What I do between 8:00am and 8:30am everyday

8:00 I show up, grab a coffee and setup my work station.  Sometimes this is home, sometimes this from WeWork, but it’s the same setup either way.  Two displays; laptop to the left at an angle and primary display straight ahead. I find that having one display directly ahead of me and one off to the side gives my brain to have a clear understanding of what is primary and what is secondary as I work.  

8:05 I setup my Chrome tabs.  On my laptop display I have only my calendar, displayed in Schedule view and on the right I have only Asana (more on this later), in My Tasks view filtered to incomplete sorted by date.  My calendar 

8:10 Now for the magic. This next step is loosely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done: I zero out everything, not just Inbox Zero but Slack Zero, Slackbot Reminders Zero, Text Messages Zero, Voicemail Zero, Missed Calls Zero and Chrome Tabs Zero. That’s right, I resolve every open tab from the previous day every morning.  What does this mean? If the item in question (Chrome tab with an article to read, text message etc) takes less than 5 minutes to resolve/complete I do it in the moment, everything else is assigned in Asana as a task with a due date or I decide it’s not a priority. I call this processing. Everything out there in the world that I need to do is either completed or captured in my system with a due date. No loose ends of unclosed loops - ever. 

8:25 By this time I have just the two Chrome tabs running I mentioned above: Calendar in Schedule View and Asana in My Tasks view and now It’s time to prioritize. Through the processing in the step above, I’ve likely got a lot of tasks that are due yesterday/today/tomorrow but not all of it align with my priorities. I scan my overdue and due today tasks in Asana and pick out the 3-5 most important things I can do that move ahead the most important projects.  If I was particularly behind, I might spend a few minutes refactoring the due dates in my task list or bring groups of tasks into alignment with my priorities and schedule them in advance.  

There’s 2 criteria I use to establish the most important work I should be doing on a given day. 

  1. I manage two teams of people so I consider what those people are waiting on me to be able to move forward.
  2. At NationBuilder we use OKRs to track team and personal objective, so I want to make progress on the tasks the rollup to these every day.

I pick 3-5 items at a time and write them down in my Action Journal, then once I have my first cohort of tasks I number in the order in which I’ll undertake them.  

8:30 Welcome to the work day!  Everything in my work life is organized, categorized and prioritized. 3 days a week I keep 8-12 in my calendar blocked for focus work.  I appreciate this isn’t possible for many folks, but it’s on the perks of being on EST at a business where most folks are on PST. 

There’s a couple other pieces of work that go into this system:

  • I have a series of recurring Asana tasks that remind me to do work that happens on a cadence.  For instance, every Tuesday I’m reminded to review and approve or deny expense reports, time off requests and 15Fives from my team.  
  • I write every Asana task with a verb to ensure they're actionable.  There’s never a “TPS Report” task, only ever “Write September TPS Report” and “Submit September TPS Report”.
  • On Monday’s I review my personal and team OKRs and ensure I have the actionable next steps for each associated project built out in Asana for the week. 

That's it! The 30 minutes the setup the rest of my day, everyday.

Photo by Nikolay Tarashchenko on Unsplash