Routines: Nate Ritter, Director of Technology at ResBeat

After reading the Monday Routine of Dave Gerhardt (Director of Marketing at Drift), I thought about how I’ve adjusted my own routine over the years. I started with not having one because I thought adaptability was key. Then I realized adaptability ended up really meant bending to the will of everyone else’s schedule.  So, in the spirit of sharing, here’s my routine.
I’m not religious about doing this on Sunday specifically, but definitely sometime between Friday afternoon and before Monday morning, I write out 1 big thing I want to accomplish for/with my family. If I don’t do this, I lose my perspective and move toward over-working.
I also add no more than 3 smaller items to a “daily” to-do list for Monday as well. Depending on the size or complexity of those tasks, I might only put 2 things on that list.  These small tasks have one criteria: they must move me toward a larger goal.  This might mean completing a product phase or helping my team to complete one.  But they can’t be things like “check email” which is just maintaining.
Keeping the important things on my task list rather than adding everything to it helps me refocus when I get distracted. If I feel pulled in a different direction because of shiny objects, I can quickly bring up that task list, open the single task I should be working on, and keep it open to remind me, peripherally, that that’s what I need to accomplish right now. Email can wait.
I get up at 6:30am every day, but 3 days each week I make sure to get to the gym in the morning. I used to play sports 6 days a week when I was younger, but sitting at a desk job is deadly, and I’ve been doing that for 20+ years. It’s imperative to stay healthy, and I realized it helps me focus and gives me more energy during the afternoons than a cup of coffee. If my gym offered Crossfit every day, I’d go every day. It has that big of an impact on my performance as a coder and manager and my mood as a father and husband.
By 8am I’m back, showered, and ready to get on with the day.
Now, I’m absolutely not a morning person by any means. But working at home and having kids and a family changes things. It’s pretty much the only time of day I get to spend time alone, so I use it.  Plus, since I’m not a morning person, it’s perfect because I don’t have to think too much when sweating and puking my guts out!
As I said, mornings aren’t my favorite time of day. So, I use that time before work to reply to emails and do other mundane tasks. Dave, and others like to get their tasks done during this time to feel a sense of accomplishment, which I’ve tried as well.  But, I’ve realized it doesn’t work for me. My brain starts revving up around 2pm, so I use mornings as my maintenance time.
The other thing I do, right before I start my day is mediate using Headspace. I used to think this was some kind of weird new age thing. And for some it might be. For me, however, it’s a time to sit, be quiet, breathe, and relax. I’m pretty intense sometimes, so starting my day out this way helps keep my perspective on things.
My day isn’t filled with many meetings any more. When I ran an agency, it certainly did. So, when my days start getting filled up with meetings I dedicate 9am – noon as meeting times any day of the week.
Starting at 1pm, I’m meeting-free, heads-down, and cranking on my tasks for the day hard. If there’s any day where I absolutely must take an afternoon meeting, I immediately block out that morning and try my hardest to get my tasks done first thing.
Regardless of the time of day, I don’t do meetings all day, ever. There is always another day, and if you put enough pressure on that schedule, you’ll find many meetings simply disappear because they aren’t necessary. A quick decision via email is likely all that’s required.
My typical work day ends around 6pm, when I spend time with the family during and after dinner. Unless I’m really deep into something, this is my time to break away from work, shift gears, and do something outside if possible. I’ll work on some woodworking project, some home maintenance, or play games with the kids and my wife.
In my younger years, I would consistently stay up until 2am, working, reading, or hacking on new and interesting projects.  Although I still do that every now and then, I find my productivity and mood deteriorate the next day, without fail.
Therefore, I now try to end up heading for bed around 10pm and read something non-fiction to put myself to sleep and keep my head out of work.  30 minutes of reading before going to sleep gives me about 8 hours of actual sleep.
Obviously, this is my typical routine, and there’s more to my life than this. I highly recommend adding a review of The Art (and Difficulty) of Measuring Backwards as an addendum to this article.
I hope this helps someone out there find their groove. I also hope it helps people recognize there’s no one way to structure your routine. I highly encourage you to have one, but how you design it is up to what works best for you. My routine is different than Dave’s, which is different than many of the people in Tim Ferriss’ book as well. Don’t force it, but do measure your productivity. I’ve found measuring my sleep using the available phone apps in combo with how much and what type of liquids I drink throughout the day/night to be very interesting and helpful as well.
In short, feel free to use my routines as one way to do things. Use Dave’s for another. But in the end, you do you. Measure and adjust according to how you work best. Then get out there and crush it some more!
Nate Ritter lives in Austin, Texas (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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