Fresh off my read of Deep Work, I dug right into Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next. Think of this one as a guide to productivity for those who believe the Gospel of Christ. It focuses a lot on the why, before getting into the how of things. It’s been another enjoyable read — I’ll give a full review in time.

But I’m currently about two thirds through it and was shocked to see one of this suggestions. In the chapter on Regular Routines, Perman advocates for a daily workflow. This workflow is something that should occur every day, regardless of all else that is going on. It’s the routine that ensures you're getting time every day to work on the things that you're the best at, that matter the most.

That’s good advice. He boils the workflow down to 4 core tasks. But what shocked me is the order of the tasks:

  1. Plan your day
  2. Execute your workflow (including processing your email to zero)
  3. Do you main daily activity
  4. Do some next actions or major project work

(emphasis mine)

Wow! That is such a stark contrast to the methods Cal Newport advocates in Deep Work. The same thing for Shawn Blanc in The Focus Course (and many, many other resources). I know personally the worst thing I can do is start the day with reactive work like email. Once you start down that path, it’s seem as if there is no return … others are dictating the course of your day and where your focus is spent.

I love the idea that there is a core ritual or routine that you get to each and every day (It should also not be your entire day. For if you're doing the things that are of the most importance daily, then you are more free to be available for others, or to allow spontaneity to occur as well). But my core routine would be in a far different order. Or perhaps broken into chunks, with some of the core tasks happening at different points of the day.

I could see a routine like this working for me:

Morning (beginning of workday)

  1. Do your main daily activity
  2. Do some next actions or major project work

Afternoon (end of workday)

  1. Execute your workflow (including processing your inbox to zero)
  2. Plan your day (except it’s the next day, similar to Shawn’s note)

For me, the main daily activity is what is going to push things forward. Whether a project, or planning and strategizing, or conducting research. That daily activity requires focus, a time of low stimulus. And since mornings are when I have the most energy available and tend to do my best work, there’s no chance I’m wasting those finite resources in reading and sending email.

Putting the first things first is too important.