Start your day with a list

Josh Sherman
3 min read

I’ve been seeing these “how productive people start their day” posts on my social feeds a lot more recently. It got me thinking, “hey, I consider myself successful, how do I start my day?” A while back I started to make mental notes about how I started my day, or more specifically, how I started a coding binge. After a while I definitely started to notice that I had a clear modus operandi, I make a list of the day’s or project’s goals.

This list isn’t in Evernote or some fancy list making app, it’s just on the scratch pad I keep at my desk. My current setup is a Staples-brand “graph ruled steno book” with a Pilot G-2 07 retractable pen. Am I particular about my note taking rig? Abso-fucking-lutely! I prefer graph paper because I tend to sketch a bit and quite frankly, a good pen makes the whole process as fluid as possible.

The list itself, as mentioned, is just a list of the things I want / need to accomplish. I am very project-oriented and like to lay out a clean list of what I a need to do to make the project a success. Some may call this a “todo list” or a “punch list” but I stick to calling it a “goal sheet” because that’s what it is, a list of goals that I want to accomplish that day (or session).

The list itself is always hand-written daily on a clean page and often times is based on the prior day’s goals that were not fully realized. I like to word the tasks more as user stories than just a list of shit I need to do. Example, something like “build user login system” would end up being “allow user to log into the site”. I prefer that voice because it helps put me in the shoes of the user that would be using whatever it is I’m building.

As things are completed, I cross them off of the list. I also don’t retain my notepads for more than a day or so after I fill them up before tossing them aside. My scratch pads are only relevant for the moment in time I am using them. Things get finished, I scratch them out, hoping to scratch out everything I had set out to do for the day.

Once my list is setup, I usually just get to working on it. I try not to overthink email at all, so it’s not something that consumes much of my time. If something is urgent, I’ll get blown up via SMS. For me, email is only as important as you make it, but that’s for another post ;)

I failed to mention that this list creation process isn’t the first thing I do when I get up. Generally speaking, I go through a brief grooming process and make some breakfast and/or coffee. Making a list of goels before I start working allows me to know what I have planned and helps keep me on track.

There are those rare days that I actually make it through the list. Those days are great, but unless it happens at the end of the day, I’ll just go ahead and make another list and get back to hacking!

This is how I start my day, would love to hear how everyone else preps for their grind, comment below!

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About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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