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(Andy Gardner/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Andy Gardner/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Productivity

Winning moves for your to-do list Add to ...

When you develop your to-do list for today – or this week – your focus likely will be on the specific activities you need to address.

But Microsoft project management specialist J.D. Meier, in his blog, says you should focus instead on the outcomes – the wins you intend to achieve.

His approach, which he calls “agile results,” leads you to find shortcuts and amplify your effort:

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Three wins for the week

The single most important thing Mr. Meier does at the start of every week is to create his list of weekly outcomes. It starts with the three most important wins he is seeking at the top, and then a longer list of goals and tasks. “This helps me set a target for success. Writing it down is important. This frees my mind to focus on where my attention is needed most. Whenever I need a fast reminder of what my week is about, I can look back to my list,” he says.

An expanded view

But a week is made up of days. And a week is part of longer stretches of time, such as a month. So he urges you to apply the same thinking to those other periods of times, following this pattern:

– Three wins for the day

– Three wins for the week

– Three wins for the month

– Three wins for the quarter

– Three wins for the year.

For each of those periods, again, you should have written lists of outcomes. “Each week is a fresh start. Each day is a fresh start. Each day is a new chance to define new wins for that specific day,” he declares.

Think power hours

It helps to use your energy patterns to your advantage. Mr. Meier knows that his most productive times – his power hours – are 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Those are the times for which he schedules his biggest tasks, knowing he can get the equivalent of many hours of work accomplished in a single hour. For workers in many sectors, having a sense of their own energy patterns is vital.

Apply to teams

You can apply the system to teams. He oversees many distributed teams, and finds that the system “sets the rhythm, cadence, and clarity to operate more effectively.”

Identify three wins for the week at the team level, and encourage team members to identify their own individual wins for the week, as well as their daily wins. In addition, develop three wins for the month at the team level, again asking members to create their own three monthly wins.

He also suggests a monthly theme to focus on, perhaps something like “simplicity,” that helps to move wins forward.

Focused meetings

Hold a daily “10 at 10” meeting – 10 minutes long, starting at 10 a.m. – where team members each summarize what they got done, what they are working on, and where they need assistance. That helps to get everyone on the same page.

At your weekly team meetings, go around the table and have everyone describe their wins.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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