Setting Up

Part of making routines work for you is making it easy for you to run through them; if a routine is difficult or taxing the first few times through, then you won’t want to do it again, and you’ll have real trouble making it stick.

This can also be true of tasks that look like one off tasks initially, but then become tasks that you are going to have to repeat in future. A typical example of this is a report that your boss asks for as a one off, but then as soon as you’ve handed it to her, she asks for you to do it every month.

In both of these cases, it pays to take the time to understand how you can set yourself up for repeatable success.

Lean Principles – Again.

Setting up ahead of time is another Lean Principle, essentially it is the act of putting together standard forms or procedures that enable a routine to work.

One of the most obvious examples of this in Lean is the Shadow Board; this is a board that is placed on a surface that has the outlines of all of the items that should be placed on that surface, be they tools in a workshop or stationary supplies in an office. By using a Shadow Board you know where all your stuff should be when you need it, you can also see at a glance what it missing, and go and find it / get a new one.

This way, when you come to activate a routine, you wont find that you have to break from it to go and get the thing you need that you don’t have.

Another great example of this is the pre-filled form, or an electronic form that fills in certain fields based on what you enter in other forms. If you have a task that requires you to fill out a form several times a day, taking the time up front to standardise the responses and make the form work for you can save you hours later.

It doesn’t have to be complex though; it can be something as simple as getting your clothes out the night before, or making your breakfast and putting it in the fridge so that you don’t have to do it in the morning.

Take the time to save the time.

Whatever it is that you’re looking at, the key is to invest the time up front to make the task or routine as efficient as possible, and the payback on that time is continuous. Every time you complete that routine or task, that initial investment pays out a little more.

However, it’s important to remember that, like routines, this is an iterative process; as your routine evolves over time to factor in external changes or new elements that you want to include, then how you set up will change; you may add another item to your shadow board, or remove one; you may tweak your form, or get a different set of items out of your wash bag ready for the morning.

None of this is, or ever should be, set in stone; you should always be looking at your set ups to make sure that you’re being as efficient as possible.

So, what do you do?

Me? Well I have a few things:

  • Clothes: This is a simple one that a lot of people do, but every evening I get my clothes ready for the next day so that all I have to do once I get out of the shower is pull them on. This saves time in a number of way; I don’t have to decide what I’m wearing, I don’t have to get it out of the wardrobe, etc. I also have a standard wardrobe for work that consists of 8 shirts and 3 pairs of chinos which I cycle through. Maybe I’ll come back to that in another post.
  • Breakfast: I like a jar of Overnight Oats in the morning, so I make my breakfast before going to bed, but I also take the time to set up the coffee maker so that it’s already finished by the time I get up, and put out any cups I need, plus a glass for my OJ and (during the summer) my hay fever medication.
  • Daily Shutdown: I also have a routine at the end of the day that sees me journalling, making my breakfast, getting the bathroom ready for the next day, and reading before I finally go to sleep. Having a pre-bed ritual is also a proven way to help you get to sleep and avoid insomnia.
  • Daily / Weekly Reviews: I have routines at work that help me stay on top of my workload with regular reviews, both at the end of every day, and at the end of every week, during which I look at all of my projects, make sure I have all the right actions in place, and make sure I know what I need to do next. We will come back to that.

Remember, it’s an investment.

Spending the time up front to make your tasks and routines as efficient as possible will always pay you back. It is important that you realise and keep that in mind. It can all to often seem easier to just leave it until you have to do the thing. Not get your clothes out, not set up your bag, not plan for the next day, not take the time to make that analysis repeatable. You will pay for those decisions later with wasted time and frustration that whatever it is “doesn’t have to be this hard”.

It takes a little discipline, but once you see the payback, you’ll know it’s worth it.


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