Extra Day Update
Near the beginning of 2016, I blogged about this year being a Leap Year. I suggested that with planning, I would be able to leverage that extra day to review the trajectory of my year and do any course correction needed to meet my yearly goals. To do this, I need to know what my goals for the year are and what my plan to get there looks like. The key areas I mentioned in the blog post were day-to-day time management, work back schedule, goal construction, and milestones. I’m reporting back on how I did with those areas and how I did with my extra day.
DAY-TO-DAY TIME MANAGEMENT
In the blog piece, I suggested that having tasks to complete each day is important. Having a list of tasks helps me move toward a goal and to have a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. It also helps lower my stress level. I don’t have to think or worry about what I need to do because I have a list. I can think about the list coming from some pretend boss so when there is something I do not want to do, I still do it. Without my pretend boss, I may convince myself not to complete the task. My time management is pretty good, but if I do not follow a pretty strict regimen then I’ll slip into bad habits, just as I do with my exercise regimen. My approach is to use a Day-Timer (Similar to Franklin or Day At-a-Glance) paper calendars, along with Outlook's electronic calendar, email, and task list. At the end of the week, I make sure and add any meetings the following week to my paper calendar. This helps me remember what I have coming up, what I need to do for each meeting, and what tasks I need to add to what part of the week. Each night just before bed and each morning when I rise, I look at the list and if there is anything I need to add specific to the day, I add it. This helps me know what I need to do and frees my mind to wander. With all of these in place, my stress level lowers and I do not worry about what I need to do and what I am forgetting, so my stress level goes down. Throughout the day, as I finish a task, I put a satisfying line through it. I focus on knocking out the tasks as quick as I can so if something comes up or I want to quit early, I can and not stress about what I am not getting done. For my extra day, February 29th happened to fall on a Monday. I had scheduled a meeting for 7:00 AM (What was I thinking?) and shifted tasks so they would be listed on Tuesday or Wednesday. Then I blocked most of the day for reflecting. I knocked out the meeting and the few tasks as quick as I could so I would have time to review my goals, milestones, and work back schedule. I then looked at progress-to-date, new insights and made a few adjustments to the plan.
THE “WORK BACK” SCHEDULE
In the blog piece, I suggested that daily task management is great, but if I didn’t have a goal or roadmap to achieve the goal then the tasks I accomplish might not move me where I want to go. I looked at quite a lot of goals for the year and had to prioritize and select one as THE goal for the year. For my extra day, I reviewed the goal, the milestones needed to achieve the goal, and the metrics and indicators I could measure and review to check progress. I made some slight adjustments to the metrics and indicators based on new information that arose as part of my daily tasks. I made a fairly significant shift in milestones based on the velocity we are able to achieve currently and the new (happy) events coming up this year. I kept the same milestones but did move them on the timeline.
In the blog piece, I suggested that goal construction was critical. I did create THE goal, but how, and why only one? Having more than one goal would be great. If we had tons of staff and did not maintain a hungry, startup attitude we could have set more. With more goals we would not have focused on nailing one thing because we would be thinking about a number of things. In the end, most of the other goals are enablers for THE goal so I worked to refine the goal to one easy-to-remember sentence. Each week, each day, and each task I start I can consider whether what I am doing is relevant to attaining the goal, or is more like chasing a squirrel up a tree. Having that one goal make decision making easier and lowers stress and work on things that really don’t matter. For my extra day, I reflected on the goal to determine if the goal was still relevant and worthy of our efforts. In the end, the goal did not change.
In the blog piece, I suggested that setting milestones based on the outcome is a very sound approach. As I looked at our goal for the year, I used a mind mapping tool to capture the first 5-6 milestones that came to mind. I wasn’t worried about the order or if they were all the same level (task versus delivery of something versus adoption, etc.). By committing something to paper (or laptop in this case) I had placed a stake in the ground. For two hours I adjusted, moved, wrote and rewrote the milestones until I could tell a two-minute story about how achieving the milestones would accomplish the goals. Once I was happy with that, I forgot about the milestones and revisited them a few days later. With my fresh eyes, I looked at the tasks that would help achieve the milestones, the milestones themselves, and the goal. I then told the story about tasks, milestones, and goal achievement. I tweaked the entire structure and adjusted the dates on the milestones. Then committed. For my extra day, I reviewed the tasks and milestones. I modified a few tasks, but the biggest changes came to the milestones. I feel we are doing the right things, but based on velocity and what we have coming up this year, I modified the milestones to something inspiring, yet most likely achievable.
By having a plan and following a somewhat strict time management process, I was prepared for my extra day. With the upfront work on setting goals and milestones, I set clear direction and was able to give the team the freedom and autonomy to work in whatever manner they want. For my extra day, I was able to look up, review and reflect, and make adjustments. The biggest win for me? Less stress because all I need to focus on each day is what is in front of me. Nirvana!