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Ricardo Martins
Ricardo Martins

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Doing better in just 9 weeks. The importance of being challenged.

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

The challenge came after a 1-on-1 conversation and was the type of guidance that I had been seeking for a while.

To put it briefly, the 9-week plan consists of establishing personal or professional goals during this period.

It’s an effective way to challenge yourself to learn things or define goals in a structured way, without losing focus. The key aspect is to see things happening and have the perception that sometimes we do more than we think, avoiding that feeling of “I did nothing productive this week …”.

The period of 9 weeks is the right amount of time to set some goals, track them and see the evolution through time. It is not too short, so we can’t do anything, and not too long, so we lose interest.

Those goals should be a plan by week and then daily. Without a plan, it’s impossible to track the progress.

After choosing the goals, this follows the five whys methodology — a questioning process designed to drill down into the details of a problem or a solution and peel away the layers of symptoms. It’s also essential to set rewards for each task and a final one after the nine weeks.

The plan

Coming up with the program was not easy, but I had the help of a PM and a team lead to better define my goals and tasks.

Here is an example of how it looks:

The process

The main goal of this plan, as I already mentioned, is to create incremental habits which allow our personal and/or professional growth. Being a dad of two kids, this also allows me to create my learning time and personally develop, while trying not to interfere with family time.

By the time I accepted this challenge, I felt utterly lost and without goals. Being a methodic person, I like to plan things and have guidelines in everything I’m involved.

After one week of planing, things almost went in automate mode after a while, which is part of the plan, and, without overthinking, I was already waking up earlier to start my learning time before starting work and dropping the kids off at school.

Week after week, I was feeling the evolution of such dedication, my life quality considerably increased, and everything was a habit already. I was feeling more confident, gained new habits like reading, I started meditating, and this was being reflected in all aspects around me.

This plan has incredible flexibility, and that is one of the things that allow us to immediately change the way we planned things according to the way we are feeling the results.

One of my first goals was to be more proficient at JavaScript without depending on any framework. Still, after getting some feedback from my team lead, I changed it to start reading the react documentation from beginning to end. Inside me, I’m wasn’t doing the right thing, because I was very strict regarding the objective that I had set. As soon I began to deep dive into the documentation, I started to dive deeper and deeper into JavaScript concepts because they were showing up. Since I didn’t know what and how they worked, I had to research them.

Things were becoming more and more exciting and meaningful to me, and who doesn’t like the feeling when things are starting to make sense.

Main struggles

Lack of motivation could be an enemy for the ones who decide to try this plan, but that wasn’t the case here. Time was.

As time went on and I was increasingly involved, the only thing I had in my mind was, “I wish to have more time to go deeper into this goal/project”. In the meantime, I realised I was solving another issue.

I always wanted to be involved in side projects and try to have cool ideas to materialise them. It was tough for me to find something that required using new technologies and new stuff to try, but, at the same time, was appealing or useful. The fact that the time I set for each objective was, in my point of view, too short makes me fill my backlog with projects I want to do and technologies I want to learn. Now the problem is getting the time to do everything I want.


Rewards play a vital role. They are the equivalent of cross out a checklist task, but they go beyond that! The feeling of doing mixed with the sense of a kid receiving a present for good behaviour is what I felt. Week after week exploring the progress happening and, on top of that, a “present” for doing things that makes you feel good.

The same way it’s essential to be faithful to the plan, it’s vital to enjoy every small victory!


I had the opportunity to have help from a PM along with this plan. Every week we sat down intending to talk about difficulties I was feeling, to check my motivation. It was also useful to make some changes if needed and to check the progress done so far.

More so than getting things done, and I specifically mean finishing projects, of which none are 100% finished, I learned a lot about expectations.

It’s OK when things don’t go as expected, if we need to change plans, if we can’t reach perfection. What matters is the way we go around difficulties. How flexible and open are we to change, what have we learnt during the way, what could we do differently if we start again, which were the mistakes which lead us to failure.

Setting higher expectations can be good and bad at the same time. We always want to give the best of us, but are we ready to handle it in case of failure?

When I started this plan, I was 200% focused on it. When I reached the project week, I picked up a project I started with a group of friends which , by the way, is not finished.

Before the plan, if you asked me if I considered the project done I would say NO. But… now my answer is different. If I analyse what we did and what we achieved, I would say yes, it’s done. And by done I mean the MVP is working.

The goal of the project was to build a device capable of recording sound and, according to defined thresholds, it will turn a lamp ON/OFF if the detected noise is above or below the set values

I think what changed here was the definition of done, and the expectation about what we want to achieve with the project. Questions will always remain:

Can we do a nice interface to analyse the data?

Can we find a nice LED lamp to make it more visible?

Can we create an endpoint to see a graphic with in real time data?

Of course we can do all these cool things to improve the project. But the things I learned by reaching the stage the project is in right now, the concepts I had to research and know how they work… These were already big steps.

This plan also helped me overcome part of the imposter syndrome I felt and gave me the confidence to not be “afraid” of doing things I don’t know at all. It was also useful to overcome frustration, to give it the time when I need to “get out to come back fresh and stronger”.

I also found myself preferring to read documentations to know how certain thing works instead of looking for some tutorial explaining it.

I increased my production levels, I tried to do more in less time. As you know, time is one of the most precious things we don’t have to waste. By increasing my production levels, I also increase my quality of life. For me, that means doing more in less time to be able to spend quality time with myself, family and friends.

Despite it not being be advisable to set more than four objectives, next time, I will prefer to set fewer goals so as to be able to go deeper and to build a project with more structure.

Overall, this was more than successful, with the number of small steps I achieved despite the things I didn’t finish.

Family support was essential to do all of this, but not less important all my friends at work and fat props to Nikita.

I found a way to push myself in every area and that means I will continue follow this methodology.

Thanks for reading this post.

Top comments (3)

mcdanielmark473 profile image
mcdanielmark473 • Edited

Thank you very much for such a detailed guide. This will definitely help to improve life if you follow all the rules written here. I hadn't thought much about my life goals before, but I changed my attitude in college. It all started with giving us a task on this topic. I didn't have time to prepare, so I used to do the job. This resource helped me cope with my studies and I also thought about what exactly I want to do from that moment.

sararf22 profile image

I love it! Thank you for sharing your experience with us, I do have plan , but I didn't put a time frame , this is really helpful to be more focused on certain goal rather than being involved in several things.

fmmricardo profile image
Ricardo Martins • Edited

Thank you both, It's always nice to hear that what we do is helpful to someone ;)