How I start my day to be happy and productive
I know, that I can spend hours with a cup of coffee, reading interesting articles or refine a presentation deck. To mitigate this, I created some routines which help me through a normal day. The way how I deal with these routines was inspired by some GTD folks like David Sparks: I heavily rely on my calendar and the task manager OmniFocus to create a for helpful structure.
Another big inspiration is My Morning Routine, a blog and newsletter which provides every Wednesday an interview with an interesting person about her morning routine. The bandwidth is huge: from a yoga teacher to a start up CEO you will find all kind of different people. Some are a little far away from my life, but one can find smart ideas in every story. (If you want to sneak into an interview, read the one with Matthew Weatherley-White — I really liked that.)
I usually wake up at 0600 without an alarm. In the bathroom I tune in to B5 aktuell, a news-only radio station, and after 30 minutes I am well informed, fresh and suited up. My next stop is the kitchen, where I prepare a cup of black coffee. Call me old fashioned, but I need some strong coffee to start up.
With this cup I will sit down in a chair in my living room with a beautiful view on my balcony. With my iPad, I check the weather, fly over my calendar, have a look at my private e-mails and follow up on the news of the day, reading through a few top articles. If there is a birthday or anniversary, this is the time where I’ll send the message.
Doing a lot of personal stuff in the morning gives me the freedom to concentrate on other things afterwards. I am not so the meditation guy and I don’t do any other spiritual things — especially not in the morning. But the goal of my start in the day is the same: get your head free, get prepared for the day, get “tuned in”.
Around 0730 I am on my way to work. This is sufficient to buy an éclaire and be the first one in the office at 0800.
When I am on my work place, I start a series of tasks called Morning Review, kept as re-occurring items in my OmniFocus:
M01|Review feedly: I have collected a great amount of RSS feeds and every morning I scan through the business related ones to read about industry news or the latest thinking of tech evangelists.
M02|Review Calendar: I scanned my (private) calendar earlier this day, but now I utilize small slots for calls, block time for meeting prep or reach out to colleagues for a lunch date. Overall I want to realize, what happens today and what is important.
M03|Review “Waiting fors”: I flag tasks where I am waiting for another person with “waiting for [name]”. Every morning I take some minutes to follow up on these tasks and perhaps send a reminder.
M04|Process OmniFocus Inbox: New tasks normally go into the inbox of OmniFocus — either because I create them there or they are auto-created by a script (e.g. if there is a JIRA task assigned to me). I assign these tasks to the proper projects and enrich them with due dates and additional information.
M05|Verify Next Action exists for all projects: Because my OmniFocus is structured in projects, I can easily make sure for every project, sub-project or story if there is a next step defined to solve it. The goal is to have tangible action items which prevent idling projects.
M06|Review “Today”: The Today view in OmniFocus shows me all tasks due today. It is the task list I follow for the rest of the day.
At 0830 I am done and ready for the first chitchat with colleagues.
I stick to this routine for over 2 years now. It is easy to follow because there is no special place, no vegan-paleo-blah breakfast cereal, no exclusive sport gadget or any other thing needed. If I feel to start earlier or later or if I should skip something, I just do it.
At home and away
Let me explain how my routine is slightly different if I am at home in Munich or if I travel. First thing is: in Munich I usually see my wife — a primary school teacher — in the morning and we talk about our plans for the day. I really enjoy that, because my working days are long and starting and ending the day with your significant other is what keeps a relationship running. Second thing is that in Munich, whenever the weather is allowing it, I will use my motorbike for commuting. It is much faster than car or subway and I really enjoy the ride.
When I am on the client site I follow my routine like on any other day. It is a little sport to find the right spot for my first coffee in the morning. Every city (London/New York/Stockholm) has its own little café bars and food trucks and I love to choose one and visit it every day during the assignment.
Of course there is some change on travel days, where I have my coffee at the airport lounge and use the airtime for reading. But it is mostly shifting things around — there is no big difference.
As important as my morning routine are my other routines, I want to mention here shortly. My daily Evening Review consists of 5 tasks to tidy up after a busy day and prepare the next day. The Weekly Review is scheduled every Friday and comprises 12 tasks (e.g. time tracking and expenses). Having a place for these routines in the calendar makes it easy for me to follow them. Perhaps I will write more about them in a future post.