A Standard Way of Starting Your Day

Having a standard way of starting your day has been written about in many personal productivity books, blogs and promoted by self-improvement gurus. Yet why is this so hard? In one word, variation. In some ways it is personal standard work, the basis for kaizen, challenged by the lack of heijunka in life.
In a factory you can go to your visual board and have a quick shift start meeting, and your work for the day is more or less cut out for you. If you are a team leader or supervisor, you likewise have a routine, with interruptions.
The more routine the work, the easier to create this type of “standard work” for your day. The further away you go from non-routine work the harder this is. Even so, at the most basic level and limited to work only, you simply need to successfully answer these two questions to have a standard way of starting your day:
1) What is my work for the day?
2) What is the one thing I need to do today?
And you are off to a good start. Once you finish the one thing, look for the next thing. And so on. Unless you are doing routine scheduled work, chances are the “next thing” will change through the day, so planning too far in advance may be a waste.
Consulting and training work can be fairly routine. The variation comes in people, situations, and the interesting things that happen when theory meets reality through experimentation. There is also jet lag, and the lack of control over personal time and space during extended travel, and the drop-in 5AM conference call that gets in the way of being able to keep up a standard way of starting your day, every day.
It’s a struggle. Have you found an effective way to maintain a standard way of starting your day?

1 Comment

  1. Dan Markovitz

    June 13, 2007 - 4:01 pm

    You’re right on target in identifying variation as the root cause behind the difficulty of standardizing your day. Knowledge workers are like monument machines, in that they have multiple value streams flowing through them, and all processes and people behind them in the value stream depend upon them to complete a task, project, etc.
    Learning to “live” in your calendar instead of your inbox is a powerful way of keeping the variation from wreaking havoc on your ability to keep the value stream flowing. Starting the day by looking at your calendar (and *not* your inbox) is an important first step. And disciplining yourself to enter all your commitments into the calendar enables you to track all the work that needs to be done, and ensures that the “next thing” you do is really the most important thing.
    There is, alas, no easy way to ensure that you start the day with your calendar (though you can set Notes and Outlook to start up in that mode) when you get 5AM conference calls. It’s just discipline. Just like the discipline of regular 5S, the discipline of genchi genbutsu, the discipline of root cause analysis, etc.
    (The good news is that after awhile, discipline becomes habit.)