Getting Results the Agile Way

Author: J. D. Meier

Jan 24 2017

Getting Results the Agile Way


Verdict: green-up-arrow.png Recommended (but only chapters 1-4)

The book uses Agile principles as a basis for defining a results oriented approach to work and personal life. The meat of the book is in the first part, chapters 1-4 (about 60 pages). Parts II-III and the appendix (the remaining 180 pages) expand on the information in part I (needlessly?). Be warned, there is a lot of unnecessary repetition of the same information with added verbosity later in the book. As a result these negatives, I highly recommend only part I of the book.

I've tried several systems of self-organization to prioritize tasks and reduce "wasted" time. I found some of them vague (e.g. Just Fucking Ship) or unsustainable (e.g. What the Most Successful People do at Work). To clarify, those books have worked for people, they didn't work for me.

"Getting Results the Agile Way" has a small set of repeatable steps, is simple, lightweight and as a result doesn't get in the way. In fact, being dead simple makes it easy to start using and to continue using.

A focus on outcomes i.e. end results (not goals or tasks) forms the backbone of the system; first at a high level (annual), from which monthly, weekly and finally daily outcomes are successively derived. The suggestions is to keep only 3 outcomes on your radar, any more may result in lost focus. Tasks are the actions that you take towards achieving the outcomes. Also, I like the recommendation to pick one improvement each month to work on.

A strong bias towards action to overcome analysis-paralysis, time-boxing (limiting time, so energy levels are high), versioning results to avoid perfectionism, incremental results, varying your approach till one works, separate action items from informational items.

Some examples of improvements I was able to make:

  • I had a problem reading non-technology, non-fiction books. I'd read half a dozen pages, but couldn't tell you what I'd just read in the last 5 minutes; go back, rinse, repeat and still not absorb the material. I was able to overcome this by changing my approach:
    • I used Tabata timers initially and subsequently the Pomodoro technique to stay focused and not let my mind wander.
    • I also started writing 1-3 line summaries or key takeaways for each page as I read it. Within 10 days, I'd finished reading 4 books and was back at my old reading pace from about 7 years ago.
    • I no longer need to write notes to focus, but I've started trying out the Kindle app's Text-to-Speech feature (2x speed) while I myself read the book - it works really well.
    • For printed books, if I find myself losing concentration, I read aloud to myself.
  • I added time tracking to ensure that I:
    • Spent at least 1 hour a day having fun.
    • Set aside 8 hours a week in non-work socializing.
    • Got 7-8 hours of sleep. Tracking showed that I watched shows at night to unwind. I canceled my Netflix membership, fell asleep faster and gained the benefits of higher energy levels and sharper focus.
    • Became realistic about time spent on life essentials like chores, errands, etc
    • Started batching up tasks that could be done simultaneously. e.g. iron my clothes while watching shows.
  • I would beat myself up about not making progress on my side-projects (come on, admit it - you have a few yourself). So, I started writing down how much time I had outside of life essentials (incl. sleep & meals), work, socializing & (minimal) fun (aka stress busters). Tracking time using a calendar color coded with broad categories (essentials, fun, work and socializing) showed me that I realistically had only 20 hours a week for my side-projects and hobbies. I've reset my expectations, altered my plan accordingly and don't feel frustrated at myself for failing to get as much done as I "ought to".

Notes (only Part I)

Disclaimer: These are primarily written for my own future reference, but they may be useful to you, either to decide if you want to read / buy the book or as something to revisit. The information is not comprehensive, not in the least - so, please don't use it as a substitute for actually reading the book. As with all my content, some is verbatim from the original source, opinion may be interspersed & of course, YMMV.


  • 10 Values.
  • 10 Principles.
  • 12 Practices.
  • No big upfront design.
  • Pave a path; find a way forward.

10 Values

  1. Action over analysis-paralysis.
  2. Approach over results: results as gauge.
  3. Energy over (as in above) time.
  4. Focus over quantity: focus is the force multiplier.
  5. Good enough over perfection.
  6. Growth mindset over fixed mindset.
  7. Outcomes over activities: focus on results.
  8. Maximize strengths: spend less time shoring up weaknesses.
  9. System over ad-hoc: for basics.
  10. Value-up over backlog burndown: "What's the next best thing to do?"

10 Principles

  1. 80/20: 80% action, 20% analysis.
  2. Change your approach: tune as you go.
  3. Continuous learning
  4. Deliver incremental value.
  5. Less is more: reduce work that's in-flight.
  6. Factor out action from reference: reduce signal to noise ratio.
  7. Set boundaries: both for time and energy.
  8. Fix time, flex scope: time is a 1st class citizen.
  9. Rhythm of results: habit becomes ritual => produces feeling of accomplishment.
  10. Version your results: fight perfectionism.

12 Practices

  1. Rule of 3: focus on vital things; a buffet you can go back to, don't overfill your plate.
  2. Monday vision, daily outcome, Friday reflection.
  3. Scannable outcomes: what's on your radar?
  4. Daily outcomes: 3 action items for the day.
  5. Weekly outcomes.
  6. Strong week: do the toughest things that drain you early in the week to create a glide path.
  7. Timebox your day: optimize & prioritize.
  8. Triage incoming action items: Do / Queue / Schedule / Delegate.
  9. Monthly improvement sprints: pick 1 thing to improve each month.
  10. Growth mindset: get knocked down, get up again.
  11. Action lists: Daily / Weekly / Queue / Scripts.
  12. Reference collections: for non-actionable information.

Hot Spots

  1. Things that are important i.e. big picture items and long term goals.
  2. Clusters of important things going on in your life.
  3. At a macro-level think in terms of work, personal & life.

Hot Spots

Life Frame



  • Mind
  • Body
  • Emotions
  • Career
  • Financial
  • Relationships
  • Fun
  • Activities
  • Active Projects
  • Backlog
  • Activities
  • Active Projects
  • Backlog
  1. Set boundaries: max / min time & energy; use Hot Spots to set these boundaries. e.g. max 50 hrs for work and min 3 hrs for body (workout).
  2. Worst mistake is to continually throw more time at problems.
  3. Increase value, improve efficiency & effectiveness => reduce time spent.


  • Recurring activities like administration, mentoring, status meetings for work; household chores, grocery shopping for personal.
  • Make a list for each big activity => enables you to see stuff at a glance.
  • 3 most important results at the top.

Active Projects

1 list per project => this is your queue.


1 list per major backlog item.

Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection

  • Deliver value over backlog burndown.
  • Rule of 3.
  • Frame results for the week.
  • Test for success: (re)define outcomes based on what success looks like.
  • Scenario driven results: e.g. laying on a hammock & enjoying the rose garden, rather than tasks like mowing the lawn. Gives work meaning & improves quality of life.
  • Incremental progress.
  • Have a buffer: at a buffer, you would take smaller portions, make multiple trips. Buffers help see opportunities. No buffer => only threats are visible.
  • Use timeboxes: spend energy effectively.

Monday Vision

Identify 3 outcomes for the week:

  • Use Hot Spots as input.
  • Focus on where you want to be at the end of the week.
  • Focus on outcomes, not activities / tasks.

Daily Outcomes

Identify 3 outcomes for the day:

  • You can always add more later.
  • Don't get caught up in backlog.
  • Choose most valuable things.
  • Track against the week's 3 outcomes.
  • Must, Should, Could are the 3 buckets for the daily list:
    • Must => got to get these done.
    • Should => nice to haves.
    • Could => pipe dreams.

Friday Reflection

  • Focus on the pitch, not the scoreboard.
  • Evaluate what got done, or what didn't and why.
  • Be balanced: what needs improvement and what went well.
  • Get clarity on personal success patterns and what needs to change.
Last modified 6 years ago Last modified on Feb 17, 2017, 11:36:12 PM