A few weeks ago Joel Gascoigne,a chap who I’ve really come to admire since I first ran across him 18 months ago wrote a brilliant blog post about building an excerise habit. I’m yet to get regular exercise into my routine (I will, I’ve identified the slot in the day), but it reminded me of a post I wrote years ago about having a daily routine. Over the intervening years my routine has changed, and I thought it was time to rewrite the post.

I might work on a wide range of things in a day, but my day to day routine is pretty set. and this helps me enormously.

The night before…

My day starts the night before with checking my calendar for tomorrow. A quick check gives me the heads up about the upcoming day (and week really). More than once it’s saved my life, reminding me I need to be in another city, or that something critical has to happen that has slipped my mind. I know people who put off looking at the diary until the day in question fearing they’ll dwell on it over night, and occasionally this does happen, but rarely. The more I do it, the better it gets.

The waking dead

My alarm goes off at the same time every day (except weekend), 6:45. I’m slowly creeping this time earlier in an effort to find more day. It’s in another room so I have to get out of bed to turn it off (or I just fall sleep again).

From turning the alarm off I stagger into the bathroom and (starting last week) stand on my Aria Scales. I’ve been a FitBitter for nearly a year and find that tracking things reinforces good habits. Weight myself at the same time, in the same condition (naked and half asleep) every day gives me consistency between my weight and body fat percentage results.

Standing under the shower and attempting to wake up I run though things from the calendar the night before. Sometimes I can’t remember anything, which is normally a good sign.

Let the bus take the strain

I stopped commuting by car at the beginning for the year because of a change of circumstance and thus now commute by bus. The unexpected consequence of this is that I am more productive, something I didn’t see coming. I walk up to the bus stop reading my emails on my phone, it’s only 5 minutes of walking but this is enough time to scan read everything. This gives me a heads up on any overnight or unplanned (calendared) work. It also sets me up for the first call of the day.

I’m lucky enough to live on the confluence of five bus routes, so it’s never very long before one comes also. Having an electronic bus pass that direct debits my account removes the need to always have change on me. Over the last few years I’ve worked to make my life as hassle free as possible, and getting organised enough to sort out a monthly pass makes all the difference.

Whilst on the bus I ring, or am rang by, The CEO of CANDDi. It’s around 7:30 every day, give or take 5 minutes. We work through the day before, the plans for today, some personal stuff (we’ve known each other for a good few years) and some personal development stuff. It normally goes on until I reach my destination (10 minutes down the line) and beyond.

I get off the bus 15 minutes walk from the Ignite 100 office where I work. I love spending time in a co-working space, more on that another day. the 15 minute walk is just enough to wake up up, get the blood pumping and nail off the day with Tim. I’ve normally got a todo list by the end of the call and Tim emails me it back if needed (he’s sitting on a train using an iPad when talking to me, note taking is easier for him).

If I’ve not reached the office by now I normally have a scroll through Twitter about now.

A space to get work done

Once hitting the office I always take the lift up to the top floor. The rest of the day I’ll use the stairs (a FitBit induced habit) but right now there’s only one thing on my mind, the first coffee of the day. I’ve not eaten at this point, and that caffeine hit is the kick start I need.

Setting up the day

Over coffee I get the my laptop fired up. It lives in the office Mon to Fri (dodgy back habit – only carry what you need to), helping to enforce a little bit of home/office separation. Some day I’ve blog about my homebrew ergonomic setup, but not right now. This time is used for setting up the day for the people who report to me, so I can get on with work whilst they do. I spend 15 minutes or so working through the LightHouse tickets raised since I last look, allocating them to a bucket (this week’s work or “to plan”) and a person (the one who will do the actual work). Sometimes that even means assigning tickets to myself (Coding! Awesome!)

I then work through my daily tasks, checking the server logs from last night (must find a better way to do this), popping an eye into Munin, etc etc. It takes time, it rarely shows anything critical, but it’s extremely reassuring. Once I’ve done it I know that the technology and thus the business, are ok.

Beginning last week we have started having a daily 15 minute scrum meeting on Skype. I’ll see how this goes and blog about it later.

Tomato driven development

Through the day, especially on coding days, I try to work in Pomodoros. 25 minute focused sprints of work, with 5 minutes in between each. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn’t fit the pattern of the day. Such is life, use what works and if it doesn’t fit, adapt and move on.

Through the day I stick my nose into Twitter, get interesting emails which are non-work related or not for now, etc. Each of these is dealt with in a very similar way, based on the GTD principals of do, diarize, delegate or delete (erm, archive, who deletes stuff really?). If something is not for me to do but somebody in my team I delegate it in the appropriate way (LH ticket, Skype txt message if urgent) and if needs be give myself a way to remember to follow it up. If a link is interesting for future use I pinboard.in it with a browser plug in. If it’s something longer and interesting to read I Push To Kindle it (more on this later). If it’s something I want to tweet out at some point but not right now I buffer it.

The game here is to staty work focused, but be able to pivot during the day if something comes up (not just ignore my inbox). I tend to flick to email and twitter between pomodoros (but not deal with them right there).

By the end of the day it’s time to wrap up. Each of my team checks in by email (we’ll have touched in several times in the day though) with a simple email - what I did today, as bullet points. This can be really handy for being able to catch somebody before they go if something is strange/unexpected.

Go west young man

I leave the office, and hopefully my laptop, and walk the 15 minutes of so back to the bus. If needed this is a good time for catch up calls, sometimes with my boss, sometimes with team members. If not it’s a great chance to ring a family member or friend. I really love time on the phone with friends, it helps to reduce the side effects of living vicariously via Facebook.

Home time is private time, and I’ll answer my phone if it rings, but generally i try not too. The joy of having multiple jobs means I’ll often work on something else in the evening, but I try not too. Cooking dinner, spending home time and enjoying the couple of hours before bed are important. I do however zero every inbox at this time, starring the todos (or to re-reads), archiving everything else. This helps with having a clear head for sleeping – I know everything is either unimportant, done or on a todo list. I also check my calendar as I mentioned before.

Slowing down the brain

When I do head to bed I pick up my Kindle for a few hours. This is a good time to read through the articles I pushed during the day, or to read something improving (currently Rand’s Manage Humans) or to slow my brain down with mindless crime fiction. At the moment I’m on a 70s sci-fi bent (59p per 25 short stories – a bargin). It’s time for the alarm soon enough.

Rince and repeat

This might seem like the most ridiculous post on here, but there are lots of little bits of tech that make this possible, from using a smart phone in a smart way, to tools to delay when you need to do things as well at tools which give you the confidence to get on with work. Without Gmail, Google calendar, Kindle It, Skype, Pinboard, my Kindle, Munin and numerous others, I’d spend my day bouncing from one thing to another, lost in a sea of uncertainty, and that’s no good for anybody.