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Week 46, 2020

Personal Productivity vol. 2: Horizons of Focus, Agile Results, and Flywheels

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Each week I share three ideas for how to make work better. And this week, that means exploring ideas that help us decide what to work on and why.

Why am I writing about this? Last week’s issue (w452020) was all about tactics — about how to get things done in the here and now. This week is decidedly more strategic. Because while we do need to do-the-things-right, we must also make sure to do-the-right-things.

And to do that, we need to think differently.

Let’s dig in.

1. Horizons of Focus

David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) is best known for the guidance it provides on the tactical level. But there’s more to it than that. Specifically, it provides a framework for long-term planning called “Horizons of Focus” that helps us define focus across six time horizons: Actions (aka tactics mentioned above), Projects, Accountabilities, Objectives, Vision, and Purpose. GTD asks that we start with purpose and work our way down, ensuring that we focus on what matters, stay on point, and do-the-right-things.

For details, see The 6 Horizons of Focus.

2. Agile Results

Agile Results is a simple system for getting meaningful results. It was created by JD Meier — an innovation leader at Microsoft who published Getting Results in an Agile Way in 2010. It’s a complete productivity system in its own right, but I mention it here because I think its contribution is primarily strategic. It asks that we use The Rule of 3 to identify three wins for the day, week, month, quarter, and year. And like GTD above, it asks that we start with the longest time horizon and work our way down, ensuring (again) that we do-the-right-things.

For details, see Agile Results on a Page.

3. Personal Flywheels

Jim Collins’ flywheel isn’t a productivity method per se, but it can be used to make sure we do-the-right things. The concept comes from Good to Great, the book Collins wrote in 2001. His thesis: that the world's most successful org. have built-in flywheels — self-reinforcing feedback loops that help them achieve exponential growth. My thesis, if it can be called that, is that the same concept applies to people; if we can learn to define our own personal flywheels, we stand a better chance to focus our efforts on the trigger points that’ll have the biggest impact.

For more, see the Flywheel Effect.

Strategy is more important than tactics. Why? Because it doesn’t matter how fast we’re running if we’re running in the wrong direction! Worse, tactics without strategy can be downright counterproductive. So we need both: we need to focus and do-the-right-thing, and we then need to act and do-the-thing-right.

That’s all for this week.
Until next time: Make it matter.




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