When you don’t achieve your monthly goals

Last month was eventful. Our plans had changed several times during the month due to unexpected circumstances. March was full of good news but I can’t say it was very productive. In today’s post, I want to share 5 lessons that I have learned from failing at achieving my monthly goals.

Last month we had to travel a lot. When you travel you can’t really stick to your regular routine. And for me, a daily routine is essential to staying productive. 

So, what happened? My sprint didn’t go as planned. I wasn’t able to act on about half the goals and projects I had set for myself. In case you haven’t listened to my previous episodes, I use sprint planning. I set 9 goals in total every month. 3 goals in each of the 3 areas of my life:

  1. Career and Growth
  2. Health and Key Relationships
  3. Quality of Life

If you want to learn more, check out this Sprint Planning for Personal Productivity article.

I finished my sprint with about a 60% completion rate on these 9 goals. I’ve done many other things, put out a lot of fires. However, I haven’t done much progress on the things I have planned for my 3-week sprint. 

monthly goals

5 Lessons From a Failed 3-Week Sprint

At first, I was a bit disappointed. This is probably the first sprint that went so poorly in terms of completion rate ever since I have started using the Monthly Method. So I took some to reflect and see if there are any lessons I can share with you. And I came up with 5. 

1. Travel does affect your productivity a lot.

Travel is the opposite of having a solid daily routine. Travel disrupts all the routines you’ve set up for yourself. Even though travel brings a lot of positive emotions and experiences, it is very difficult to stick to your usual pace of getting things done.

What does it mean for me going forward? It means I should plan for a lot fewer tasks/goals when travelling. Maybe just stick with 1 goal for each of the 3 areas of my life, having 3 goals in total for the month if I am travelling a lot that month. 

2. The importance of rest.

It is still important to take that last week off to reflect and recharge even if you didn’t have a very productive sprint (more on this here). It is very tempting to beat ourselves up and say that we don’t deserve that break. However, it is important to take the time to reflect and learn some lessons, so that you don’t repeat your mistakes again.

In my opinion, the most important part of the Monthly Method I have developed is that last week that you take off. It doesn’t mean you don’t work. You just don’t expect heroic productivity from yourself during that week. You put everything in maintenance mode. No extra effort is exerted during that week. If you decide to do something related to your long-term goals – great. But if you don’t, it’s not a big deal.

You might not realize it, but it’s very tiring for your psyche to be under the pressure of wanting to do more all the time. It will lead to burnout. But when you take a week off from the endless pursuit of more, you prevent burnout. Knowing that I took a week off as always. Even though I had a list of goals and projects starring at me that I didn’t get the chance to finish. When I took the time off, I was full of mental energy to dedicate to these projects during the next month. 

3. Don’t take this failed sprint personally.

Don’t let this sprint mean negative things about you. Not all sprints will be a roaring success. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It doesn’t mean you can’t do great things in life. It doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your goals. It doesn’t mean you should give up.

All it means that you had a sprint that resulted in a lower completion rate on your goals than some other sprints you’ve had before. No drama is required. The more you obsess over how unsuccessful you were in getting your monthly goals done, the more overwhelming and scary it becomes to do things going forward.

If you work at large company that implements Agile, you will see that even in the corporate setting no two sprints are the same. And some sprints just don’t go as planned. Things do happen. And that doesn’t mean that the employees are bad or not talented enough. Not at all. What differentiates agile/scrum is what you do with the sprints that didn’t go well. And this brings me to point #4. 

4. Embrace the concept of continuous improvement.

When you have a sprint that didn’t go well, it is a great opportunity to practice the concept of continuous improvement. You should take time to reflect on what went well and what didn’t. Under Agile, you do this reflection after each sprint, no matter if it was successful or not. You learn from your wins and from your failures. It is called Sprint Retrospective.

The most simple and elegant way that I have found to do the Sprint Retrospective was to use the ‘Stop, Start, Continue technique. If you’ve downloaded my free Plan your next week using the Monthly Method guide, you are familiar with this technique. After every sprint, you list one item in each of these categories:

    • One thing that you were during last sprint that you should stop doing.
    • One thing that you were doing and liked the impact it had on your life, so you want to continue doing it during the next sprint.
    • And one thing you were not doing but you think you should start doing. 

5. Don’t plan for the double load in the next sprint.

It is very tempting to just add the goals that were not completed last to the next month. On top of everything else, we have planned for the upcoming month. Don’t do it. Stick to 3 goals per each of 3 areas of your life. Choose the most important ones.

Some of the tasks will not make the cut. And that’s ok. It just means that there were 3 tasks that were of higher importance to you. And there is nothing wrong if you choose to focus on the more important things during the next month. Just put the tasks that didn’t make the cut to the backlog file. Maybe you just need to delete this goal altogether?

Letting go of the goal and never coming back to it might be the best thing you can do.

It can be very liberating. As I wrote in the backlog article, you don’t have to act on every idea or project that crosses your mind. That why we use the backlog idea – to allow for some time to pass between your thoughts and your actions. Because half of our ideas are just not so good, let’s be honest. We have to be very selective about which ideas and projects we invest our time in. 

Conclusion

These are the five lessons I have learned from my March sprint that didn’t go as well as I wanted it to go. Let’s do a quick recap. 

  1. Going forward, I will set fewer goals for the sprint if I know I will be travelling a lot during that month. 
  2. It is very important to still take a week off at the end of the month. 
  3. I won’t let one failed sprint mean anything about me. 
  4. I will take this as an opportunity to embrace the concept of continuous improvement.
  5. I won’t plan for the double load for the next sprint. I will stick with my regular load. 
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