How I Use Routine to be a More Effective Leader

Challenges: Leadership, Process

Posted by Kayla

Like most leaders, I have a lot of people and responsibilities tugging at me, knocking on my door, calling my phone and occupying my calendar. I am connected to several businesses (4 to be exact - 1 is MakingChips LLC), but even those responsibilities fall several notches down on my priority list after God, my wife and my four kids. Your list and your priorities may be similar, but unique to you.

In MakingChips Episode 99, I led a discussion about the importance of new and routine to elevate your life and work. In that episode, Jim and I discussed the theoretical approach to establishing routines in order to bring creativity and productivity to your day. In this article, I am going to explain my routines in detail in order to equip and inspire you to create your own.

Jim recently said to me: “I don’t know how you do it.” He was referring to back to back phone and in-person appointments that I was managing through a Tuesday. Jim felt exhausted for me, but I actually felt energized because of everything that I had accomplished so far that day before I was engaging in a MakingChips strategy meeting with Jim.

One of the reasons that I was not exhausted despite the whirlwind of a day is because I planned that day and I did not allow anyone to plan it for me. A lot of manufacturing leaders go into the day with a couple things on their agenda or to-do list, but they typically enter the day saying: “OK day, what are you going to deliver to me?”. Great leaders tell the day what they are going to deliver in order to elevate or expand themselves and their company.

The first thing that I do is plan out my year.

Right now, I am calling this my FLOW…this was inspired from a comment made by the author Greg McKeown. At the end of the year, I plan out my quarterly business meetings, quarterly personal planning and reflection, vacations (centered around summer and kid’s school breaks), two board of directors retreats, four business seminars, four quarterly weekends with my wife (including two marriage retreats) - all of which are on hold right now since my wife is pregnant, and finally quarterly dad days with each of my kids over three (so eventually that will be every three weeks). That’s almost 20% of the year!

Each day of the week is carefully crafted.

Equally important to the yearly flow is how I manage each week. Prior to managing my week, during my controlling boss days, I used to go into the office every day. I would spend each day somewhat frustrated because my team would ask questions while I would be trying to get work done. Each day was filled with constant interruptions and I wore that frustrated emotion on my face.

The new me is less controlling. I don’t go in the office every day because my team can handle it without me. In fact, they handle it better without me because they are empowered to make decisions. And when I am “in the office”, I am refreshed and present with my team and not frustrated by the interruptions because I expect the interruptions.

Here is my week:

  • Monday - buffer day (typically used for consulting)
  • Tuesday - at ZENGERS (taking appointments, talking with my team, visiting clients)
  • Wednesday - work from home on important initiatives and tasks
  • Thursday - at ZENGERS (company weekly meetings, collaborating with my COO, visiting clients)
  • Friday - work from home on important initiatives and tasks or at the MakingChips Studio

On Sundays, I spend about an hour reviewing the past and upcoming week. I do this by myself and then with my wife.

The morning routine and more

As I am writing this on a Wednesday at home, I just finished up my morning routine. I feel super refreshed and ready to tackle a bunch of important tasks. The reason that I am so energized is because I followed my morning routine. Here it is:

  • Listen / read scripture while making coffee
  • Stretch & meditate on scripture
  • Review my goals and rocks
  • Decide the the three things that I am going to get done today
  • Make a veggie shake
  • Empty my inbox
  • Review my appointments for the day

It’s important (at least to me) to do this methodically. I typically don’t answer the phone until I’m done; however, I am up at 5 am, so my phone usually doesn’t interrupt my morning routine. Then I get to work!

I also have a end of work and evening routine, which involves emptying my inbox (I try to only check twice per day), reviewing my notes for the day, tasks that were added and/or any of the 3 tasks that I didn’t get done and some personal family routines.

My routine is not perfect and it’s always evolving

Now, I want to make one thing incredibly clear: I don’t do this perfectly. I try really hard to maintain my routine, but some weeks don’t go as planned and I don’t nail my daily routines every single day. However, the important thing is that I hit the “refresh” button and make sure that I get back on track.

Do you have a routine? Even if it is just one of these components, write it down, make sure that you are consistent and look for ways to make improvements in order to drive your energy, productivity, creativity and mindset. If you don’t have a routine, why not? How could routine help you to take your leadership and your business to the next level?