Today I want to share the Monthly Method principles.
The Monthly Method was developed as a result of trying different productivity methods, seeing what works and what doesn’t.
I adopted some of the SCRUM principles from my corporate career to my personal life.
I’m proud of the results I’ve been able to achieve with this method and I hope it can add value to your life.
Long-term planning doesn't work
First of all, I want to let you know that I don’t believe in long-term planning. This is something SCRUM practitioners embraced a long time ago. However, it’s taking forever for personal productivity experts to adopt it.
We live in a very fast changing world. You have to adapt. Quickly. People in the business world know it. People in technology know it. We, as individuals, should know it, too.
We also learn at incredible speeds. It is something that was not available to generations before us. We read books, which can be delivered overnight. We have access to the libraries for free. We also have podcasts, blogs, learning platforms, and YouTube. We can learn and grow at incredible speeds. The person I am today is very different from the person I was even 6 months ago.
If you choose to set long term goals today, you are limiting yourself. You are setting your long-term goals based on your knowledge of the world TODAY. However, in five years from now you will have so much more knowledge and a very different mindset. The knowledge you will have five years from now should dictate your action, not something the old version of you put on a piece of paper.
Long-term planning lets you off the hook. It is never urgent enough. You can always do it tomorrow. You can spend another month doing research. A month is not a big deal when we are talking about a 5-year goal, right?
The Monthly Method
1. Focus on short-term planning
As I mentioned above, I don’t believe in long-term planning.
I’ve adapted the notion of sprint from SCRUM methodology. My monthly sprint lasts for three weeks. Yes, only three. I have the last week of every month to relax, recharge, pat myself on the back, reflect and plan the next sprint.
Three weeks is a long enough time to get substantial progress done on my goals, yet it is short enough to keep me focused. That way I feel the value of every day and I know that I have a tight schedule to get everything done. I can’t afford to be sloppy with my time management.
That way I always feel the deadline breathing down my neck.
2. Always be celebrating
It’s actually an interesting piece of feedback I’ve gotten from my students. When I first introduced this method and my service, I thought people would continue working with me because I act as an accountability partner.
However, what I end up hearing is very different. People like that my method is based on celebration. This is one of the first things we put on a calendar – our celebration time. Every week we celebrate our achievements. We do something nice for ourselves in order to celebrate small wins.
Some of my clients say that I’m the only person they can celebrate their small wins with.
The outside world is used to overnight success, grandiose launches, million dollar revenues, 100 pound weight losses. People often feel that what they are doing is insignificant.
However, under the Monthly Method you are encouraged to celebrate your success on a daily and weekly basis.
I start every client call with the question – “What are we celebrating today?”. I try to create a place where people can feel proud of themselves, no matter how small their accomplishments can seem.
3. Relax and Recharge
In the Monthly Method, the very first thing we agree upon is fixed working hours. Your evening and weekends are for you to be enjoyed.
I strongly believe that all-nighters, packed schedules, hustle and unavoidable burn out is for highly insecure people with sloppy time and thought management. Being very busy, tired, and overwhelmed has nothing to do with being productive.
We are biologically wired to switch between “on” and “off” modes. You can’t work hard if your tank is empty. You need to recharge.
Not all relaxation is the same. Watching Netflix all weekend long vs spending a weekend in nature disconnected from social media. Not the same effect, my friend, very different.
Investing time in activities that recharge you is what goes on the calendar first. Work fits in the hours between play, not the other way around.
4. Embrace the Practice. Forget the outcomes.
Very often people come to me and say “I want to make 100K next year”. This is an outcome-based goal. A lag goal. It’s a result of a certain activity. Oftentimes, you are not even sure what activity it is the result of. You only have a vague idea of what activities can bring this result.
We’ll get you there but only if you forget about this 100K goal and focus on the practice.
When we form the goals for the month, the two conditions are:
- There is a limit to how many goals you can have;
- They have to be lead goals or practice-oriented goals. Something that only you can do. They are not dependent on anyone else.
Here is an example. Instead of saying “I want to start a successful blog that has 100 subscribers in the first month”, we set a goal of “Start a blog and publish 8 posts”.
What’s important here is to create a consistent publishing schedule. Getting 100 subscribers in the first month is not something you can control. Publishing on your blog twice a week is the thing you can control and later celebrate.
5. Embrace the cyclical nature of growth by establishing weekly structure and daily routines.
My thesis is that progress is not linear. It is cyclical with the upward-trending slope.
In my career managing projects, I found that teams function extremely well under cyclical structure.
There should be something that happens every quarter, every month, every week, every day.
The most productive meetings are cyclical (agenda, meeting, summary, next action steps, repeat). People love and crave consistency. It’s calming.
Every process in nature is cyclical. There are no loose ends in nature.
- There is fall, winter, summer, spring.
- There is a sunrise and a sunset.
- Days are getting longer, then they are getting shorter.
Very few things happen just once. Usually it is a process that can be drawn as a closing loop.
One of my favourite quotes by Lao Tzu is “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
It also might be the reason why we find a circle the most calming shape of all. Or maybe it’s just my OCD talking.
Music is also cyclical.
SCRUM method is cyclical. It has product backlog refinement, sprint planning, daily stand ups, sprint retrospective, sprint review.
Great pieces of literature and poetry are often cyclical.
That’s why there is a clear cyclical structure in the Monthly Method. Plan. Execute. Reflect. Learn. Adapt. Repeat.
- You start with the process of setting and locking in your goals for the month.
- Then you have weekly goals that we agree upon during our weekly calls.
- We have weekly calls on the same day of the week, preferably at the same time.
- I also encourage my students to create a daily structure as well. At least, create a consistent morning routine.
- Also there is a hard stop to the working day. That’s when you know your work day is over and now it’s play time.
Embracing the cyclical nature of progress can accelerate your success like nothing else can.
Yes, at first it’s awkward. You are getting used to these new processes, meeting structure, daily schedule. The first month or two is the learning and adaptation period. But once you are accustomed to it, it’s so seamless, you don’t even have to think about it. That’s when these weeks of practice pay off and you can get in the state of flow.
6. Embrace the power of limitations.
We impose limits on a bunch of things.
First, the number of weeks in a sprint. There is a limit. You only have 3 weeks.
There is a limit of how much time you can spend on working. Ideally, you should have your evenings and weekends to yourself. Your success should never depend on sacrificing your health, both physical and mental, your marriage and time spent with your loved ones. You should have the time to invest in your favourite activities and friendships.
Why? Because limits on time available make you focus. You can’t procrastinate if you know that you only have 2 hours to get those 5 tasks done.
I bet the most productive day in your year is the day before you go on a two-weeks long vacation. You need to get the most important things done, delegated, or rescheduled.
I was recently listening to the interview with legendary Jerry Seinfield on the Tim Ferris Show. He said that the most important tip for establishing a successful writing routine is to know when it will end. You should tell yourself “I will write for one hour.” When the hour is up, you are done. You are happy. You don’t need to think about it any longer.
There is a limit on the number of goals/tasks you can have in a month. It’s never more than 9. You can have less but you can’t have more. And there is a limit of goals you can dedicate to your professional life. It is only 3. Everything else is budgeted for your health, wellbeing and quality of life.
I also encourage my students to have a limit on the daily tasks. I try to limit my daily tasks to no more than 10. Of course, I end up doing more than 10 things a day. But I keep 10 on my list.
There is a limit on changing your goals throughout the month. And this limit is 0. Once we lock-in your goals, you can’t add to the list. You can remove things if they become irrelevant but you can’t change them just because you don’t feel like doing something. This avoids acting on your emotions. This allows you to be more intentional.
I tell my students to create a note on their phone or in their planner called “ideas for next month”. You can learn about this most undervalued productivity tip in this post.