“Every Friday, I like to high five myself for getting through another week on little more than caffeine, will power, and inappropriate humor.” — Nanea Hoffman
Mondays are for Fresh Starts.
Monday is also one of my bookends for my work week. Sure, things might spill over, and I might prep on Sunday, as I often do, but for the most part, Monday is where I really want to have the big picture for my week.
I call it Monday Vision, because it’s a vision for the week, that will guide me through Friday.
Monday and Friday are the bookends that really help me dream up, design, and drive a better week, a day at a time.
Monday Vision is part of my Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection pattern in Agile Results. Agile Results is a simple system for better productivity.
I Focus on Value-Driven Productivity
It’s all about better energy, better results, spending time in your strengths, living your values, and realizing your potential.
It’s a value-driven way to slay your day, and to give your best where you have your best to give.
The simple way to do Monday Vision is to just write down 3 Wins for This Week that are worth making happen.
The main idea of Monday Vision is to identify 3 Wins for This Week that I will use as my North Star to pull me forward throughout the week, and to help me rise above the noise, and turn chaos into clarity.
It’s a way to check am I doing the right things, long before I worry whether I’m doing things right. (I think of it as pruning branches of my bonsai before messing with leaves.)
The Power of Monday Vision
An amazing thing happens when I create a vision for the week. By doing Monday Vision, I now have a better picture in my mind of my week.
Sure, there will be challenges, it’s life.
And there will be setbacks and surprises, for sure. No plans smack against reality without a few twists and turns. How did Mike Tyson, put it? … “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
By doing Monday Vision, I slow down to speed up. I can go much faster when I know where I’m going.
Even just a few minutes on Monday (or a Sunday night), is enough to really create a vivid vision of the week with a focus on a vital few wins, to inspire me, and light the way.
By identify a few compelling outcomes, I now have a simple way to prioritize my focus, my effort, and my time.
And all it takes is a
Monday Vision Helps Me Focus on the Vital Few and Respond Over React
If I just dive into my week, and start reacting, sure, I’ll do amazing things, I’ll get some things done, and maybe move a few mountains along the way. But for the most part, I’ll be lucking into success. I might appear to be a highly productive machine, when in reality, chances are I’m busy not productive (and that’s a world of difference).
I’ll be reacting instead of responding. I will be surprised by things that pop up. And I won’t really be able to get any synergy from my actions and efforts. But most importantly, it’s very difficult to move the needle on worthy efforts if I don’t hold them front and center, as a reminder of the outcomes worth fighting for. As Zig Ziglar put it, ““People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.”
And that’s no good.
Without a vision, my week can easily perish. Sure I’ll survive, but at what cost (and what a waste!). But it would be frantic and chaotic as I find myself constantly reacting to the day as things come at me. I’d rather own it, and drive it. As they say in sports, “You play the ball, or the ball plays you.”
With Monday Vision, I respond versus just react. If for no other reason,
If things come up, with Monday Vision I have a way to make a conscious and deliberate trade-offs. Otherwise, I’m getting randomized or distracted, or just taking on more things, without a real purpose. As Stephen Covey might say, I end up working on the urgent, at the expense of the important.
With Monday Vision, I’m writing my story forward. I am creating and shaping my destiny, a week at a time.
I Think of Each Week as a Fresh Start
I take a deep breath. I remind myself that a new week, is a blank slate. It’s a fresh week, and a fresh start. The last thing I want to do is carry any baggage or burden myself right up front.
I will carry the good forward, but I will let the rest go.
I want to embrace the fact that before me is a week of clay ready to be shaped.
A week is a great box of time, or timebox, to really figure out what’s worth spending time on. And it’s a great way to hit refresh and incite a sense of curiosity and imagination to inspire better results.
As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
How I Setup My Monday Vision
I setup my Monday Vision, similar to how I setup my Friday Reflection — I make sure I have the time and space for it. Time-wise, I can be as fast as a few minutes, but I enjoy it more, if I spend closer to 5–10 minutes. When I first started, I think it took me closer to 20 minutes to really do it justice, and to practice focusing on outcomes versus getting distracted or trapped by activities.
I guess Monday Vision is a great way to break out of activity jail and into the realm of value-driven productivity.
While it doesn’t take a lot of time, it’s really about making sure that I’m in the proper place in my head. When I create my Monday Vision, I want to be centered and calm and creative, with a great deal of clarity. After all, I’m in “design mode.” I remind myself that “I am the architect of my time”, and that “I am the author of my life”.
I remind myself that the future hasn’t happened yet. I get to create it. The future is the space of opportunity. The future belongs to those who shape it. I remind myself that I get to control my attitudes and my actions, and that’s a lot.
If I need to, I might find a few inspiring quotes or two, just to make sure that I’m really in my Make-Your-Week-Your-Masterpiece Mode. (I find it’s far easier to make my week, my masterpiece, than my day, but if I take care of my week, it helps take care of my days, and vice-versa).
With my mind primed — relaxed and ready — I’m in a great place to chunk up my week into 3 Wins for This Week and really get clear on some compelling outcomes.
How I Start My Monday Vision
The first thing I do is I write down anything that’s on my mind. I want it out of my head and onto paper (or an email, or a note, or a whiteboard, or whatever). I don’t want to be competing with a riot of nagging ideas. And I don’t want to neglect or ignore some things that might be important to balance against. It’s an exercise in building a healthy list of reminders and giving them a place to play.
The next thing I do is write down my short list of priorities (and the longer list, too, if necessary). I will synthesize them, but I want them at my fingertips. As Scott Berkun would say, “Priorities are the backbone of progress.”, so I review and renew my priorities and I write them down.
(Pro tip — I know that time changes what’s important, so I make sure that I’m sensitive to windows of opportunity, fleeting deadlines, and what’s going on in the world around me.)
With my priorities in hand, the next thing I do is take a quick look at my week ahead. I just use my calendar to flip through each day and take note of any key events, or meetings, or noteworthy items. I already had a sense of calendar, but now I’m really looking for ways to line things up better. Plus, maybe I forgot things or maybe it forces me to reevaluate my priorities.
How I Gamify Predicting the Surprises in My Week
I will also challenge myself here, to predict what sorts of things might surprise me. A lot of people don’t usually tell me what they will suddenly need from me last minute.
Or I might know that it’s a particular time of year when certain things are supposed to happen. The weather change things. Health can change things.
Life is not static, so I make it a habit of practicing improv for the dynamic stage we call life. (And a lot of execs believe that your ability to think on your feet is actually the best test of a person’s smartness in action.)
I make a game of guessing what will surprise me. I gamify my ability to predict the mini future. Not only is it fun, I find it builds my deep skill of anticipation. Anticipation is one of the greatest skills I know I can build to be a more effective leader, as well as just to be more effective in any job or role I am in.
Anticipation is really the ultimate skill for the game of business and the business of life.
And, I will learn from my predictions.
But the real beauty is that if some of my surprises materialize, I’m in a better position to respond versus react. I also find that the more I practice the skill of anticipation, the more I can respond better to brand new surprises that I hadn’t even thought of.
The Power of Planning, Predicting, and Prepping the Flow of a Week
Now, I am in an incredibly powerful position. Seriously. Let’s recap how I setup my firm foundation for envisioning my week:
I have all my reminders at a glance.
I have all my priorities and my big rocks before me.
I have some ideas about what sorts of surprises I need to be ready for.
Add to that, I rekindled a sense of what’s important from the balcony view. I stopped to smell the roses, while getting ready to grow a new garden. All the seeds of greatness, are at my mental fingertips.
And, I also have a good idea and a simple vision of key scenes in my mind of my upcoming week. And I have a very Agile mindset about how I might need to flex my plan or change as necessary to respond better to changes in real time.
As Brue Lee put it, “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
I want to bend like a willow, I don’t want to snap like bamboo.
How I Slow Down to Speed up and Innovate in My Productivity
That might seem like a lot setup, but it really ends up being worth it. And it’s much slower to explain it, than to actually do it. All of this happens in a matter of minutes, seconds, or micro-seconds.
In fact, if I can’t do this fast, it’s feedback. If I can’t quickly dump what’s in my head, that’s feedback for me to find a way. If I can’t quickly recall or review my priorities and big rocks, that’s feedback to find a way. If I can’t review my calendar fast, again, that’s feedback. Maybe I have to name my appointments better or give myself some better clues, or redesign a color scheme, etc.
That’s actually why I like paper planners, and I don’t.
I’ve designed a lot. And I like them for a little while, but eventually they end up in my way. Or they reinforce a habit, that I enjoy breaking. I need to keep space so I can reinvent myself and reimagine how I drive results. I enjoy the process of finding better ways, or sometimes just different ways.
I like to innovate in my process. I like to break away from boredom. I like keeping things modern and easy to change as needed. (Um, that’s the Agile Way
How I Create 3 Wins for This Week
Here’s the thing. I basically want 3 Wins for This Week that I can hold in my mind, or at least find fast. That’s why I use The Rule of 3. It’s a powerful tool for simplifying and for synthesizing. And it’s a powerful tool to help your mind remember and recall what matters, because it’s easier to think in threes.
At this point, with a primed mind, and preparation under my belt, and a rough idea of what surprises might come my way, I ask myself a simple but powerful question:
“What 3 outcomes do I want for this week?”
And the answers might be…
I got to draft complete for my presentation
I created a healthy plan for my project and got the stakeholders on board
I achieved a new level of strength in my workouts and showed up each day with an attitude of gratitude
I cleaned the deck so that I can enjoy barbecues I the back
I play with ideas. I play with different possibilities. I see how they look. I hear how they sound. I pay attention to how they feel. I want to feel that whatever I choose is really worth it. I can’t inspire myself if I don’t create compelling outcomes work doing.
I want to figure out the kind of results worth fighting for. The kind that help me jump out of bed in the morning. The kind of results that open up my mind and say, “Ahhhhh!” I want smart outcomes that inspire my best. It’s how I turn chores into chances.
Even if I can’t change what’s on my plate, I can change how I eat it, or how I look at it, and I can make it more fun (I’ll play with my food if I have to.)
But I Have Way More Than Just 3 Things to Do!
I only need 3. I just want 3 wins. But My 3 Wins for This Week should be a synthesis of everything that’s on my plate, with the 3 most important or most meaningful outcomes that I can achieve for this week.
With all the demands around me screaming for attention, I need worthy headlines or worthy outcomes to keep my eyes on the prize.
I always have way more than 3 things to do. These 3 Wins are not a list of 3 To Dos.
When we landed on the moon, the outcome was we walked on the moon. Behind that outcome was a big, giant list of things to do that made it happen. But all that activity, all that effort, all that time, all that energy, mapped back to that worthwhile venture.
When the astronauts asked themselves why were they eating those little freeze dried pellets of food, at least they could remind themselves, “Oh, yeah, we’re gonna walk on the moon.”
The whole point here is that I want to identify 3 worthy wins that I can feel good about and confident that I’m spending my time, energy, and attention with my ladder up against the right wall.
The Toughest Part is Focusing on Outcomes Not Activities and Tasks
This is the challenging part. It’s so easy to list off a bunch of things I think I have to do. Or list off a bunch of activities. But the real value of this exercise is working backwards from the end in mind — What are the 3 main outcomes that I want to achieve this week?
I remind myself to focus on outcomes not activities.
So many productivity systems revolve around doing tasks. I don’t want to just do tasks. I am fast at that. I am good at tasks. I am very quick to hack through a mountain of minutia before me.
But I want to take the right mountain.
There’s nothing worse than climbing the mountain to realize you climbed the wrong one. So really what I’m doing, with My 3 Wins for This Week, is I’m getting clear on the outcomes, so that whether I list off activities and tasks, or not, I’m keeping the big picture in mind.
And when I do create To-Do lists or task lists, I bubble up My 3 Wins for the Week to the top, so I stay on track.
I Visualize Friday to Make It Real
I have a very simple way that both speeds up Monday Vision, and helps me practice my visualization skills, as well as my ability to focus on outcomes over activities. I imagine that it’s Friday and that I visualize walking through My 3 Wins for the Week.
I flash forward. I imagine that it’s Friday and I ask myself the following question:
“What did I accomplish this week?”
I can try on different answers for size. I imagine different outcomes. I imagine different endings. I might play with different scenes, such as the morning of Friday or the end of the day. I might see in my mind sharing with a friend or a colleague what I accomplished for the week.
It all happens fast, and it’s really just mental simulation to figure out some great scenes for the week to have in my mind. This is where whole person productivity really shines and where my mind can really imagine better results.
The first person I want to impress is me. I want to make sure that I was working on things where I inspired myself so use my intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic or external motivation, or the “carrot and stick” approach, doesn’t work very well for me.
I need to focus on meaningful achievements that matter, and I need to make sure that I do great work, every chance I get. As a wise mentor put it, “Work is the ultimate form of self-expression.”
What a Great Monday Vision Session Looks Like
OK, so I know I’ve done a good job when I’ve written down My 3 Wins for This Week and I have mini-mind movies or scenes in my mind of those outcomes.
I remind myself that outcomes are more compelling than just a bunch of tasks, or activities or chores, because an outcome puts a bow on the result. Creating an outcomes is creating an experience.
Experiences are the spice of life. It’s better experiences, that create better results. (We choose restaurants, products, people, etc. by the experiences they create, that’s the key to meaningful results).
If I feel good about the week that’s ahead of me, trials, triumphs, and tribulations and all, then I know I did a good job. I remind myself that the best I can do is focus on what I control, and that it’s not what happens to me, it’s how I respond, so that helps me ground myself in my ability to dream up, design, and drive a better week.
If I don’t really like how I choreographed my results, or if I think I need to change the script, I do.
And that, my friends… is the Agile Way.