021: Startup and Shutdown Routines



Building strong routines is a great way to up your effectiveness at work and home. Justin outlines his two routines that help him do just that.


Getting Results the Agile Way

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00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, community leader at the Productivity Guild and today we’re talking about startup and shutdown routines. I originally heard about startup and shutdown routines through the book Getting Results the Agile Way by JD Meier. The premise of a startup and shutdown routine is to start and stop your day in the exact same way to help your brain ramp up into and down out of the work that you’re doing. It’s the same principle that you hear around such as listening to the same song when you’re starting to write or going to a specific place if you’re going to get a specific type of work done. Our brains tend to respond to repetitive cues that we create for ourselves, so if I get up in the morning, I get dressed, I brush my teeth, I eat some breakfast, and then I go through this checklist to get my work day going.

00:54 My brain more automatically gets into work mode in a much faster way and a much better way. The other thing that I find is really helpful for startup and shutdown routines is it’s at the time that I use to plan my day. I go through and I review all my stuff that I need to and I make sure that I have clarity on what I’m focusing on for that day. That’s actually one of the reasons that you would want to incorporate a startup or shutdown routine. My day when I start up with my routine begins with more intention and as we know, intentionality is the root of living a productive life. If you desire to do something, to go somewhere, to meet a certain goal, to pay attention to any specific areas in your life, intentionality is the key to that. And so we can start off our day with a level of intentionality, having a plan of sorts and from that point we’re better focused.

01:50 When you have clarity on what you are intending to do for the day, it’s easier to stay on track with that throughout the day. You make better decisions throughout the day also because you know what your priorities are. And lastly, especially with the shutdown routine, I like to have the shutdown routine designed to help me clear my mind of the things that are on my mind from work for the day so that ultimately I can be more present outside of work. I have young kids at home and when I work until five o’clock in the evening, it’s really important for me to be present because I only have a couple of hours with my kids to get quality time with them on a given work day. And for me that quality time is the most important thing. So instead of talking about the theories of startup and shutdown routines there, there’s a lot here and you can adapt them in whatever way you want to.

02:41 But what I wanted to do today was just give you a idea of what I do when I go through my startup and shutdown routines throughout my workday. On a successful day, on a good day, the very first thing that I do when I sit down at a computer to start doing some work, I go through my startup routine. Now if you followed along at all on my productivity journal on the guild, one thing you may have noticed is that I’ve switched away from using OmniFocus for everything and I have utilized the bullet journal for my primary task management system, but I’ve recently reincorporated OmniFocus for managing things like these routine checklist because it just does it so well. It just messes with the way my brain works and so I sit down, I open up OmniFocus first thing when I get to the computer and I start going through the checklist. And I’ll post some screenshots of these checklists to the show notes so that you can see what they look like.

03:38 I have my startup routine broken down into three sections, morning habits review and plan my day, and to process my inboxes. These three things together give me just a clarity on what needs to happen throughout the course of my day. So for my morning habits, I literally just have time to consider reading my Bible before work. Consider drinking some water, just making sure that I’m thinking about that if I haven’t done it already in the day. There’s a prompt there to say, hey, this is something that you’ve decided that is important to you, you should consider doing it. Do I do it every day? No, but it’s there and it gives me the capacity to be able to do it and remind me to do it when I first start my day. Next, under reviewing and planning my day, I basically start off inside my bullet journal.

04:22 I create my daily log for the day and I note down any important events then I plan an active time for the day. It’s something new that I’m trying to do where I at least get out of the house or I’m trying to be physically active for 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day. When you’re working a remote job and you don’t necessarily have, you know where you’re getting out and about, and I live in a rural area so it’s not exactly easy to walk everywhere like you might be able to in some, you know, downtown metro areas if that’s where you live. I don’t have that luxury so I have to be intentional to get out and walk around. The, the next thing that I do is I review my monthly log in the bullet journal, so the monthly log is Ra place where you can store tasks and events for things that are going to happen within that month or you’d like to happen within that current month.

05:09 What I’ll do here is I’ll review that list for anything that needs to come to today’s list that I’m going to get done. The other thing that I use OmniFocus for in addition to routine checklist is I have a number of routine tasks as well. So these are things like make sure to pay the bills, make sure to pay your taxes, things like that. And what OmniFocus does is it just pops them up to the surface when it’s time to start thinking about doing those things. So I’ll review that list and make sure that that’s clear for the day too. The next set of items that I have are to review a number of Discourse forums that I am a part of. Full disclosure, I work for Discourse. So a lot of these are in regards to that but I have a number of them too such as the Guild community and a personal Discourse that I use.

05:50 Um, I personally just love Discourse. Uh, and so this isn’t an advertisement for them or anything like that, but I just absolutely love the software and so I’m using it a lot of different areas of life. But I’ll go through and review all of those. I have a personal project management Discourse and a couple that I use for work and then the Guild as well. And then lastly, I will look for the top three tasks that I want to try to accomplish today and I will star those within my bullet journal. The way the bullet journal works is you don’t necessarily have to write down the tasks that you’re going to do on the day for that day. The way I see it is that the daily log is a capture bucket for things that come to your mind that day. And then the daily logs for that month function as the active working list.

06:32 So to say, so it can be something throughout the last couple of weeks that’s come up that I can go back and star, but then also if I need an extra reminder for it, I’ll move that up to the current daily log as well. The last section here that I focus on is just processing some basic inboxes. I’ve done a lot of that already in my review section with Discourse because frankly most of my emailing happens through the Discourse software versus through actual email clients. So I don’t really have a lot of inboxes to process, especially when most everything is going into paper as well. So I’ll process my mail, I’ll look through the Drafts app and then I’ll look through my note app Bear. Once I get all that together, I pick my first task to work on for the day and I get going.

07:14 Now as far as shutdown goes, I’ll be honest, this is one that I’m a little less consistent about doing, mainly because it’s really hard for me to get consistently aware of the time that it is at the end of the day. So in order for me to start shutting down, if I’m working till five o’clock I need to start shutting down probably about 4:30p writing down tasks that I need to do and things like that. But this is the basic process that I go throughout the end of the day. First, I’ll do a mind sweep. If you’ve been familiar with GTD at all, this is the probably number one habit that you need to build in addition to the weekly review. Just get everything out of your head that’s on your mind, whether it’s work or home, personal related, related to relationships. Just get it out and then you can process it and put it where it needs to go. And that’s what I do. Next, I’ll process my inboxes again, just to make sure that everything’s cleared out and I don’t have anything hanging there that should be dealt with today.

08:08 I’ll reset my workspace. I used to do this on my computer, but I just frankly shut everything down and get everything ready. You know, just back to a neutral state with no applications open. And then ultimately what I try to do with my desk as I try to get any dishes that have accumulated there, um, anything that’s out of place on my desk, I just try to put it back where it belongs at the end of the day so that it’s a ready to go space for the next time I come to sit down and work. And the last thing I do when I shut down, as I consider reading for five to 10 minutes. I don’t do this every time I go through the shutdown routine because sometimes I just need to get out and help my wife start to make dinner because the kids are going wild because it’s the end of the day.

08:47 And that’s just how kids are some times. Um, but if I get the chance to read for about five minutes, I’ll sit down and read through the book that I’m working on at that time. And ultimately just let my brain kind of relax into being able to be more present with my family in the evening.

09:01 As I mentioned, shutdown and startup routines are incredibly flexible. You can do whatever you need to with them. They don’t have to start at the beginning and end of your workday. You can have them at the beginning of your day and at the end of your day, whatever works best for you. The whole idea though is to have some kind of routine that you can get into that helps you get into and out of the workflow or the day flow that you need to have. You don’t have to do it every day, but I do find that the more consistent you are with doing something like a startup routine or a shutdown routine, the more effective that it is for you.

09:35 Well, that’s all for this time. If you want to join in on the discussion for this episode or if you want to connect with others who are in the process of becoming better on their productivity journey, head on over to the Productivity Guild at productivityguild.com. Or if you want to support this podcast and get access to video modules, productivity courses, and more, consider signing up for a Pro membership at the Productivity Guild for just $10 a month. Get a free month trial using code PROCESS19 when signing up at productivityguild.com/courses. Lastly, if you like this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. My name is Justin DiRoseand join me next time on Process.

1 Like

A week later and I finally have time and a moment to respond to this excellent episode. Raising a 14 month year old really sucks up your time. And the free time you have is either working, cleaning, or resting. Very seldom due I get the opportunity to check in on the forums, but I digress…

The information contained in episode #21 is some of the most important tips to help ensure and maintain a productive day. Justin, I really appreciate you providing your startup and shutdown routines and going into detail on how to setup these routines up. I do not have a startup or shutdown routine, I have a routine called, “The Daily” which contains items, such as clear voicemail, clear inbox, mediate, etc…, that can be completed at anytime during the day, but need to be completed. After listening to #21, I see that I need to tweak my routine, and break them out into startup and shutdown routines focusing more on those moments and not on things that I know will need to be completed in that day. Appreciate your insight. Thanks


I have a 3yo and a 14mo at home myself! And it’s BUSY! But so good.

One consideration – if your “The Daily” list works for you, do you need to change it? It actually seems like a more flexible approach if you need it!

I agree, lots of fun raising a child, but very busy.

Perhaps you are correct about keeping my current workflow, but I think I can expand on it to remind myself to take the time to plan out my day at the start, but also reflect on what transpired throughout the day and what needs to be on my agenda for the following day.


That’s a great place to start! And then if you find you want to move certain activities to your start up and shutdown routines, then you can!