On Mondays, I figure out my key outcomes for the week. To do this:
- I remind myself what I learned from last Friday's reflections.
- I scan my calendar
- I scan my inbox for new information
- I scan my Scannable Outcome List for each category
I keep my inbox completely empty, so the only items are what comes in over the weekend. The empty inbox is particularly important for me. I get ~150 mails directly to me each day, and I send about that, so I can't be a paper shuffler. For my Scannable Outcome Lists, I use a flat list of posts in Outlook. I name each post according to category: Body, Career, Mind, Project X, Project Y .. etc.
As I scan, I use four guiding questions:
- What must be done? ... what should be done? ... what could be done?
- What customer value am I delivering? (I measure in value delivered vs. activity performed)
- How am I improving myself in key areas: career, mind, body, financial, relationships?
- What are the things that if I don't get done ... I'm screwed? (By using the principle of contrast, I paint a picture of where I don't want to be.)
As I scan, I also do some quick shuffling:
- I adjust my Scannable Outcome Lists. I make sure priorities are on the top of each list.
- I pick the key action items and outcomes for my Monday's list of Daily Outcomes.
I get a few outcomes from this
- Most importantly, I have a mental picture for the week's outcomes (notice outcomes vs. activity)
- I know my big risks for the week
- I know my MUSTs vs. SHOULDs vs. COULDs
- I have my list of outcomes for the day -- my Daily Outcomes.
I have weekly iteration meetings with my team on Mondays, so this information helps me shape the outcomes with my team.
Each day, I construct my Daily Outcomes list. Since I did the bulk of the work on Monday for identifying key priorities, this is a fast exercise. In fact, it's usually 5 minutes. It's as fast as it takes me to open a new post in Outlook, name it the current day (e.g. 02-25-07) and write the key outcomes down. Throughout the day, I add to this. I fish my email stream throughout the day for relevant actions and I add these to the current day's daily outcome. If it's a longer team outcome, I list it under the relevant Scannable Outcome List.
This is the day where I do more reflection. To do this:
- I scan my Daily Outcomes for the past week. (This is fast because, for each day, I have a single post named by date. For example: 02-19-07, 02-20-07, 02-21-07, 02-22-07, 02-23-07)
- I scan accomplishments
- I scan my backlog
As I scan, I ask some guiding questions:
- If something's not getting done, then why not? ... Is there a habbit or practice I need to change for efficiency or effectiveness?
- Do I need to change my approach for myself or the team?
- What key lessons learned need to carry forward?
I'll note that underlying my approach is my belief that important things should float to the top, less important should slough off, and I should be able to deal with change. Having my Scannable Outcomes keeps me grounded in what's important vs. urgent. This to me is the key to driving versus reacting. If an area is slipping that I want to improve, I narrow my focus and concentrate on that. There's few problems that withstand sustained focus.
Well, that's the heart of the approach. What I like most about this approach is that it's low-overhead and it works. I've done away with over-engineered approaches, where you die the death of a 1000 paper cuts in administration. I also like this approach because it's systematic, yet holistic and flexible. Basically, it's designed for getting real results, in real life.