprises earlier versus later. A simple way to remember this is “Do it, review it, and improve it.” In addition, you’ll find that action creates inspiration. A lot of people wait for their moment of inspiration before they start, but what they don’t realize is that simply by starting, the inspiration can follow. It’s like going to see a movie and then enjoying it more than you expected.
  5. Fix Time, Flex Scope. By fixing time, you set yourself up for success. The main thing is to set a fixed time for eating, sleeping, and working out. You can also fix time within work. For example, you can decide that work is an eight hour day within which you set timeboxes to produce results: an hour for administration, four hours for execution, two hours for think time, and a minimum of an hour on communication and relationships. At a higher level, you might fix time to be a 40-hour or 50-hour work week. Within that time frame, you will bite off the work you can do. What you won’t do is flex time. You won’t throw more hours at the problem each day. You’ll gradually learn to bite off what you can accomplish and manage your plate more effectively.
  6. Boundaries. Boundaries are simply minimums and maximums. Setting boundaries is a key to success. You’ll produce more effective results by spending the right time and energy on the right things. You can set boundaries with time; for example, tell yourself, “I’ll spend no more than an hour on that.” You can set boundaries in terms of energy; for example, tell yourself, “I’ll stop when I start to feel tired.” Most people trip up by not setting boundaries. They’ll work on something until they crash. They throw all their time in one area at the expense of other areas. Setting boundaries is how you can add balance to your life. You can spread your time and energy across the important Hot Spots.
  7. Tests for Success. Your tests for success answer the question, “What will good look like?” Simply by figuring out the three outcomes you want for the day, the week, the month, and the year, you identify your tests for success. You have an idea of what you want to accomplish and what good will look like. Knowing your tests for success helps you prioritize.
  8. Approach over Results. How you accomplish your results is more important than the results themselves in the long run. Your approach is your foundation. It’s what you fall back on when you don’t know the way forward. Your approach should be sustainable. You should also be able to improve your approach over time. Your approach should be consistent with your values. Your approach should play to your strengths and limit your weaknesses.
  9. The Rhythm of Results. Iterate on your results. Version your results over time. The rhythm of results is your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly results. This is about flowing value incrementally. Think of it as a set of trains that come and go from the station. If you miss a train, you can catch the next one. At the same time, you want to catch certain trains because of your time frames and windows of opportunity.
  10. Time, Energy, and Technique. You don’t want to just throw more time at problems. You also don’t want to burn yourself out by just throwing your energy into things. Your results are a combination of time, energy, and technique. By using more effective techniques, you can amplify your results. This is how you use your time and energy more effectively.
  11. Strengths over Weaknesses. Rather than spend all your time improving your weaknesses, spend your time playing to your strengths. While it’s important to reduce your liabilities, you’ll go further, have more passion, and produce more effective results by spending more time in your strengths. In areas that you are weak, one of your best moves is to partner or team up with others that supplement you. If you can’t outsource your weaknesses, you can find more effective mentors or pair up with other people who help you amplify your results.
  12. System over Ad Hoc. When you have routines for how you produce results, you can learn and improve. It’s one thing to produce results randomly, while it’s another to have a system you can count on. When you have a system, you can tune and prune what works for you.
  13. Continuous Learning. The world’s not static. Skills aren’t static. You’re not static. Learning is a first-class citizen. It’s about taking action, getting the feedback, and changing your approach. It’s about letting go of what’s not working, and testing new ways to achieve your results. It’s about personalizing your approach and continuously refining it to meet your needs. Your weekly reflection will help you learn more about yourself in terms of your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions, your bottlenecks, and ultimately your results. While improving your results, you’ll improve the way you produce results. Improving the way you produce results, will improve your enjoyment and fulfillment no matter what you work on.


In the next chapters, you’ll see the “What” and “How” behind Agile Results. You’ll see how to achieve your best results by combining the power of multiple patterns and practices.


Life’s Better with Results

When you lead a life of results, you make things happen. Whether it’s getting your body in shape, achieving excellence at work, or just getting things done around the house, results is the name of the game. Sometimes having fun is the result you want, and Agile Results helps you with that too. Knowing how to produce results effectively and efficiently, changes your game. Here are some examples of how Agile Results can work for you:

  • You find your flow and are focused and engaged in whatever you do.
  • You learn the best ways of doing things over time and avoid painful pitfalls.
  • You’re responsive to change and have unlimited energy to take on whatever life throws your way.
  • You have a rhythm of results that helps you get up to bat time and again.
  • You play to your strengths and live your values.
  • You regularly enjoy power hours and creative hours to unleash your best results.
  • You find your best work-life balance.
  • You spend less time working but produce more effective results.


The Way of Results

The way of results is moving forward. It’s growth over decline. It’s learning over failing. It’s outcomes over activities. It’s meaningful results. It’s valuing your time. It’s taking action. It’s balancing your demands. It’s having an enjoyable journey towards a compelling end in mind. You get more out of life when you know what you want to get. You get more out of life when you have a sustainable approach. The key is a flexible approach that supports you.


3 Keys to Results

You can master your time management only to spend your time on the wrong things. You can master task management and miss windows of opportunity. What are the real keys to results?


Figure 1.1 3 Keys to Results


There are three keys that can change your game pretty quickly.


Key 1. The Key to Time Management Is Energy Management

Managing your energy is how you produce more results in the same amount of time. You don’t get more hours in a day, but you can change your level of energy. If you can spend more time in your power hours or add more power hours to your week, you improve your results.


Key 2. The Key to Energy Management Is Passion

Living with passion is a key to your best results. When you think about energy, think of your mind, body, and emotions. You can eat right, sleep like a baby, and get ripped at the gym. In contrast, you can get physically drained, mentally drained, or emotionally drained. Your energy depends on fulfilling your passions. Your mind, body, and emotions play off each other.


Key 3. The Key to Results Is Time, Energy and Technique

The key to results is using your time and energy more effectively and efficiently. You can’t just throw time at problems. If you throw time at a problem, but you don’t have enough energy, you can spend way more time than you need to. On the other hand, if you have a lot of energy, and you throw time at the problem, but you don’t have the right technique, you can churn and burn, but never actually get the results you want. The key is to spend your time working on the right things with your best energy and the best techniques.


The three keys of results are shifts in thinking. For example, if you’ve approached productivity as simply managing time, then you’ve missed out on the benefits of managing energy. If you’ve tackled productivity as an exercise in task management, then you’ve potentially missed out on producing meaningful results or playing to your passions. If you’ve thrown time and energy at problems, but you didn’t focus on exploring your techniques, there’s a good chance that you can get back a lot of time and energy each week, simply by swapping out for more effective techniques.


You will see how to apply these keys throughout this guide.


In Summary

  • Agile Results is a personal productivity system that combines the best patterns and practices from a variety of disciplines.
  • There is a gap between the state of the art and the state of the practice when it comes to results.
  • Agile Results has a special emphasis on simplicity.
  • There are three keys to results: (1) improve your results by improving your energy; (2) spend more time in your passion to improve your energy; and (3) combine time, energy, and technique for your most effective results.


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