I used to drive an old white Jeep Cherokee and I kept forgetting to put the gas cap back on and close the gas door. (Fortunately, I always remembered to take the nozzle out of the truck and put it back on the pump.) I’d drive away from the gas station with the gas door hanging open and wouldn’t notice until I parked and headed into my office. Finally I made a very simple change to my gas getting routine. Instead of putting the gas cap on the little slot on the gas door, I started putting it on the pump where the gas nozzle rests. When I finished and put the nozzle back on the gas pump, I’d have to pick up the cap. Once it was in my hand, it was hard to forget to replace it and shut the gas door. If I forgot for some reason, I’d remember when I tried to get back in and noticed the cap in my hand. A simple change to my routine fixed the problem immediately.
I was talking with a pilot who said they have similar routines as part of their pre-flight checks. They have to be done in a certain order because there are parts that are self-correcting and that helps guarantee that mistakes aren’t made or important steps overlooked.
By taking a little time to think through your routines, you can find key modifications that will prevent you from making errors and help make more productive use of your time. Here are some that I’ve found useful:
- When you come home from work, always put your keys in the same place. My wife has a hook for keys in the kitchen, mine go on the bedside table. If your keys are always put in the same place, you won’t accidentally set them down and forget where you put them.
- When you are working, use two web browsers. One is for work and the other is for personal. The work one might be used for your corporate email and calendar while the personal one is what you’d use to check the weather or news. The goal is to be very clear about whether you are working or not and help force you to stay on track during the times when you are trying to focus on work.
- When you start your work day, always complete one important task before you open your email.
- Make it a habit to take the stairs instead of the elevator when you are going less than four floors. In most cases, it will save you time and help you get a small amount of exercise.
- Drink a glass of water when you feel hungry in between meals. In many cases, the hunger will go away. If you are still hungry 30 minutes later, go ahead and get a snack.
- Open your mail over the trash/recycling bin. Your workspace will stay much cleaner if you keep things you don’t need from getting put on it in the first place.
Do you have any routines that help you avoid mistakes or be more productive? If so, please take a few minutes to share them in the comments!
Vladimir Kutovoy says
Every morning i have a cup of coffee at work. Mostly as the very first action as I arrive. So I have a sticky note attached to my coffee cup. I wrote there «Do the first MIT for today». So as i brew my coffee and hold a cup in my hand, i remember that i have to do the most important task right after this first cup. When i’m done with coffee i stick the note back to a cup an do my first MIT.
Ola Otto says
Love these ideas, Mark! We both do something similar with our keys (ok, most of the time). I started the water idea a couple of weeks ago, and it does seem to help.
I like your idea of using two different web browsers….also the specific concept of doing one important task before even opening email…..I think I’ll try them – starting with the “one task first”.
Thanks for posting these.
I keep all my company receipts in an envelope labelled for that month, that way I don’t have to do an extraordinary day of boring filing. I then stick it in month order in a file after the month is over.
Nice tips- really like reading your blog.
that tip about the web browsers is so obvious, but i’ve never thought of that before.