Productivity and GTD

How to Build Your Future

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” ~ Malcolm X
Better future

The end of the year is approaching and you’re probably making a mental review of how this year was, what you’ve achieved and what you would like to change to make the next year better.

For some not very logical reason, we measure everything about our personal development in calendar years, and only care about it from year to year. Worse, when we reflect on those things we do nothing more than announce a couple of resolutions for the coming year. Although we firmly believe it when we announce them, enthusiasm soon dwindles and by February we have already forgotten what we wanted to improve in the new year.

In agile project development we work with very short time cycles, called “iterations”, in which a desired outcome is defined and the necessary actions to achieve it are planned. By the end of each iteration we carry out a “retrospective”, which is a meeting where the team reflects on what has happened during the iteration and identifies actions to improve in the future. More specifically, the members of the team try to answer three questions within a retrospective:

  • What worked well?
  • What went wrong?
  • What can we do to improve from now on?

As you can see, this is very similar to what any person usually does at the end of the year, except that we do it regularly at very short intervals. And instead of thinking about resolutions, one identifies concrete actions that are quickly built into daily routine.

Retrospectives are a very useful reflection tool that you can use for your work, with your family or for yourself. If done consistently, they allow us to recognize victories that must be celebrated and defeats we should learn from. You can carry them out in any time span with which you feel comfortable (the shorter the better).

As they say in the stock market, “past performance does not guarantee future results.” But the experience you have acquired over this year and the previous years provides you with valuable information for a better future. The successes and failures you have been getting tell you what to replicate and what to avoid from now on.

What should you start doing this year? What should you stop doing? What should you continue doing? There’s no point in answering these questions if you don’t plan the appropriate actions in your personal management system, whatever it is. Your future is built through the actions of your present.

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