Remember. Monday. It’s not Wednesday when everything is already blowing up. Monday is a blank slate before 9am; this is my chance to set the tone.
- While it is still quiet, get a fresh cup of coffee (I prefer black and strong). Not a coffee drinker? Great, try Chai or just a glass of water. You need a brief pause, a sip, between these steps. Now, read something unrelated to work to get the mental juices flowing. Skim the news. Work adjacent. Important, but not urgent. Sip.
- Clear your workspace. Maybe it’s your desk, maybe it’s your desktop, but spend three minutes making your space your own. Everyone has a different version of this, but it’s an essential investment as the chaos begins. Sip.
- Scrub the Mail inbox. If attention is required, apply it. Schedule time later in the day if more attention is required than available. If that’s not going to happen, put the task in To-Do. Sip.
- Scrub Slack. I’m looking for those direct messages and channels with red notification badges where someone @mentioned me because that’s always news. I’m skimming channels I’ve previously put in a well-maintained HOT channel group. Skimming. Not reading. Taste the soup. Finally, time permitting, I’ll skim other non-HOT channels just looking… just being curious and encouraging serendipity. Sip.
- Calendar audit. Look through the entire week and see what will require a disproportionate investment. For these areas, ensure I have appropriate preparation time, including additional blocked-off time. Bonus time savers: make sure any double-booked times are resolved, build in travel time for geographically challenged meetings, and decline meetings that seemed important weeks ago but now appear less important. Alert important people regarding these declines and give them the ability to convince you otherwise. Sip.
- To-do list pass. For being the cornerstone of the operation, my to-do list is surprisingly low signal relative to the Monday Work Ramp. I am much more likely to see warning signs in Mail, Slack, and Calendar than in my to-do list. However, a to-do list is only as valuable as its last complete update, so I do one. The goal is to put all tasks into one of three buckets: today, tonight, or later. If I cannot do this quickly, carve off time on the Calendar to curate the To-Do list because something is in terms of how much I am attempting to track. Sip.
- Review (or invent) metrics. Somewhere in your work universe, there is an important set of metrics you are supposed to watch carefully. They are in one of three possible states: (1) They are well-defined and universally understood (2) They exist (sort’f) somewhere (maybe?) and some people think they are important (kind’a) (3) They don’t exist, so no one cares. Regardless of disposition, you must spend some brief time either reviewing well-defined metrics, making semi-understood metrics more accessible to more people, or defining or finding these metrics. My guess is the prior (6) steps made sense to you, and this one is a head-scratcher. Your degree of discomfort with this bullet directly correlates to how badly you need to complete it.1
These seven steps are designed to give me weekly context. Each week has a different set of challenges and goals, and by filling my mind with the current context, the obvious forthcoming weekly challenges are approachable and inevitable, and the unexpected ones are less of a surprise.
- Sorry, yes. I need to write more about this. I will.