Manage Your Runway

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When traveling I like to watch the movement and motion at an airport. It may not seem like an efficient process but there can be a steady choreography to the airport. It’s like a bustling ant colony serving the queen known as transportation. When waiting to depart my kids and I will watch plane after plane land like a dripping faucet. A plane lands, the runway is clear, another plane lands and the process repeats itself.

Having a clean runway at our house is important too. There are areas where a clean and prepared take off zone helps facilitate movement around our house. When one of those areas isn’t clean then it delays all departures.

Sometimes this is what our kitchen counters look like in the summer. Summer months are filled with more movement and activity and this counter acts like a gravitational field, pulling things out of our personal gravity and landing it here. Low mass items like socks, back packs, and craft supplies are prone to rest here, money oddly enough, is not. Each year local schools or churches have their back-to-school donation drives and I think I could probably scrape together enough to outfit a kid just from this debris.

The problem with this build up is that it slows us down and will really slow us down once school begins. In the summer it’s like a series of arteries with mild blockages that gives us chest pain. Once school begins this is a full-blown heart attack to our mornings. Our morning successes are mostly dependent on how much work we do the night before to get ready. One part of that is cleared counters.

In The Secrets of Happy Families, Bruce Feiler writes about how one family used the ideas of agile development to rework their mornings. Not only did they have cleared kitchen counters but each child had a checklist for what to do in the morning and they adapted them as necessary. When he first observed this checklist system in action, Feiler was amazed by what he saw. Self sufficient children making their own breakfast and doing chores before going to school. For some parents getting breakfast ready and out the door to school is the chore.

This idea of a clear runway and checklist is helpful to both my careers, family man and writer. For writing, I only am efficient with my time if I have things queued up to work on. Like an air traffic controller that lines up planes on the ground and in the air, I have tasks lined up each day to do. Writing this was the first task of the day and to be prepared I had my desk cleared of everything but my computer and the outline for my post ready the night before.

During the first week of August my word counts looked like this.

August 2014 Writing

Of the four bars below the 1000 word mark, only August 9th, the second to last one, was a day without much work being done. All the other lower word count days were ones I spent planning what to write next. The success in the middle part of my graph was due in part to the planning I did on a day I didn’t write much. That day was one spend planning how the planes would land.

Whether it’s your work or your kids, your desk or your counters, your mornings or nights, having a clear runway is a great way to good work done.

How do you clear your runway? Let me know here or on Twitter, @MikeDariano.

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