60 Minutes That Will Help You Achieve More

First three months of the year are gone. It’s just like that and we have already reached 1/4 of the 2015. How are you doing with your plans for this year?

Goal-setting at the beginning of the year is so common. Every time when I open my laptop around that time of the year and go online, my LinkedIn, Facebook and RSS inbox are buzzing with the articles about how to set the goals for this year right.

But what happens then? Why isn’t there a monthly buzz or quarterly buzz to talk about reviewing the progress and correcting the course? I won’t search for a correct answer, I’ll just go with my assumption – it’s easy to write about goals, because everyone has set some in some point of life. It’s not that easy however to write about reviewing them, because so little people do that systematically.

Funny as it is, for me it’s pretty hard to keep going, if I don’t do my reviews. I guess most of the teams and companies in business have that routine of monthly or (hopefully not) weekly check-points. If the meeting is set and done properly, it’s very useful.

Let me tell you about my Q1 review for 2015:

Quarterly Review Q1 2015 - Present and Past

Before you start: how to do it?

The simplest and easiest way is to take an hour off. I’m currently at my parents place outside Bratislava, thus I took an hour out, went for the nearest restaurant that was open and sat down with a tea and coffee. The only thing I needed for this time was pen, paper and my organiser. If you’re more of an technology-organising person, you might need your laptop, but even then I don’t think it’s necessary.

First: what to review?

I listed following things:

  • goals vs reality
  • projects status
  • things and events that I’m sad, glad and mad about in past months
  • new learnings that I got
  • new opportunities that I have right now
  • people

There’s other options, however this worked fine with me. It gave me overview of all important elements of current life-style.

Second: what is the process?

Simple, as suggested in part one – take your stuff, have a meeting with yourself. Keep it short and focused. Don’t squander around dreaming. This is a operational meeting, not a vision-building meeting. Finish within one hour with your 3 outcomes. Go back to normal.

 

Third: what is the expected outcome?

You need to KNOW HOW THINGS ARE and KNOW WHAT TO DO DIFFERENT. For that, I have three outcomes to get from the review:

  1. status report – how much of the goals have you completed?
  2. goal adjustment – if necessary, are there any goals that need to be increased, decrease, removed based on new findings?
  3. next-action list – if you are not keeping a list of next actions to do, start one here. If you have it, list additional things to add on it.

Four: how often and how much time will it take?

This is the most beautiful thing – the more regularly you do it, the less time it takes and more value it brings. For me this quarterly review took less then 60 minutes (actually it took 2 pomodoros). The monthly could take maximum 1 pomodoro and the weekly ones, probably something around 1/2 pomodoro.

I recommend to you to go and do your weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews regularly (and not me, then listen to any published author on time-management and effectiveness). It is one of the most effective ways to boost your performance.

Simple App To Track Your Promises

Most of the people promise themselves couple of new activities and habits over the year. I do the same thing, based on what I feel is important and would help me grow. But how to track those? We deal with the same question in DEVELOR and we developed a special tool to track the action plans and their fulfilment for our training participants. But for personal use, I have a simple app, which I want to recommend to you.

For past couple of months I’ve been using the Way of Life app. It’s a simple tracking tool with a pleasant interface and that makes it easy to use.

In simple words, the app lets you set positive or negative habits and then update, whether you’ve completed them and uses the colour coding to show you at a glance, how you’re doing.

After you’ve set up the habits, this is what the week looks like:

Way of Life - Start of the Week
Way of Life – Start of the Week

This is how simple is the update. You only have 3 options: you’ve done it, you didn’t or it doesn’t apply for the day. The update in the evening takes 30 seconds (for me with 7 habits to track):

Way of Life - updating
Way of Life – updating positive habit
Way of Life - updating negative habit
Way of Life – updating negative habit

Here’s the app basic view at the end of the week (a successful one):

Way of life - this week
Way of life – this week

The best think about the app which I like is that for me, it actually pushes me to get the things done, as I really don’t want to see the red bar in the week overview. So last week, when it was already pretty late on Friday and I wasn’t feeling like reading, but had only read on Thursday, I pushed myself to read for 30 minutes, so that I can get the green slot instead of read.

Plus, there are some cool additional features, such as viewing trends for longer time, setting reminders for morning and evening to update, archiving the completed goals and other.

Way of Life - 12 W trend
Way of Life – 12 W trend

I recommend everyone to get this app, for now it’s available for iOS devices. For Android users, a quick google search returned for example this app as an option.

What do you use to track your promises to yourself? Is it an app, a paper tracker, or some other tool? Let me know, I’m really curious.

No One Cares About Your Plans

I have a complete post about my targets for 2015 written and saved in the draft. Just now I realized, how stupid it is.

Who gives a damn about what I plan to do? No one. No one cares about the plans, plans are just plans.

I have a lot of plans and lots of ideas, but the truth is, as my girlfriend says „No one pays for ideas.“ And no one cares about plans. People care about what was done, what was accomplished.

So I’ll leave that post in the drafts for now and I’ll publish it by the end of the year, to see what I’ve actually accomplished.

I know, people say (I think there’s research on that as well) that public commitment could make me perform better. This actually is a form of public commitment. I commit to give you the showdown by the end of the year and to compare the „what I wanted to achieve“ vs „what I’ve actually accomplished“. That will be something that people could care about.

Bottom line: Don’t listen to people talking about their plans, ask them about what they’ve already done.

Create a NOT-TO-DO List As Well

I already wrote about setting good boundaries. Now I want to share some DO-NOT-DOs, which help me to contribute my best. Maybe you can find some of them helpful:

  • don’t criticise without an alternative,
  • don’t judge before fully understanding,
  • don’t assume you know best,
  • don’t hesitate,
  • don’t underestimate people,
  • don’t argue, use arguments,
  • don’t hurt intentionally,
  • don’t postpone an apology,
  • don’t regret,
  • don’t lie (to others and yourself),
  • don’t repeat mistakes,
  • don’t quit.

Do you have your DO-NOT-DOs? Share some of them 😉

PS: for those interested, here’s a great post by Ivana Sendecka on Why Having „NOT To-Do List“ Can Save You (Time).

Six Questions To Help You Close The Chapter

Whether it’s the end of the day, end of the week, closing of the month, finishing current job or finish of a life phase; it’s important to close the chapter.

In the beginning of 2013 I wrote about my experience with year-end review. And I also started doing regular weekly and monthly reviews. I consider it important, because this moments offer me the chance to actually learn from the past.

People don’t learn from experience. They learn from reflecting on their experience.

When you revisit and think through what happened, you have the chance to learn and apply the findings in the future. And you can start the next chapter fresh.

Today I was studying some of our company training material on how to debrief the group after situational exercise. I found steps which you could use to guide your closings.

IT’S SIX SIMPLE QUESTIONS:

How do you feel?

An important opening question. It gives the chance to express emotion connected with the experience. It opens you for more factual analysis further on.

What happened?

What are the facts? What did you do? What did others do? No conclusions, just plain facts. Start broad, then go into more details. Stay factual.

What did you learn?

Draw conclusions. What do you learn from particular events and actions? What do they mean?

How does it relate to „actual world“?

This question is specific for training situations. When you debrief your real-life experience, I would just skip it.

What if?

Go and speculate. Question yourself on what would you do differently. What if you would act in another way? To what areas can you transfer the learning?

What next?

Time to follow-up. What will you do in the future? How will you change the behaviour based on your learning? Plan clear actions.

(originally published here)

I hope this will help you close your chapters properly. If you don’t debrief your experiences, start doing so. Give yourself the the chance to learn and start fresh. And let me know, how you’re doing 😉

Let The Small Victories Rain

It would be great to have success everyday. Big success. Something noteworthy. Something extraordinary. Something that makes you feel the most awesome.

But this doesn’t happen that often. Big success takes time. It takes effort and perseverance. It takes time.

We need to give ourselves small victories. Win small battles with ourselves, our job, our other duties. Just to get the feeling of winning and keep on going.

Sometimes, when work just doesn’t feel like coming to any good results, what helps me is victory in other fields. I usually go run. It releases the endorphins and it is a victory over myself (though I’ve been running for couple of months, it still is a fight to get out of that door and start).

Or like today morning: Yesterday I had a shit day. No particular reason, just it didn’t feel right, nothing big came in, no particular success that I would be proud of.

So I decided to start today with couple of small victories:

  1. I woke up earlier = victory #1
  2. I exercised = victory #2
  3. I write this post = victory #3

The next thing I’m going to do is to write down 3 top things I want to get done today. After I finish any of them, I’ll take a break and celebrate the victory.

If you’re feeling down and that big success seems to be thousand miles away, grant yourself the small victory. Appreciate it. And keep on going.

You Only Have Three Options

There’s another topic that came out of my lunch with Jaja & Lukas recently and is connected with the sacrifices I talked about yesterday:

There are 3 productive choices in any situation – take it, change it or leave it. After you’ve chosen, live with your decision.

There’s plenty of non-productive things you can do – complain, whine, blame others, blame everyone, sabotage the efforts of others, back-talk, pity yourself… I guess you could go on for quite a while here.

Only 3 productive and healthy choices stand out:

TAKE IT

Take the situation and decide to accept it as is. Sometimes when some things don’t seem bright and shiny, this option might be necessary. Considering priorities, sacrifices you are willing to make and your options, you might decide, that taking the things as they are, accepting the status quo is the best possible way to handle it. Just make sure you are able to bear the consequences – take it with all there is, it’s your choice.

CHANGE IT

Do you feel you can do something about the situation, that would improve it? Do it. Consider your options, consider what you can do. If you cannot take the situation as is, and you are willing and able to change it, then do it. It’s going to hurt, but it’s your decision.

LEAVE IT

If you cannot take it and you cannot (or don’t want to) change it, you can still leave it. Sometimes saying „that’s enough“ is the best. Quitting in right time doesn’t mean you are giving up or losing. It means you have the guts and will to state clearly you want something else and you are not afraid to face the consequences. It’s your decision, so don’t look back.

Sounds simplified? Ridiculous? Not taking into consideration all the aspects? Might be. But it also is true.

Whenever faced with the situation that you don’t feel comfortable in, you can chose one of those. You can take it as it is and endure. You can change it. Or you can leave with your head up.