MVP Your Morning Routine

Apply Agile to your morning to make time for the most important stuff.

credit: Trello Blog

As a software product manager, I’m a big fan of the power that Agile has given me to get important things done in a predictable, scheduled and flexible way. Sometimes I even think about the concept of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product, or the core solution to a problem) as it could apply to other parts of my life, so I decided to apply it to my morning routine.

First, I defined the problem: Im often late getting out of the house because, as I get ready for work, I find and do a million other things, causing me to leave later than I’d like to and not make time for writing blog posts and doing coding lessons. These extra tasks were cutting ahead of the most necessary tasks I needed to complete, just like how feature creep can blow out any other project schedule.

Now that I’ve defined the problem, let’s look at the steps we can take to try to solve it.

  1. Set goals.
  2. Set a budget.
  3. Define an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) solution and acknowledge other nice-to-haves.
  4. Scope the solution.
  5. Prioritize “extras” or P2 “features.”


  1. Leave the house by 9am.
  2. Have myself ready with a lunch packed (or planned)
  3. Have the dog taken care of.
  4. Do a 20 minute coding lesson, if I have time.
  5. [Insert whatever else you have here. I’ve heard that people with kids have more to do.]

Set a budget: How much time do you have to devote to this every day?

  • If I leave the house at 9am, I have a budget of about an hour if I’m up and back from my run (if I’m taking one) by 8am.

Define a solution, or MVP (Minimum Viable Product). These are the things that are absolutely necessary.

  1. Shower.
  2. Do hair & makeup.
  3. Get dressed.
  4. Make coffee.
  5. Eat breakfast.
  6. Walk the dog.
  7. Feed the dog.
  8. Pack lunch, coffee, snacks, kindle, phone, keys, wallet, makeup case.
  9. Decide whether I’m taking the dog with me to work. This includes checking my calendar for important meetings and evening plans.
  10. Decide whether I’m biking or taking the train. This requires checking the weather, checking my calendar, making sure I’m wearing the right thing and not taking the dog.

Acknowledge other nice to haves. These are likely items that currently distract me along the way to getting out the door. I’ll have to work to not touch these until all the MVP items are complete.

  1. Clean up after breakfast and clean out the coffee maker. These are pretty high in the P2 list, since it’s certainly not fun coming home to a messy kitchen after work.
  2. Email — Looking at my email can definitely be a time suck, especially if it pulls me into doing work before I leave. However, it can give me a sense of what I’m getting into for the day. Perhaps instead of sitting down and reading it on my computer, I can quickly scan it on my phone if I have time, or while I’m waiting for the train.
  3. Brush the dog’s teeth. This is supposed to be done every day, but doesn’t necessarily need to be done in the morning.
  4. Send out (or get back) the laundry.
  5. Wash last night’s dinner dishes, if any are still soaking. Maybe this can be lumped in with #1 if there’s time.
  6. Unload the dishwasher. This has been assigned to my husband.
  7. Cut nails. This can wait for the weekend.
  8. Water plants. This can wait.
  9. General house straightening, like putting away clutter, collecting stray glasses.
  10. Take out the trash.
  11. Internet. Do not look at Facebook or the news unless everything else is completely done.
  12. Set air conditioner timers to come on before we get home.
  13. Dinner ideas — Sometimes I like to take stock of what’s in the fridge and mentally prepare a dinner plan so that I know whether I should pick something up after work.
  14. Clean the bathroom — Sometimes I’ll notice that the bathroom as hit peak grime on a weekday and I’ll be tempted to clean it before work. Obviously this can (continue to) wait.
  15. Do a coding lesson (I like DevSlopes on Udemy).
  16. Work on a blog post.
  17. Anything else you like to do? Do you try to set aside time for writing or learning a hobby?

Scope the MVP. How long will the core features of this solution take to complete? Right now it looks like my core MVP items are taking up my full hour.

Total: 58–61 minutes total

  1. Make coffee — 3 min
  2. Shower — 15 min
  3. Hair & makeup — 5 min
  4. Check weather, decide whether to bike in and get dressed — 5 min
  5. Walk dog — 15 min
  6. Feed dog — 2 min
  7. Make and eat breakfast — 10 min
  8. Pack stuff — 2–5 min, depending on lunch plan
  9. Take dog to work? — 1 min

Prioritize the nice-to-haves (aka P2 features) so that once I’ve knocked out the core MVP morning items first, you have the ability to intelligently add other tasks in any extra time remaining. It looks like my budget is full, but there’s always a chance I’ll get up earlier, take a day off of running, take a faster shower or take the dog on a shorter walk (if it’s raining).

  1. If you’re making time to write or learn a new skill or hobby, prioritize that here. Even if you can only give it 15 minutes a day, it’s nice to use your morning brainpower on something for yourself, and you’ll be glad you did a year later when you have close to 100 hours under your belt. This is where I try to get in a coding lesson or brainstorm some blog post ideas.
  2. Clean up after breakfast and wash any remaining dinner dishes.
  3. Brush the dog’s teeth.
  4. Set air conditioner timers to come on before we get home.
  5. Take out the trash.
  6. Dinner ideas
  7. Send out (or get back) the laundry.
  8. House straightening
  9. Email — quick inbox check
  10. All that done? Now we’re free to browse the internet, watch baby animal videos and/or get angry at the world until it’s time to leave.

Product management consultant, helping founders get ideas built. Lover of efficiency, dogs, bikes, plants, cooking, nachos and feminism.