My Secret Behind Successful Commitments

To commit or not to commit? That is the question asked by many teams in an agile world as well as individuals that set strict goals for their development. The answer must not be taken lightly as the faith and trust in oneself or of fellow team members depend on it.

Is there a way that we can ease the burden of this question or increase the likelihood to succeed?

Yes, I say. And in this article, I would like to share some insights into the elements that I consider essential to reach your commitments: Clarity, Focus and Perseverance.

Clarity

clarity

Commitment goes hand in hand with goals. If you don’t have a goal there is nothing to commit to. Pretty obvious, right?

Even if it sounds trivial, setting good goals is not easy. Start by establishing SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals, then make sure that every member of the team is on the same page. Explain why the goal is important and visualize what it will mean when the task is completed. Ensuring everyone has a shared understanding and view of the goals is critical.

If it is a team goal, have it written down and visible in an accessible location of your team space: on a big whiteboard, or a big screen so that everyone can see it. Don’t rely on a Jira board that shows tasks or current progress. Mention it daily so that it is engraved in everyone’s mind until it is completed. 

If it is a personal goal, have it written down on your desk, on your entrance door, on your bathroom mirror, on your refrigerator. This plants the seeds of success in your mind and focuses your attention on things that will help you achieve your goal.

If there are uncertainties, or unclear elements or even unknown requirements, make sure that they are exposed and dealt with first. Reduce the risk by preparing in advance or consulting specialists that can provide insight or suggestions on how to deal with the unknown.

Clarity of purpose is the stepping stone of any commitment, so make sure you do it right.

Focus

Focus is the next vital element in achieving your commitment. You have your goal, now it is about breaking it into small steps so that each day you get closer to reaching it. Each step becomes a target. Each target requires an explicit focus to reach it.

You have a limited amount of time and energy, and chances are, you’ll never have enough of both to accomplish everything you need to do every single day. Not everything on your list is urgent. Take a moment to identify the most important task. This is the crucial task you must get done, tackle it first. By completing the vital task, you’ll ensure that you’ll have a productive day no matter what.

Do one thing at a time. It is very easy to give in to temptation and start multiple things simultaneously. This might work when doing physical tasks or chores but went you require brainpower, each of us has only a limited bandwidth. When stretched too thin, it will result in a decrease in quality or speed.

Always have a goal or target in front of you. Open your calendar, check for major events, manage your availability, and start setting goals for the month, the week, the day. Keep things simple. Don’t overthink what tool to use, or what structure to have. Pen and paper are good enough, but if you want a digital application, my recommendations are Todoist and Trello.

Start your day by reviewing your goals and targets so they are engraved in your mind, then it will be easy to deflect distractions and achieve your commitment.

Perseverance

Clarity and focus will point the direction, but perseverance is the fuel that you need to reach the finish line. Take action, because you will not be able to achieve anything without it. Action is what makes your goals and dreams come true.

Pace yourself as you require endurance, consistency, and perseverance to make a considerable impact on yourself or your team. Starting strong, but collapsing before the finish line will not help you or anyone in any way. The way how you finish a project is even more important than how you start it.

Have your mind and body in check as you require both mental and physical energy.  Endurance is key – Life is long, small drawbacks and problems are not the end of the world. Success comes when you plan for the long term and do everything in your power to achieve it.

Stay optimistic. Having positive beliefs, hopes, and expectations rule your motivation to persevere. Instead of letting your mind run wild with all the ways how you could fail, excite it with anticipated victories.

Summary

I would like to end the article with a quote from a famous Jedi Master:

“Do or do not. There is no try”

– Yoda

When you are nervous that your plan won’t work, you might find yourself saying, “OK, I’ll try to do it.” By doing that, you are laying the foundation for being unsuccessful from the beginning, giving yourself a way out. Yoda’s statement is a passionate reminder that life rewards those who let their actions rise above their excuses. Clarify intentions, eliminate all doubts, be bold, and say: Yes, I commit!


Also published on Medium and LinkedIn.

New Video Course Coming Soon

I would like to announce that my new video course “Self Development Bootcamp: Achieve faster your goals” is coming out in the next weeks. I am super excited to work on this project, and I look forward to bring it in the hands of my students.

Over and over, I saw how some people struggle with achieving their full potential or even to realize it. Sometimes they feel that others are getting more things done and that they don’t have the same opportunities as the ones that succeed.

Many years ago, I had similar thoughts, but I realized that the first thing I have to change is my mindset. Albert Einstein, Ellon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and all of us have 24 hours in a day to make an impact on the world. The main difference is how we use our time, how we envision our future, how we set our targets and have to focus and perseverance to accomplish our goals.

Inside of the course, I added strategies and techniques that helped me in more than ten years of my career, on how to visualize clearly what it is needed to do to turn dreams into reality, one step at a time.

It contains a list of the tools and resources that I use to track progress, keep me accountable and focused on the right direction.

I am thrilled to see how the progress is moving along and if you guys want to find out first when the course is out, subscribe to my newsletter here.

Make it a great day,
Andrei

PS. Here are some images from the recordings and check out my Instagram profile to get the latest stories.

My productivity toolbox – part two

In part one we discussed how important is to put down all the things you have on your mind and create a routine for their execution. But what happens when your list of tasks for each day grows bigger and bigger and you start observing that you are not completing everything you wanted for the day? It is easy to press the “postpone for later” button, but that does not solve the issue, it is only delaying it, making it even harder for you to read through your never-ending list.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The Eisenhower Matrix

This second part of the post focuses on how to prioritize your tasks, when to delegate or when to delete them. The method that I am using is called the “Eisenhower Matrix” and it is one of the most popular and effective prioritizing methods in the world, being part of the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” book by Stephen Covey.

The technique involves prioritizing your tasks based on importance and urgency. Create a diagram by dividing the space into four quadrants based on this criteria. Before explaining each section, one question that initially came to my mind was how to judge what is important or not. Urgency is quite easy to understand since time is pretty straightforward. However, importance can be viewed from multiple perspectives. To be honest, even now I am not sure that I have the best definition of it, but the way how I see importance is by looking at the leverage of the task. Inside his book “The Effective Engineer” Edmund describes leverage as:

“the value produced per unit of time invested”

You can check, for more details, his talk on this topic here. Activities with high leverage bring me closer to achieve my high goal in the least amount of time. Having this perspective in mind, let’s take a look at the four quadrants, starting with the last one:

Quadrant 4. “Not important and not urgent”

The first question that comes to my mind when looking on the items from this category is “Why do they exist or can they be deleted?” Since they do not bring me closer to my goals, and they require my time, I ask myself what is the reason I added them. Sometimes I discover that the task is not actionable, but more a reference that I might need in the future. In that case, I move it to Evernote and then delete it, but whatever reason it might have you should challenge its existence and remove it if it is not necessary.

Here are some examples from this category:

  • watching television
  • checking social media
  • trivia

Quadrant 3. “Urgent but not important”

This category of tasks is interesting since it forces us to understand if something urgent is important for us or not. The list usually grows and grows when we cannot politely refuse a request or delegate it to the appropriate person. At the beginning of my career, I found myself many times saying yes to all requests from everyone without realizing that by doing that I delay completing the tasks that I need to focus on the most. I felt good when I helped others, and of course, earned their appreciation, but as a side-effect, I did not realize that others could have benefited more from learning how to handle these tasks. I am not saying that you should stop helping others, but I suggest to challenge the idea if you are the right person to do these tasks.

Some think that delegation can be done only by managers or supervisors. I understand this perspective since this hierarchy view is quite common in many cultures or countries. However, I think it is as essential to be also done between peers and to build a team that is open to support and improve each other. Delegation gives the other person the possibility to grow, to develop. Sometimes the results will not be as good, but through coaching and repetition, the results can reach a level above the initial assumptions. Secondly, it reduces the bus factor and distributes knowledge across the team.

Here are some examples from this category:

  • booking flights
  • weekly reports
  • answering certain emails

Quadrant 2. “Not urgent but important”

This quadrant is the one that you should put all your focus in. These are things that will bring you closer to completing your big goals, make a significant impact on your life and at the end make you happy. Do not neglect to tackle them since, if you are postponing and postponing them, they will move to quadrant one, and you will feel pressured, stressed and uncomfortable. Plan this tasks accordingly, make sure you allocate the time for them, execute them with calm and without any rush and you will reach a state of complete harmony with your routine.

Here are some examples from this category:

  • long-term business strategy
  • exercising
  • high leverage projects

Quadrant 1. “Urgent and important”

This quadrant is also called the “firefighting quadrant”. Tasks in here have to be completed as soon as possible since every hour passed can cause severe consequences. The tension and stress level in this quadrant is quite high; therefore we must ensure that we avoid having this kind of tasks. Thinking ahead, analyzing past behaviors and patterns can help you to become better to prevent these issues. There will still be situations where our boss will ask something from us very urgent, but even then we should try to see if the request can be handled differently.

Here are some examples from this category:

  • unplanned downtime or malfunctions on the server side
  • crying baby
  • kitchen fire

You can find here an excellent animated review of the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective” where “habit three” explains the essence and importance of this technique:

How to put this into practice?

Step 1. Centralize all tasks and prioritize them

Todoist has the notion of priorities (p1, p2, p3, p4), but other tools that lack this feature can achieve similar results using labels or tags. During the weekly planning process, I go through all the items and decide in what quadrant they belong. For example, when finding an important and not urgent task, I use P2 and todoist reflects its importance through an orange checkmark. By default, all new entries in todoist are considered priority four, part of the “not urgent and not important” quadrant. Therefore it is critical to detect those P2 tasks since they are the key to great results.

Step 2. Use a calendar to see the impact of your tasks on your time

In the previous post, I mentioned that I am using the “Pomodoro” technique to break tasks in 25 minutes intervals. Most of us have eight working hours per day, and this would mean in an ideal case 16 “pomodoris”. First, check your calendar, day by day, to see how many meetings you have and then subtract that time. (e.g. two meetings in one day, 1 hour each would mean that you will lose four intervals, having left 12 pomodoris). Next step is to manage risk, how possible it is that someone will interrupt you or incidents to appear that will require your attention. I usually allocate between 10 to 20% for unplanned events.

Once you realize how much time you have in that week, start adding the activities with the highest leverage first (the quadrant two tasks). Once you are finished with them, add the ones from quadrant three and only then quadrant four. If you are wondering why I don’t mention anything about the urgent and important ones, is because you should already have completed these. As I mentioned earlier, this is firefighting mode, and you should not postpone them for any reason.

One other trick that I recommend is bulk completing small tasks. For example, when having tasks that can be accomplished in 5 to 10 minutes, use one Pomodoro slot to complete them in bulk. e.g. calls, emails, set new appointments, etc. (I also use labels like 5MINS, 10MINS to mark this kind of tasks.)

Key Takeaways

  • Allocate the time and effort to find out the essential things in your life
  • Delegate tasks to others and allow others to grow and develop
  • Visualize your tasks in a calendar

Also published on Medium.