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Timothy McGrath
Timothy McGrath

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Start the Day By Planning the Day

It's a new day! What should I work on? Where should I dedicate my time?

Taking 10 or 15 minutes every morning to plan the day is the most important step. This is your chance to look at everything on your plate and determine what needs to be done today. You cannot do everything, so prioritization is critical.

I have multiple inputs to my morning planning:

  1. Emails. I know, I know, everyone says don't look at your emails first thing! But, I pretty much ignore my email for the rest of the day, so the first thing I do is get to Inbox Zero every morning. The email either gets deleted or it ends up in my todo list to be prioritized.

  2. Help Desks. We have an internal help desk system that contains requests that could be from another department, or from a customer through our support department. I check this every morning and add any new items to my todo list.

  3. Team Kanban Board. This is where the actual projects my team is working on exist, and is preferably where I spend most of my time. This includes new projects and bugs.

  4. Todoist. I'm a huge Todoist fan (I'll talk more about this in a future post). It's just a Todo app, though... use your Todo app of choice. The important thing is that it contains everything that I need to get done that is not in the Team Kanban board. Any emails, help desks, or work that just showed up at my door goes here. It's so important source to look at for all my open work (except for my kanban board which I do not duplicate here...)

So, now that all of the emails and help desks have been consolidated into my todo list, along with anything else that is there from a previous day or scheduled for today. I'm ready to prioritize.

Each todo item can be organized as:

  1. Today - These items are important and urgent and need to be accomplished today.
  2. Future - These items are important but not urgent, so I reschedule them in Todoist to show up on a future day (either tomorrow or some other future date).
  3. Delegate - These items are important but don't need to be completed by me. They can be assigned to a teammate or other employee. I assign them out and if important, I setup a todo to check in on it in a few days.
  4. Delete - These items are no longer important and can be completely removed.

I now have a list of everything that needs to be done today, that is outside of what I consider my team's work. It's a great day when this list is currently empty!

I then look at the Kanban board and determine what are today's priorities. I always start at the right-side of the Kanban board and move to the left. If an item needs deployed to Production, that is most important. Then QA bug fixes, then QA deployments, then new development, then design.

I now take all these items (todo list and kanban board priorities) and reprioritize them on my office white board. I enjoy being able to glance at my whiteboard and see where I'm at on the list I created first thing this morning. The final whiteboard list drives my day.

Any new interruptions that come in do not get worked on unless they are critical. Interruptions get sent to my todo list to be prioritized the next morning.

At the end of the day, I re-synchronize by updating my todo list by eliminating everything I've accomplished that day. Anything that was not completed gets rescheduled for tomorrow, so that it can be reprioritized the next morning.

Working and prioritizing this way has helped me keep stress under control by always knowing that I am working on what I planned instead of constantly reacting to every interruption during the day. It has also greatly improved my reliability, it is very difficult for a task to slip through the cracks. If it's important, it will get done.

In future posts, I'll give more details on how I use Todoist.

Let me know how you plan your day!

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