Day 22 – Design Your Day with Skill

“Let your imagination release your imprisoned possibilities.” — Robert H. Schuller

Your Outcome:  Design your day to support you for success.  Learn how to structure your day to make the most of what you’ve got.  Chunk up your day and avoid being overwhelmed.

Welcome to day 22 of 30 Days of Getting Results, based on my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.  In day 21, we learned how to carry the good forward and let the rest go to fail forward, fail fast, and improve as we go.  Today, we learn how to design our day with skill.  By designing our day in a mindful way, we create just enough routines to give us a firm foundation and platform for success.  When we’re having a great day, these habits amplify and catapult our success.  When we’re having an off day, this foundation will help us deal with whatever life throws our way, as well as vault our key challenges or hurdles.  It’s all about getting the system on our side, by design.
You drive your day or your day drives you.   When you drive your day, you get to define what good looks like, and when you set the rules, you win the game.
It only takes a moment to take a look from the balcony before you get on the stage.  Before you are mired in your day, take this brief look to see the scenes you’ll be stepping into.  if each day is a play, you have a beginning, a middle an an end.  What roles do you want to play, and what do you want your day to be about.  Whether it’s from the balcony or the director’s chair, you need to set the stage for your success, one scene, one act, or one play at a time.
Each Day is a Fresh Start
Each day is a fresh start. Remember as a kid waking up each morning to a new and exciting day? That’s the point you need to start from. The difference is now you have skills. You also picked up some good habits and some bad habits along the way. You looked forward to growing up so you could do whatever you want.
Unfortunately over time, maybe you started to think that life isn’t as full of possibilities or as limitless as you once thought. But what’s really limiting you? You are, and all the limits you bring to each new day. Baggage brings you down. Don’t pick up your bags today. Travel light. Test yourself. Test your limits. Chances are you’ll surprise yourself time and again; just give yourself a chance. If things don’t work out today, then you can still walk away with lessons that will help you shape a better tomorrow.
3 Ways to Design Your Day with Skill
Here are three ways to design your day with skill:
  1. Create an effective Startup Routine — This is how you bootstrap your day. You already have a startup routine. It’s the activities you do to start your day and feel grounded. For example, on weekdays, my startup routine is to wake up, throw my shoes on, workout for 30 minutes, shower, eat breakfast slowly, and take the back way to work. On my drive to work, I listen to my favorite music, and I think of my three most compelling outcomes for the day. When I get to work, I scan my inbox, my queues, and my calendar to see if I need to adjust my three outcomes.
  2. Create an effective Shut-Down Routine — This is how you end your day. Just like having an effective startup routine helps bootstrap your day, an effective shutdown routine helps you wind down. The key to an effective shutdown routine is testing different patterns until you find one that helps put you in the right frame of mind for a more restful sleep. Sleeping well is the means to starting the next day refreshed.
  3. Drive your day with the Rule of 3 — If you remember nothing else, start your day with The Rule of 3. Know the minimum three outcomes that you want for the day—simply identify three results. These are your “tests for success.” It’s your chance to define your success, and you get a clean slate each day.
Designing a Great Startup Routine
The way you start you day can have a dramatic impact on whether you start the day fresh, centered, and from a firm foundation, or you start the day like a chicken with its head cut off.  I’ve seen the difference in myself and I’ve seen the difference in many others, up and down the ranks.
As I’ve built teams over the years, I’ve asked various team members how they start their day.  Normally, they would tell me what they do at work.  I’d say backup, start from when you wake up out of bed.  I was surprised to find how varied many started their day with the news and their email, even before they got to work.   They would also tell me how the news would either make them feel anxious or depressed.  They would also be running through their emails in their mind all the way to work.
That’s the key right there.  By the time you’re at work, it’s too late.  You’re in the line of fire.  You’re reacting.  The key is to use your Startup Routine to create a firm foundation for your day before you even get to work.  It’s not about watching the news or checking your email.  It’s about first deciding what you want your day to be about and what you want to accomplish.  Now you are ready to “respond” instead of “react” to the barrage of inputs throughout the rest of your day, from emails, to news, to people stopping by and whatever changes your course throughout the day.   Because you created a quick mini-plan for your day, you can effectively choose how to respond and make more effective trade-offs, rather than get knocked around by whatever comes your way.
Designing a Great Shutdown Routine
You might think it would be easy enough to think of a great shutdown routine, but there are a lot of variables. It’s actually better to test a variety of patterns to see what helps you the most, whether it’s watching TV, reading a book, meditating, etc. For example, if you tend to watch the news before you sleep, test watching a comedy; different shows will produce different results. If you like to read a book before bed, are you reading a book that helps you wind down, or are you reading material that makes it hard for you to fall asleep? Simply notice the results you’re getting and test different approaches.
There’s a lot of research and opinions, but the most important thing is to find what works for you. It’s less about the specific activity you do and it’s more about how it impacts you or how you react to it. For example, if you watch a comedy where the main character always gets into a stressful situation, and you have a lot of empathy, maybe this is not the best thing for you before bed. Then again, maybe the happy ending is just the perfect tension and release you need for the perfect slumber. Test your results andchange your approach if it’s not working. At the end of the day, you’re the most important judge.
Lastly, in addition to how you feel at the end of your day, it’s also important to notice how you feel when you wake up. If you’re not waking up refreshed, chances are that it’s what you did the night before that makes all the difference (barring any medical conditions, of course). So go ahead and find what works for you. Test some new patterns. Get creative. Explore your results.
Why Use the Rule of 3 to Drive Your Day
The Rule of 3 is one of your main tools for driving your day.  You can use it anytime, anywhere to make the most of what you’ve got.  Here are some of the main reasons to start your day with The Rule of 3:
  1. You define the three tests for success. If you set the rules, you win the game.
  2. You get to define what good looks like.  It’s your life.
  3. You get to chart your course. If you start by quickly looking over the time you’ll spend for the day, then you have a map to guide you through your day and to lead you if you get lost in the thick of things.
  4. If you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you can prioritize more effectively. There are a lot of little mini-decisions during your day that you can influence by knowing where you want to go.
  5. If you know you’re working on the right things, it’s easier to give your all—to find your motivation.
  6. When you map your day, you know how to pace yourself. You can’t run ahead if you can’t see what’s in front of you.
Remember that your three outcomes aren’t tasks. You might have lots of tasks that roll up to these three outcomes, but these are three results you want for the day. For example, for today I want see a good movie, have a great lunch, and ship a post that helps people make the most of their life, a day at a time. Those are the lines I’ve drawn in the sand for my day.  They are subject to change, but they chart a simple course that I can choose to depart from, and trade-up or scale back with skill.  Even if I decide to do nothing, it’s the art of making a mindful choice that matters.
Today’s Assignment
  1. Design a Startup Routine that works for you.  Own the way you start your day.  Find the simple habits or routines that unleash your inner-Tigger or your corporate warrior or whatever supports you in the most effective way.
  2. Design a Shutdown Routine that works for you.  Own the way you end your day and cap the night.  This is one of life’s little moments that you can shape each day in a way that renews you.
  3. Use The Rule of 3 to shape three stories, outcomes, or results for your day, in an inspiring way.  Own your destiny, a story at a time.  Remember that our favorite characters in our stories don’t always choose the adventures or challenges they find themselves in, but it’s how they respond, especially when they get tested, that we really care about.