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Monday Routines: C. Todd Lombardo, Chief Design Strategist at Fresh Tilled Soil

January 22nd 2017

This is the second installment of ‘Monday Routines’, in which software people like you recount their Monday rituals. The goal is to peer into their day-to-day patterns and habits as they lead teams, collaborate, and deliver great software. Hopefully you’ll discover a tidbit or two to help you with your routine.

C. Todd Lombardo wears many hats: author, designer, scientist, professor, and visualizer. As Chief Design Strategist at Fresh Tilled Soil, C. Todd crafts smart, innovative solutions that transform his clients’ business strategies. He frequently speaks at conferences and directs TEDx events, and lives in Somerville, Mass.

CYCLOCROSS It’s important to have an easy-going Monday morning, especially in the fall, because I usually have cyclocross races on the weekend. Cyclocross is a weird hybrid; think of a Tour de France road racing bike—with the drop bars—but with skinny, knobby tires. The race is 45 minutes to an hour and goes around a 2-3 mile track. It’s like a steeple chase on a bike; over the river, through the woods, on grass, mud, pavement, over walls, and with many tight turns. Sometimes you even have to get off your bike and run uphill because it’s faster. It beats up the body a bit—another reason to have mellow Monday mornings.

UP BEFORE THE ALARM I usually wake up before my alarm goes off. I tend to get up when it’s light out, so in the summertime, you can imagine, pretty early, and in the wintertime, not as early. I never understood how my friends could sleep until noon on the weekends. And it’s always been like that. Even when I was kid, I would wake up at 5:30am.

I’m a coffee fan, so one of the first things I do is make myself some espresso. I like a little lounging time in the morning. Mornings are for renewal and refreshing so I don’t rush it.

After an espresso, maybe some cereal or yogurt, I’ll read the news, and then I’ll open up the email to see if anything’s going crazy. I definitely take plenty of time to do that. I have a nice deck in the back of my loft, and if the weather’s nice I’ll sit out there and just mentally prepare for the day.

I often commute to work by bike, which is about 8 miles. Whether I drive my car or ride my bike, it takes about a half hour.

WEEKLY SCRUM We have a weekly scrum at 11:45am. Pretty much the entire company checks in. It’s not quite as ceremonious as what did you work on last week? what are you working on this week? what are the blockers? It’s more like, what’s up? what’s going on? what’s interesting?

For example, my designer presented the work we did at the design sprint last week and what we learned. Another developer presented about a site audit that we did on accessibility and how to write good, accessible code.

So those are the show-and-tell type of things, and that usually takes about 10-15 minutes. Then our marketing guy usually lets us know what events are going on in the Boston area related to what we do. I tend to do a lot of speaking engagements and try to encourage the team to as well.

Ninety to one-hundred percent of the company shows up for the scrum. If I’m in a design sprint, I try to time any breaks so I can join. It’s the one time that everyone on the team is paying attention to everyone else, so we make every effort to protect that.

DESIGN SPRINTING We’re trying to kick off a lot of projects with design sprints. Moving through a full design cycle in a short period of time allows the client to get to know us and dispense all of the information that we need quickly. We also get to know them and their clients / customers. It’s great.

If I’m not in a sprint, I’ll start prepping for the next one.

NO DESK LUNCHES The cafeteria in the building does a really good job. Nine days out of ten I just grab the daily special because it’s usually pretty balanced, healthy, and really tasty, so I don’t have to worry about it. I’ve never prepared lunch ahead of time—it’s my one vice. Sure, I could save a lot of money if I cooked some rice and fish at home and brought it in, but to me that feels like too much of a hassle. Plus there’s juggling a bowl of rice on a bike…

In our office, we have a a big U-shaped countertop where most of the team converges to eat, and between 12:00 and 1:30 there’s always somebody there. It’s like an unwritten rule here that nobody eats lunch at their desk, which is great. We stop, take a break, and just socialize.

We also just started this somewhat recurring Monday happening we call the Fresh Tilled Soil Food Challenge. A secret ingredient is announced on Friday, and over the weekend people create a dish with it to bring into the office on Monday. The last one was jalapeno; I made avocado salsa. So we hang out, eat and chat, and vote on the winner. It’s very Instagram-friendly.

THINKING AND DOING TIME After lunch, I’m usually prepping for a design sprint or in the middle of one. Once the crank gets going, we keep it going. There are no more standing meetings. So Monday afternoon is thinking and doing time.

I finish up, leave, and get home any time between 5:30 and 7.

TEA AND JAZZ Monday nights are pretty mellow for me. I might have a dinner meeting, or dinner with friends. Or it could be laundry time! I’m usually training on Tuesday— sprinting or running, typically one of the most destructive efforts of the week. So Monday after dinner I’ll spend some time drinking tea, stretching and foam rolling, winding my body down. I’ll listen to WGBO, the New Jersey jazz station. I get it through Pandora and it’s great, I’m a big fan. Then maybe some reading, some final internet/emails, before heading to sleep. I’m an early-to-bed kind of guy. There’s my Monday.

C. Todd is on Twitter and Medium at @iamctodd. He’s currently working on a book due for release this spring, Product Roadmapping.

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