The new year is a time to reflect on accomplishments and plan for the year ahead. Typically, these reflections lead to resolutions, things you want to do differently in the upcoming twelve months.

Typically, these resolutions are an expression of your desire to improve an aspect of yourself or business that you feel you fell short on in the year just past. How often have you been successful with these resolutions?

That’s what I thought.

Resolutions without a strategy are only weak commitments. Although you “Resolve” to accomplish them, without action, they will not happen.

So what can you do differently this year to make sure your resolutions turn into reality? It simply comes down to definition, planning, measurement and accountability.

Definition

Pulling from the world of Agile Project Management one of the clearest means of defining the end result you want to achieve is through the use of Themes and User Stories. A theme is an overarching category that individual User Stories define and support.

My Themes for 2019

  • Fitness
  • Finance
  • Happiness

These are the three broad categories I’m committing to improving in the coming year. Expressed as resolutions they would read, “I resolve to be more fit, improve my finances, and be happier in 2019.”

Sounds nice but it’s vague. How do I go about strengthening and reinforcing it? That’s where my User Stories come in.

User Stories

A good user story is expressed in the form, “As a [TYPE OF USER] I want [FUNCTIONAL RESULT] so that [BENEFIT TO OCCUR].” The result of the User Story should be time boxed, planned to be fully realized within a set period of time.

Let’s express three user stories for me and my New Year’s Resolutions.

Fitness

As a forty-three year old male I want to walk sixty minutes each day so that I create a 500 calorie deficit per day from exercise.

Finance

As a business owner I want to complete twenty sales prospects per week so that I begin to fill my sales pipeline.

Happiness

As a husband and father I want to talk to my wife and children daily about what they enjoyed most about their day so that I can share in that positive experience.

Planning

Now that I have each of these user stories defined, it’s time to plan out how I will accomplish each one by breaking them down into tasks for the period of time that I want to cover.

In a typical agile project time boxes are defined in sprints. Short periods of time that allow the team to deliver a planned result. I am going to allocate a week to my sprint, seven days.

So now I need to break down each User Story into tasks for the coming week.

Tracking Tasks

To track my tasks I use Trello. It’s a way to visualize my progress and I can get to it on the web or my mobile device. I don’t receive any compensation from Trello, I just use and highly recommend their product.

Instead of walking through all three examples I will just take you through one of my Resolution User Stories, my Fitness user story. It will show you how I’ve organized my tasks for the upcoming week so you can do the same

Fitness User Story

I first create my Fitness User Story card in Trello. I title it, “Walk Each Day”.

I apply the light blue label that indicates this is a User Story card. For an explanation of labeling and legends in Trello see my post Kanban Tip: Use a Legend on Your Trello Board.

I then add the text of the User Story to the description of the card.

Next I create my task card to track the tasks I must complete each day to satisfy the completion of the User Story.

There are two options here. You can either create a card for each day or one card with a checklist to mark off each day. I have decided to go with the checklist.

I apply the lavender label to indicate this is a task and save the card. Now I am all set to begin measuring my progress through the week.

Measurement

As I complete my sixty minutes each day, I will check that day off on the task.

The measurement here is pretty easy. Each morning I look at the card and see if I checked off the previous day. If I didn’t I can either let it go, or double down on the current day to catch up.

With exercise like this I am going to have to let it go if I miss a day. Over exertion is going to hinder progress more than help.

So what’s going to keep me from just letting every day slide? That’s where accountability comes in.

Accountability

If I don’t have a means of holding myself accountable to the tasks I’ve set out for myself it’s highly likely that I’m not going to follow through on them. For me, this doesn’t have to be a painful consequence, basically it just has to be me telling someone I’ve made this commitment and scheduling a regular time to check in and report my progress.

For me and this resolution that person is my wife. The check in is a simple conversation each evening where she asks, “Did you walk today?” If I can say yes that’s it. If not, I’m probably going to get a raised eyebrow and an immediate burst of inspiration to hit the elliptical trainer.

That’s how simple accountability can be. You’ll have to figure out your own system and it might take a different approach than mine but you need to have something that motivates you to meet your commitment.

So What are Your Resolutions and Strategy this New Year?

Tell me about your plans in the comments below. I’d love to hear your stories and if this approach works for you.

Happy New Year!

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