Another Article About the Importance of Routine

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona; photo by the author

Wake up and go to sleep at a constant time. Eat breakfast every day. Hit the gym with regularity (rather than my approach, which is to make a monthly donation to Equinox).

Start each workday by making a to-do list and end it by reviewing what you accomplished. Make five prospecting calls before 9 am. Reconnect with at least one person in your network every day.

Does the world really need another article about the importance of routine? Probably not, but here it is anyway.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m a creature of habit. I eat dinner at the same restaurant every Thursday. I sit in the same chair during standing meetings. I’m not superstitious, but a few years ago someone mounted a cardboard poster of Kevin the Minion next to my office door, and now I tap it twice every time I walk into my office.

Like countless people before me, I’ve learned that establishing routines can reinforce good behaviors, increase predictability and reduce uncertainty, and even offer something to which you can look forward (no matter how bad a week may be going, I know I’ll enjoy dinner on Thursday).

I’ve established routines at Smartling that deliver all of these benefits and more for me. In most cases I believe that they deliver the same benefits for others who participate in the routines, too.

I have a daily stand-up with my direct reports at 5 pm. The name of the meeting, What Kind of Day Has It Been, is both an homage to Aaron Sorkin (who chose this name for the first season finales of Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) and an indication of its purpose. Even though most of us work in the same office, it’s easy to go long stretches of time — sometimes an entire week — without our all being in the same room. This is therefore an opportunity for us to get some face time with one another and start the process of closing the day.

Unlike a traditional stand-up, which focuses on what you did yesterday and today, and where you’re blocked, we focus on what we wanted to accomplish today and what we actually accomplished today. Self-reflection is hard, but important, and the stand-up offers a safe environment within which each of us can learn how to be vulnerable.

Smartling’s customer team, which is comprised of account managers, customer success managers, solution architects (professional services consultants), support representatives, and technical writers, meets every Friday at 10 am. We use video conferencing to include team members in satellite offices, on the road, or working remotely.

When I say every Friday at 10 am, I mean every Friday at 10 am. Smartling’s annual holiday party is always on a Thursday, but everyone shows up — in various states of consciousness — for the all-hands the next morning. That morning-after meeting is the source of many memorable moments. The meeting is only skipped for public holidays.

A few years ago I read that Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box, set a goal for himself to meet at least one customer in person every week of the year. What a fantastic routine! Doing this sends a powerful message about the importance of listening to customers, and is a fantastic retention tool in and of itself: customers are deeply appreciative of the attention.

Recently I’ve discovered an added benefit of this routine, which is that members of the team can accompany me on these visits. This exposure to executive-level conversations helps to expand their skill sets and establish relationships with senior decision makers; it also gives me an opportunity to observe directly how they interact with customers. It’s a win-win, the only drawback for the team being my relentless travel schedule.

I’d love to hear from my readers which routines they find to be most valuable. In particular, I’m interested in learning about unusual or counterintuitive routines that contribute to great business outcomes.

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Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. I write about issues relevant to and situations faced by SaaS companies as they scale.

Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. I write about issues relevant to and situations faced by SaaS companies as they scale.