Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life - by J.D. Meier


The Rule of 3. This is a guideline that helps you prioritize and scope. Rather than bite off more than you can chew, you bite off three things. You can use The Rule of 3 at different levels by picking three outcomes for the day, the week, the month, and the year.

Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection. Each week is a fresh start. On Mondays, you think about three outcomes you would like for the week. Each day you identify three outcomes you would like for the day. On Fridays, you reflect on lessons learned; you ask yourself, "What three things are going well, and what three things need improvement?" This weekly pattern helps you build momentum. Focus on outcomes, not activities or tasks.

Hot Spots. Hot Spots help you map out your results. They are the key levers in the system. They're your lens to help you focus on what's important in your life. They can represent areas of opportunity or pain. Hot Spots are your main dashboard. It helps to organize your Hot Spots by work, personal, and life. By investing across your Hot Spots, you keep your life in balance and you invest in yourself for the long run. The key is setting boundaries. To set boundaries, simply identify minimums and maximums where you need them.

You can think of the Hot Spots for life as a portfolio of results:

  • Mind

  • Body

  • Emotions

  • Career

  • Financial

  • Relationships

  • Fun

Monthly Improvement Sprints. Pick one thing to improve for the month. Each month, pick something new.

Find a Way to Flow Value. You can always make incremental progress. Remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. If you aren't flowing value, either to yourself or to others, then something is off. See if you can chunk your results down. One way to do this is to have a "show and tell" where you show your results to others. Your show and tell could be demonstrating some software you built, or it could be as simple as showing off a room in your house that you cleaned. If people don't value what you are showing, you'll know earlier rather than later, and you can adjust your approach.

Timeboxes. Use time limits to help you spend your energy more effectively, and to invest your time across the things that matter most. A timebox is simply a limit or constraint in terms of how much time you will spend on something. This helps you avoid overspending your time in one area at the expense of another.

Design Your Day

  • Start with The Rule of 3

  • Startup Routine

  • Set Boundaries and Limits

  • Worst Things First

Rather than think of it as a marathon, think of the day as a series of sprints. When you take your breaks, really take your breaks. When you're working, be fully engaged. Don't spend all your time doing everything halfway. It's not engaging, and you won't find your flow.

  • End Your Workday: Dump Your State

  • 4 Questions to Cap Your Day: What did I learn? What did I improve? What did I enjoy? What kind act did I do?

Design Your Week

  • Map Out Your Week. Push for spending 75 percent of your time each day in activities that make you strong. Push the 25 percent of the time you spend in weaknesses, to the start of your day. Think of this as worst things first. By getting your weaknesses out of the way, you can spend the rest of your day in your strengths. Another way to do this is to push the main things that make you weak to the start of your week. Eliminating them early creates a glide path for the rest of the week.

  • Start with The Rule of 3. When you start your week, simply think of three outcomes or results you want for the week.

  • Consolidate Related Activities

  • Friday Reflection. Carve out a half-hour on Fridays to reflect. Ask yourself what three things are going well and what three things to improve. In addition, take the time to analyze your results against what you set out to do. Are you surprised? What's getting in the way? How might you do it differently? These are opportunities to improve and refine your ability to get results.

  • Show-and-Tell. End your week with a show-and-tell. This can be for you or for others. It's great to see your results come to fruition. Rewarding your own ability to deliver results is how you keep yourself inspired and lessen your dependence on other people to acknowledge you. Your reward will be a job well done.

Design Your Year

  • 3 Great Results for the Year. Briefly imagine what it would be like if you accomplished each of your three wishes or results you want for the year. If the results you imagined don't feel compelling or inspiring, you haven't found your three wishes. Don't work at it. Play at it. What's important is that your three wishes are compelling for you. If you achieve these three things within a year from now, you want to be able to honestly say that you spent your time on the things that matter most to you at this moment in your life.

  • The Why Behind Your Wishes. Once you have chosen your three wishes, the best thing you can do is find out why they matter so much. The simplest way to do this is to just start writing down why they matter. Take each result you want to achieve and write a hearty paragraph about why it really matters to you. Ask yourself, "Why do I need to make this happen?" Don't critique your thoughts. Instead, just pluck your reasons as they flow and plot them down. Think of it as your personal manifesto, and if you should forget why you do what you do or get knocked off your horse, this will be your reminder.

  • Mapping Out Your Year. Recurring Activities; Key Events; Meaningful Milestones.


Action Before Motivation

Execution Checklists

Make It Work, Then Make It Right. Always find the simplest path through to get to a working result. Then go back and improve as needed. By having working results, you'll build your confidence and momentum. More people fail by never finishing or by wallowing in perfectionism or analysis paralysis. Your chances are better by getting working results you can improve.

Batch and Focus. Consolidate similar tasks and do them in a batch. This helps you reduce task switching and improve your efficiency.

Test Drive Your Results. Get in the habit of doing dry runs. If you're in the habit of thinking everything through in your head, shift to thinking less and doing more. You'll find that there are many things you can't anticipate. Instead, of focusing on anticipating, focus on learning and responding. Take action, learn, and respond.

Productivity Pitfalls

  • Pitfall # 1. Analysis Paralysis. The way out is to start action on the problem, even small steps, so that you gain momentum as well as feedback on your thinking.

  • Pitfall # 2. Do It When You Feel Like It. One of the most effective ways to combat the problem is to simply make time for things and schedule your routines.

  • Pitfall # 3. Don't Know the Work to Be Done. One of the best ways to counter this problem is to map out the work. If you don't know the work, ask the people that do or who have done it before.

  • Pitfall # 4. Lack of Boundaries. Setting boundaries doesn't mean there won't be exceptions, but at least you now have a simple framework that supports you. It's scaffolding for sustainable results.

  • Pitfall # 5. Perfectionism. Simply by thinking in terms of "versioning" your results can help you balance getting it right with getting it done. Instead of trying to write perfect prose or bullet-proof code the first time through, make the first draft "good enough," then iterate.

Principles, Patterns, and Practices

You can think of a principle simply as a guideline or as a fundamental law or how something works. For example, a principle might be "fix time, flex scope" which means set up time for things and bite off less to fit within the chunk of time that you have. As an underlying principle, this simple guideline might serve as the foundation for many other guidelines.

A pattern might simply be a tendency or set of acts that you observe (i.e., a behavior pattern). You can also think of a pattern as a problem and solution pair, where the pattern itself is the name of the solution. For example, "flow" is a pattern where you are fully engaged in an activity. The power of patterns is that by naming them, you can share solutions more effectively.

You can think of practices as simply methods or techniques. It's a "how" or a "way" to do something. For example, scheduling results is an effective practice. It's a way to make sure you have time for things you need to do, versus just hoping they get done.

Keys and Strategies for Results

  • Above the Line or Below the Line. Some things you do will be "value-add." Others will just be expected. You need to consider whether the work you do is "above the line" or "below the line." Work that's "above the line" is considered value-add. Value is in the eye of the beholder. Work that's "below the line" is just expected. It's like treading water. The funny thing about "below the line" work is that doing more of it won't get you ahead, but not doing it will likely cause you pain. Some people call this "the cost of doing business" or "the tax you pay." Some points to ponder: Is the work that you do considered "above the line" or "below the line"? Where are you at in terms of achieving results: "above the line" or "below the line"? Are you working on stuff that's valued? Who is the value for: you or somebody else?

  • Spend 80% on Action, 20% on Thinking. Have a bias for action. You'll act on more of your ideas. You'll get more feedback from yourself and others. You'll improve your habits. A ship at anchor can't course-correct, but a ship in motion can.

  • Outcomes over Activities. An outcome is result or consequence. An activity is a pursuit in which you're active. For example, let's say you're reflecting on your results for this last month. If you start listing all your activities, so what? That's a bunch of activity. What did you actually accomplish or achieve or make progress on or improve? Those are your outcomes.

  • Fix Time, Flex Scope. Fixing time leads to improved time management, better energy management, improved techniques, and ultimately better results. Prioritizing Gets Easier; Better Techniques; Energy Up. There's always an end in sight. You can sprint when you can see the finish line.

  • Next Best Thing to Do.

  • Make It a Project. When you make something a project, you turn it into something more manageable. You give it a start and a finish. You can figure out the work involved. You can weigh the benefits of it against other things you might invest your life force in. Chunk It Up! Based on my experience on many projects over many years and the experience of others, you're better off in the long run of doing many short projects over one long marathon. You build momentum. You get a fresh start. You can version your results.

  • Team Up. Find somebody to complement your skills. If you're a Starter, pair with a Finisher. If you're a Maximizer, pair with a Simplifier. If you're a Thinker, pair with a Doer. This keeps momentum and you get the benefit of synergy.

  • Model the Best.

  • Link It to Good Feelings. If you try to motivate yourself by promising rewards down the line, that's not very effective in the long run. It's actually important to link what you do to good feelings where possible. If you simply try to talk yourself into something, then all you end up with is a logical argument that's not very motivating. You get more leverage on yourself if you create an emotional connection. For example, let's say you don't like the pain of working out. One technique you can use is to play your favorite songs. You'll end up linking the workout to feeling good. Now you have your mind, body, and emotions working with you instead of against you.

  • Teach What You Need to Learn. Teaching requires you to burn info in at a deeper level. This requires sustained thinking and focus. One of the best forcing functions that to drive information home is simply the thought process of asking and answering questions. Of course, as you put the information into practice, you'll want to know it beyond the intellectual. Through repetition and practice you'll want to burn it at an emotional and physical level.


Compelling "Why". One common reason people give up on their goals is that the why wasn't important enough. They didn't emotionally connect with it. It might have looked good on paper, but it wasn't compelling. Difficulty discovering a compelling "Why" may be an indicator that there's something else you'd rather spend your time on.

Strategies for Motivation

  • See the End in Mind. You need to know when you're done as well as what good results look like. Don't just vaguely imagine it--see it in your mind's eye. A good test is if you can draw your vision or concisely tell others what you're trying to accomplish.

  • Use Pain and Pleasure to Get Leverage. Make it painful not to do it. Make it pleasurable to do it. Find a way to enjoy it. Rely on passion and in finding ways to enjoy doing what's good for you, not on discipline. Link tasks to pleasure. Change how you feel about the stuff you do. Don't just assume you'll automatically like something over time, ensure it will happen. You can help it along by finding a more compelling reason or associating fun things, such as by playing your favorite songs.

  • Make It a Routine. Instead of discipline, use routine. You don't have to make yourself work too hard every time. Use checklists to improve. Focus on the learning. Master your craft. Bootstrap your routines by creating glide paths or simple ways to start.

  • Set Boundaries. Set a quota. Use timeboxes to limit the amount you do or to create time for short burst work.

  • Build Momentum. Set Incremental hurdles. Success builds momentum. One of the simplest ways to get into this pattern is to start with something simple that will lead to success. Incremental success becomes a habit.

  • Take Action. Motivation usually follows action, not the other way around. You'll also find that if you put in the hours, you'll have more chances for inspiration.

  • Reward Effort Over Performance. You can control your effort, but not results. So focus on rewarding the effort and performance will follow in time. By focusing on what you control, you teach yourself to consistently give your best, independent of the outcome.

  • Reduce Open Work. Reduce the work you have in flight. It's better to finish one thing before spinning up a bunch of other things. The more work you have that's not finished, the more chances you won't finish. When you reduce work that's in flight, you can better focus on the task at hand and bring it to completion. Task switching is an enemy of results.