What is a 90-day Epic and how do I create one?
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So what is a 90-day epic? You may be familiar with the concept of quarterly sprints in business. We like to call them 90-day Epics. They are a more actionable way of working towards your goals than big annual plans (Read more about them in The 12 Week Year). At Genevieve Digital, we use BestSelf Journals to set goals for ourselves and manage our day-to-day using this system.
Basically, it looks like this…
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Set A Big Goal
Figure out what you want to achieve over the next quarter. This goal should be big, but not so big that it couldn’t happen. For instance, the first sprint goal I ever set for Genevieve Digital was to bring in $12,000 per month in gross profits.
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Goals are dreams with deadlines.
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Make it S.M.A.R.T.
Since we are veterans of coaching and follow the Inbound Methodology, all our goals are converted into SMART goals. Hubspot didn’t invent this idea, but they did popularize it in the digital space. The 90-Day Epic is structured around your annual SMART goals. Each epic should have its own set. Then, your weekly goals will have a set of SMART goals as well. If you’re new to this acronym, it stands for:
That means that your big, bold 12-week goal has a crystal clear start and end point that can be measured and acted upon. Saying we want to make more money isn’t a smart goal. Instead, our first SMART goal looked like this:
I have $12,000 per month in gross profits by April 30th.
This goal hits all the criteria. It’s a specific number, so it’s easy to measure. I can create an actionable list of ways to achieve it. The goal is results-oriented because it allows us to move from one-person shop to two-person business and it’s clearly time-bound with a by when date.
This is one goal, but there are a lot of component tasks to it. That’s where the Epic methodology really has its magic. A 90-day Epic time frame is close enough that you can lay out a plan-of-action with specific tasks fairly easily. We break it down in the following ways:
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Ask yourself, what will it take to get there?
It’s not enough to have the goal, we have to figure out what it takes to achieve it. For example, in order for us to have $12,000 in gross profits, we need either one more digital strategy contract or we need to run a successful Virtual Sprint Day. That means we need to connect with new prospects, create funnels, and do our follow up.
Look at your goal and start to jot down a few notes about what it will take to get there. If you use the Best Self Journal we mentioned above, it’s all broken out for you. Once you understand what the milestones and puzzle pieces are, you can create your weekly action lists.
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Weekly Action Lists
Each week there are specific actions that must happen to reach the big goal. Some of these will be regular habits that need forming, some will be one-off activities. My first list of weekly actions looked like this:
- Hire a consultant to help plan/systematize my processes so we can bring on two more clients. I will find and hire this person by 2/28.
- Test a group of designers and VA’s from Upwork to find one or two of each that I can use for regular work by 3/15.
- Follow the daily calendar timeline.
- Complete Hubspot Quick Start for Marketers Setup by 3/15.
- Complete/Execute and post my first 3 blogs by 4/30.
- Ask qualified leads I know to subscribe to my email list (5 per day until finished with the qualified list).
- Complete a sign-up funnel for our visual sprint days by 4/30.
- Record and post a Facebook show every Monday afternoon, beginning in March.
- Connect with 5 new prospects in a group or through email each day.
Did you notice anything about this list?
Each item is really a mini-S.M.A.R.T. Goal all on its own. Once these are in place, the micro-magic is the final step.
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Define your daily top three before bed and score yourself each week
All of the higher-level stuff happens on the front side of your 90-Day Epic, but the key to making it happen is daily action and accountability. We must define what the most important things to do are and get real with ourselves about how well we are getting things done.
Each evening, take a look at the weekly list and ask yourself, “What do I need to do tomorrow to win the day?”
Once you’ve defined a list of 3-5 things, ask a follow-up question before you commit to it. Ask yourself, “Will this help me achieve one of my weekly actions and bring me closer to the big goal?”
If the answer is yes, great! Write those top three down and do them first the next day.
If the answer is no, keep going back until it becomes a yes.
In this way, we save ourselves from losing the epic because we ran off the track instead of towards the finish line.
At the end of each week, take a few minutes to score yourself on how well you did with your milestones and weekly tasks. Then set up for next week.
This is how big goals happen, with consistent action over time. It’s not really magic. It’s mostly consistent action and then looking at the metrics.
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The 13th Week
The final step in any good planning process, is to check back and evaluate how well it worked. Use your 13th week to recap what you achieved, document what worked and what didn’t, and set up for your next epic. In this way, you are giving yourself the space to compound your success over and over.
13th Week Evaluation + Sprint Planning Days
Another thing that should come out of your Strategic Planning session is a schedule for 13th week check-ins. Someone should be responsible for adding them to the calendar and booking a venue within one week of returning from Strategic Planning. That’s the easiest way to make sure they happen. That’s one at the end of each quarter. These days should be scheduled off-site if possible. Ideally, your company will bring back the same facilitator who helped with your strategic planning to walk through these days with you. Each one-day session should produce:
- Milestones for each week of the Sprint;
- A broad-stroke weekly action plan for achieving each week’s milestone;
- The first two weeks laid out in detail, with a daily “One Thing” action to complete;
- 2-3 daily action habits that will directly impact your goal and all future performance;
- A reward for the team/individual when the goal is achieved.
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Annual goals can seem daunting and are difficult to benchmark for progress. Take the time to break your big rocks down into pebbles with 90-day epics. In this way, you are creating momentum and paving the road to success for your team.
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