Creating a startup work routine that matters
At 6:40 am on December 23rd, 2021, enough is enough on being overwhelmed in the morning. It is an official holiday at my place of employment, but here I am still pushing out emails, reviewing dashboards, and stressing on the next set of due dates. Why? It is about routines. The explicit work rituals I have set for myself, and the ones where they are set for me.
Full Disclaimer: I do have a decent work startup routine, if I would just follow it.
Thousands of articles, blogs, and books reference the importance of developing a great startup routine, but it is easier said than done. For those of us who have To Do lists a mile long, emails, that daily go into the hundreds received, and manage mission critical systems, one distraction here and the next 4 hours have devolved into fire drills, mastering the art of non-productive busyness, or moving towards an energy draining set of work that consumes the rest of the day.
But not all is lost. There is hope! Truly and honestly, there is.
Start with a list
The assumption here is that no startup routine is defined. As a result, I took the time to reflect on the types of activities I do in the morning most days. Here is my list, but maybe it will give some ideas to pull from:
- Check Email - Not just look at it, but sometimes, I am wallowing with particular emails to respond to.
- Check reporting sites for potential work on the horizon
- Review my task list - Sometimes I start trying to knock off some emails
- Check my meetings for the day - What do I need to do to prepare
- Update my work item details - Terrible habit of not doing them right at the time when I have updated the work
- Check Team’s messages
- Review issues from previous day or ongoing ones
Even with this list, it is quite unfocused, but that is how I have been rolling for a while. What would your list look like?
What provides value
Now that the list is created, the examination of value begins. It is important to get very specific with the items on the list that you are going to do. As I am looking at this list now, I have some more clarity to bring to each item with it specific purpose.
- Email - Review high priority email from my management chain or team and respond if possible. If not get time on the schedule to make it happen, This scoping alone cuts this task down to 5 minutes or less normally.
- Scratch check reporting sites. This can be delegated.
- Review my task list of items to be done today. Create margin at the end of each day to prep those top 3 items. Make sure time is scheduled on the calendar so that they are ready to go.
- Check my meetings for the day - Decline those automatically that come in the same day with very few exceptions.
- Limit Team’s messages to 10 minutes
The rest should be scheduled time or delegated to others who can fulfill them. An important note also is that I am purposefully dropping / delegating some of this work. Also, some work has dedicated time, but it just isn’t the most important work to be done. Get that work on a calendar. With email, is it open every minute for you? If you can spend time (not your best productivity time however) that is scheduled explicitly do that.
Ohhh, this really hurts me. Part of a successful startup routine is being able to focus on that routine every morning. I must admit, I find distractions and gravitate to them in order not to do them. My favorites are:
- The computer has to boot up. let’s see what is happening in the news or sports while that is happening (as twenty minutes go by)
- I should have grabbed my coffee. Let me do that and I can get back to the email.
- This team’s chat is interesting (turn off notifications)
- The kids need help getting ready for school (dedicate time where you know there will be fewer distractions)
- The dog needs to go out
I have basically set a windows timer for the blocks on each of my tasks so that I can stay focused. When I feel the urge to do something else.
Track how successful you are on your list
Over time it becomes habit. I suggest that the routine is only a couple of items that really add value in the morning workday. Also, know that there are seasons where the routine will change and morph. Pay attention to this. It is normal, not bad, and requires a willingness to change also. Add to your daily notes, journal, or however you track information any reflections you might have.