Sprint through the next quarter with ease

Sprint through the next quarter with ease

“Spending time on secondary priorities is the reason you have 20 half-finished projects instead of 5 completed ones.” ~James Clear

Can you believe that spring is officially here, and quarter two of 2017 is already here? I don’t know about you, but these past weeks have flown by.

Now, I don’t want to spend a bunch of time hashing over the past three months, asking you if you’ve stayed on track with the goals and plans you laid out at the beginning of the year. If I were a betting woman, I’d guess that you’ve made progress on some plans but others have stayed in pause mode because of lack of time, clarity or resources to take action.

Am I right?

Regardless, I want to use today’s episode to kick start that fire in your belly and help you get ready to make the most of quarter two. Because while quarter one is already over, quarter two is still ahead of you beckoning you to make the most of it.

I wanted to share one of the best ways I know of it get back in the swing of things and set a path for progress. And that’s working in 90-day increments, with a mix of longer-term work and more specifically, short sprints.

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Full Transcript:

Can you believe that spring is officially here, and quarter two of 2017 is already here? I don’t know about you, but these past weeks have flown by.

Now, I don’t want to spend a bunch of time hashing over the past three months, asking you if you’ve stayed on track with the goals and plans you laid out at the beginning of the year. If I were a betting woman, I’d guess that you’ve made progress on some plans but others have stayed in pause mode because of lack of time, clarity or resources to take action.

Am I right?

Regardless, I want to use today’s episode to kick start that fire in your belly and help you get ready to make the most of quarter two. Because while quarter one is already over, quarter two is still ahead of you beckoning you to make the most of it.

I wanted to share one of the best ways I know of it get back in the swing of things and set a path for progress. And that’s working in 90-day increments, with a mix of longer-term work and more specifically, short sprints.

While I’m a big advocate for doing your yearly planning so you have the big picture of where you’re headed, when it comes down to taking action, I find it to be so much easier to execute on 90-day plans instead of a 365 one. That’s just a little too daunting don’t you think?

When we know we have months to complete something, urgency takes a back seat, and we can easily go into coast mode, waiting for a later time that just never comes.

So today I want to give you a look at how I manage things for my business, and what I do with my clients.

How I plan for each quarter

Leading up to the end of the quarter, I take an hour or so to review my past three months. What worked? What didn’t? Where did I get off track? Where did I totally find my flow?

I don’t really want to spend a ton of time here, but it’s important to mine the recent past for insight into how you’ll want to continue. Because plans are never static – they are dynamic and ever-shifting to keep you in alignment and on track with your goals.

Once I’ve done this quick review, I’m going to draw from my annual plan to see what gets added to my next quarter goals and plans. If I missed the mark with a goal in the previous quarter, or just didn’t get it done — I’ll check in to be sure it’s still worth doing, and assuming it is, I’ll migrate it over to the new three-month plan.

And then I’ll add anything else that is a top priority for that quarter.

Now, this is where you have to be really careful and honest with yourself. I know how tempting it can be to pack your next quarter full of big goals (particularly if you didn’t reach your goals last quarter) and convince yourself that you can do it.

And hey, maybe you can — but let’s set you up for success and keep it simple and focused. Force yourself to choose no more than three areas of focus for the next quarter. Anything more and you run the very real risk of diffusing your energy across them all and not making meaningful progress.

Earlier this week, I was in a coaching session with one of my retainer clients. As per usual, we were reviewing the past quarter and identifying focus areas for Q2. This is a guy who has LOTS on the go – many, many big projects that are all competing for his attention and care. And honestly, they all feel really important.

In the past, we’ve tried to add too many to his quarterly plan, and as you can imagine, he doesn’t get the traction he wants in any of them.

So this time, I asked him to come up with no more than three core priorities for the quarter. And then, we identified a couple of secondary priorities — projects that are important and need to keep moving but aren’t the make-it-or-break-it projects.

And then from there, we took one of those core priorities and bumped it to Q3. This means he’s only working with two core priorities for this quarter and two secondary ones. It’s still a lot, but at least it’s focused and doable if he doesn’t let other distractions get a foothold.

Now, let’s talk about how to really reach those three-month goals by implementing sprints into the mix.

Incorporating sprints into your project plans

While breaking your goals up by quarter helps immensely with focus and clarity, it’s still very easy to get overwhelmed and confused about how to execute everything over that time. Certainly having a core project plan helps, and you can find a link to my free PRO Project Plan in today’s show notes — this will help you map out the bigger projects over 90 days with core milestones, a breakdown of tasks and much more.

I really encourage you to go pick up your copy if you haven’t already, or print off a new copy if you got it previously.

Back to sprints.

While there’s a place for slow and steady, there’s equally a place for fast action. Ask yourself what might be possible if you took one of those goals and instead of doing it in 90 days, you committed to doing it in 30 days instead.

You’d have to make different decisions about how you allocated your time, and how you approached the work, but it’s possible and would get you to a completion point faster than if you spread it out over the ninety days.

Let me give you an example

I’ve been sitting on an idea for about a year that I haven’t actioned. It was one of those someday, one-day projects that weren’t mission critical. But as I was prepping for this quarter, I got inspired to pull it off my digital shelf and evaluate whether it could make its way into my quarterly plan.

It’s not a hard project at all, and a lot of the main frame for it is done. It wouldn’t require a lot of research or strategy at this point — it’s more about just getting my bum in the seat and cranking it out.

Now, I could easily assign it to this quarter and make a goal of having it completed by June 30, 2017. This would mean that I’d just plug away at it when I could, and finally release it in July. And truthfully, that would be fine.

But because it doesn’t carry the weight of some of my more significant projects, I know that it would be REALLY easy to just let it fall to the backburner and by June, I’d be bumping it to Q3.

So, in the spirit of getting things done and shipped, I decided to use the sprint approach.

I’ve now put a deadline of April 17th to have this program complete and launched. That’s less than two weeks. My heart skips a beat just saying this, but I’m going to make it happen.

What that means is that for the next 12 days, the bulk of my work focus will go here to complete this project. I likely won’t assign a lot of time to other big projects before the 17th, beyond my regular business operations.

But on April 17th, this program will be launched and done, and generating revenue for my business, still leaving me 2.5 months to work on my other big projects.

Why sprints are a fantastic way to reach your goals

The first benefit is that you get a quick win. When you’re toiling away at something for a long time, especially in the background, it’s easy to lose steam and become disenchanted with the whole project. If all your projects are set up like that with no quick wins mixed in, business development starts to feel like one big slog. By getting something done quickly, you’ll build your confidence and feel good about your progress, which will then translate into your other work.

The second benefit is that by mixing it up with sprints means you get to be in intense go-mode for a burst of time and then reap the rewards of your actions as you take a much-deserved break.

The third benefit is that sprints are often particularly helpful if you want to bring in some new revenue. Rather than wax poetic about a new offer for three months, pick an idea that you can literally put into place under the 30-day mark. Rather than taking months to complete it, you’ll have something new for sale in under a month. Pretty good right?

The fourth benefit of sprints is that you can use it to keep a bigger, longer term project on track. Let’s imagine you have a multi-month project on the go that requires a lot of work. There are a number of milestones associated with it, and the task list is long. And as is the case with most projects, certain pieces of the project plan are contingent on other pieces happening first. This is where applying a quick sprint can help keep your big project chugging along. Take a piece that has to be complete before you can move on, and assign a quick sprint to it. You’ll get that piece done, and then you can keep on with the longer-term work.

And finally, the fifth benefit of sprints is that it forces you to get out of analysis-paralysis and perfectionism. With a sprint, you don’t have time to second-guess or plan or research your way into a hole you can’t easily get out of — there’s just no time for that. Instead, you’ve just got to keep in execution mode, clipping along with the trust that you can make any necessary adjustments later.

Naturally, we can’t do all our work in sprints. There is a necessarily place for taking a marathon approach to some projects. What we’re looking for here is a nice balance of fast-paced production, and slow-growth development to help you reach your quarterly and annual goals.

There is a necessarily place for taking a marathon approach to some projects. What we’re looking for here is a nice balance of fast-paced production, and slow-growth development to help you reach your quarterly and annual goals.

So hopefully you’re on board with adding a sprint or two into your Q2 plans. I’d love you to take 20 minutes today and be sure you’re clear on where you’ll be focusing for April, May, and June, and then identify if there’s a sprint opportunity or two to get you where you want to go faster.

And next week, stay tuned because I’ll be offering up 30 powerful ways to spring clean your business. Now that the sun is shining, and the snow has finally melted, I know that many of us are thinking about spring and what’s possible. I’m going to give you some great ways to clear the cobwebs that have been lurking inside your business all winter.

Recommended Resources

PRO Project Plan 

Podcast: Where to focus when you don’t know where to focus

5 helpful steps before you begin a new project 

Podcast: The super simple strategy to overcome overwhelm 

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Sprint through the next quarter with ease

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