Stop and ask yourself...
- What did you accomplish yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What obstacles are impeding your progress?
Every person at our company starts the day by asking themselves these questions. Then shares their answers with the team. This daily habit is called a “stand up” and it’s effective as hell.
Better yet, its simplicity means you could implement it tomorrow.
Starting each day by reflecting on what you accomplished yesterday and defining what you’ll make happen today is a healthy ritual. The “stand up” is a common practice in the software industry, but it has nothing to do with code. It has everything to do with focus, prioritization, and teamwork.
Our team posts the answers to each question in a shared chat room for clear communication with fewer meetings. Win win.
When you devote space in the day to regularly sync up with your team the desire to be known as someone who “gets it done” is strong. Our CTO, Shaheeb Roshan, feels a sense of personal accountability to contribute each day.
“I'm sensitive to seeing the work that my team has put out yesterday and plans to do today. It motivates me to be critical about what I'm doing. Did I finish something useful? Am I being productive? Have I delivered something that matters?”
Time slows down and progress speeds up when you pause to separate the trivial many from the critical few. Are you working on easy, low impact items or pointing your bat to center field like Babe Ruth?
It’s also an opportunity to send a smoke signal for help if you need it. Our Engineering Team Lead, Domenic Roti, likes that it helps him help others.
“There is nothing worse than finding out someone has been struggling on the same problem for a week…after they spent a week on it. The daily stand up gives you a chance to help out on day 2 instead of day 5.”
After doing this every day for months I’ve learned that I can complete ~4-5 tasks each day. I'm defining a “task” as work that requires reading, writing, thinking, and communicating. And I’m defining “complete” as the maximum amount of progress possible within my control.
So what does this tell us?
If we assume the lower productivity rate of 4 completed tasks per day, then we get 20 opportunities a week to make a difference. More than 80 per month. And over 1,000 per year.
This highlights something impossible to see during the fleeting moments of a work day. It’s human nature to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short term, and underestimate what we can accomplish over the long term.
If compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world, then your to-do list might be the ninth. Small wins accumulate in to big wins down the road.
Your version of “save the world” might not be done yet, but you get 999 more chances this year to make it happen.