From Wishlist to Reality: Using Agile to Turn Your New Year Resolutions into Results

How many of you feel like your goals get lost in a drawer or forgotten about in an abandoned document? Agile can help prevent this by making your work towards your goals visible and providing you with opportunities to review and assess your progress. This not only helps you stay motivated and engaged, but also allows you to course-correct if needed. Don’t let your goals collect dust – make them a priority with the help of Agile.

Now where do we actually start? First, I propose we build out your Epics; these are our large goals that are part of your vision for “How you want your new year to be?” or “What would I like to accomplish in the new year?” these can be further broken down as needed later on, here are some examples of typical resolutions:

  • Losing weight and getting fit
  • Saving money and budgeting more effectively
  • Quitting smoking or drinking
  • Getting organized and decluttering
  • Learning a new skill or hobby
  • Traveling more
  • Become proficient in a new language
  • Volunteering or giving back to the community.

For an example I will pick the following Epic “Become proficient in a new language.” This Epic could be broken down into specific tasks such as “Take a language course”, “Practice speaking with a tutor”, “Watch foreign films in the target language” and so on. These tasks are based on the specific needs you have and can be prioritized and tackled iteratively using Agile methodologies.

Don’t let the simplicity of the above example fool you – it can be highly effective!

Now an initial and super important exercise to perform with your goals is to prioritize them, realistically we can’t work on all of our goals at the same time, so how can we approach this? In Agile there are different ways of prioritizing items either by Value, Risk or other metrics, in reality there is no one “right” way to prioritize, what I propose is to use the MoSCoW system and I promise this doesn’t have to do anything with Russia.

The MoSCoW system is a tool that can be used to prioritize tasks or goals. It stands for:

  • M: Must-have – These are the most important goal that must be completed.
  • S: Should-have – These are goals that are important but not as critical as the must-haves.
  • C: Could-have – These are goals that would be nice to have, but they can wait if necessary.
  • W: Won’t-have – These are goals that are not important and can be discarded.

Using the MoSCoW system can help you prioritize your new year’s resolutions and focus on the most important goals first. For example, if one of your resolutions is to “lose weight” and another one is “buy a new car”, we might consider flagging one of the goals with an “M – Must-have” and the other one with a “C – Could have” based on the value each of these adds to you. By prioritizing your goals in this way, you can focus on the most important actions first and make the most progress towards your list of Epic Goals!

Now that your goals are prioritized it’s time to start writing out tasks toward each of them, ensuring the tasks are small enough that they are actionable, well defined and relevant to the overall goal, we can also go ahead and apply the MoSCoW system to these as well, for example, if one of your resolutions is to lose weight, you might consider a task like “join a gym” an “M – must-have”, while a task like “try a new exercise class” might be a “C – could-have”.

We are now ready with our tasks and we have them prioritized, we can now begin our spring planning, I would suggest a good duration for a sprint would be a month. From the set of tasks we created we will pick items that that can be realistically completed within the sprint to be part of our sprint backlog. I’m quite sure from the tasks you wrote there are several small items that add value to your overall goal that you can complete within a single month as we track toward our end goal in December! For example, if your goal is “to lose weight” a few tasks we can select toward the sprint backlog of our January sprint could be “joining a gym can”, “attend the gym twice a week in January” and “cook healthy meals at home to last for 6 days of the week”.

These sample tasks don’t have to start all at the first week of January but rather allow you to gradually work on each of them to build good habits that will set you up for success and meet your goals at year end, for example:

  • Sign up to the gym
  • While signed up at the gym attend twice a week during January
  • While signed up at the gym and attending twice a week during the month of January and start cooking healthy meals at home to last for 6 days of the week.

With our first sprint defined a great tool we can use to make the work visible is a Kanban board, remember we don’t want to forget about our goals and store them in a drawer until next December! A Kanban board allows us to clearly display the status of tasks as we progress thru our sprint. Kanban boards typically consist of columns representing different stages of our tasks (“To Do,” “In Progress,” “Done”) and cards or post-it notes represent individual tasks as we move them thru the different stages. By using a Kanban board, you can constantly review your sprint backlog, your tasks in progress and quickly identify any item that needs your attention to ensure you meet your spring goal!

One reality of life is things change constantly and replanning is constantly required! With Agile, you are empowered to change direction and adjust as needed, no goal is really set in stone and Agile allows you to:

  • Adjust your plan quickly as things change, by being able to pull in other tasks that are ready to be worked on from the sprint backlog as in case some work becomes blocked or suddenly goes down in priority.
  • Celebrate your wins on the small tasks you completed toward a goal during the sprint review and ensure we continue doing great work!
  • During the retrospective, reflect on the work we have done in the sprint and how we are doing it, there is always room for improvement!

As we close out this post I want to remind you that with a clear, well-thought-out vision, and by holding yourself accountable and taking small, constant steps towards your vision, you can accomplish great things!

Hope this blog post helps you out in building your goals for next year, feel free to drop me a comment with your thoughts as you begin your planning. If you would like to keep on reading about this topic I would recommend you take a look at “Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life” book by J.D. Meier


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