Weekly routines of a Distributed Support Team Lead

Earlier this week, I wrote about my daily routines as the lead of a distributed customer support team. While I do have rituals and routines in my daily work, as a lead I’ve found it is the weekly routines that empower me to be productive and make sure I follow through on expectations and commitments.

With weeks that have more than a dozen one-on-ones (1:1s), multiple video calls, team and division tracking, and anywhere from two to ten P2 (internal blog) drafts to review, edit, and write, the week rather than the day is the time frame I most identify with for planning and containing my work.

When I first began as a lead, I struggled mightily with how to organize my time to make sure I could stay on top of everything. After a little over a year, I have a good weekly routine that includes strategic planning of the type of work I do each day, including a recurring weekly TODO list that I keep on a private P2. Before each week begins, I copy my recurring list to a new post, insert new work among the standing items, and create a flow through each week that matches my energy levels as the week progresses:

  • Mondays — Review the week prior: tracking, trends, data dives. Prep for week’s 1:1s. Conduct 1-3 1:1s.
  • Tuesdays — Collaboration on Slack, Team video call, 1-2 new tasks. Participate in 2-4 1:1s.
  • Wednesdays — Heavy 1:1 day, so anything I can fit in between 1:1s (usually collaboration on Slack, draft reviews, evaluation(s), updating department scorecard). Participate in 5-6 1:1s.
  • Thursdays — Heavy draft/writing day, Leads video call, prepping department weekly goal update. Participate in 2-3 1:1s.
  • Fridays — Plan for next week. No scheduled meetings. Intended this to be a learning & thinking day, but it usually ends up being an overflow day from all the things that didn’t get done Monday through Thursday.

Planning

I begin each week with a loose plan, or at least TODOs and deadlines I compiled at the end of the previous week. This plan is broken out into the days of the week, and is built by merging two lists: my recurring TODO list that includes my standing appointments each day of the week, and my TODO list of new items that must be started or completed during the week.

When I don’t have this plan, I feel scattered, and therefore anxious, when I log in on my first day of the work week. When this happens, as soon as I recognize myself feeling that way, I stop and make a plan. It’s rare that I need to do this, because I know I need a full week’s plan in order to work effectively, but sometimes if I’ve been out the week before, it’s necessary I start early on my first day back so I can plan my week.

With this plan, I have an idea of everything that needs to get done during the week, and at what point. From there, I know about how much time each item will take, and between which 1:1s I might be able to work on the various tasks. I know what is low-hanging fruit that can be picked off quickly, what the priority levels of each item are, and what is hardest and might take multiple days between 1:1s to complete.

First half of each week

I am a delay of gratification person: I do necessary work first. I front load my week as much as possible with tasks that must be done, then reward myself with writing, thinking, and other tasks when the essentials are completed.

Mondays are for looking back on how we did the previous week both as a team and as a support department. I track the outputs of every member of my team, check those against their personal goals, use spreadsheets to calculate if they’re on track, and then make notes so we can celebrate successes and talk about progress, potential adjustments, and invisible work in their 1:1s. I also publish a weekly update post on our team P2 where we all provide context on our previous week and share other contributions we made in addition to user-facing support.

Mondays are also for catching up on any backlogged items from the week before. It’s usually wishful thinking that I’ll get to the department tracking on Mondays, where two colleagues and I dig into our availability data from the weekend to ensure our staffing was adequate to meet customer demand. That usually gets bumped to Tuesday or Wednesday, which are days where I continue with 1:1s, join my team’s video call, and spend a lot of time collaborating with other leads to discuss questions Happiness Engineers and other leads have, brainstorm approaches to problems, find alignment, review drafts, and ask for help with my own questions and drafts.

On our Tuesday team video call, I update the team on progress on our departmental WordPress.com Happiness quarterly goals, talk about any upcoming changes to our work or deadlines to be aware of, and ask and answer questions about anything going on at the company or in our work. Lately we’ve started adding learnups to our team calls, where one member of the team will share knowledge, like efficiency tips in email support, or CSS tips they learned at a course they took at the company annual meetup.

Wednesdays are usually pretty heavy with 1:1s, so often there’s not a lot of wiggle room on Wednesdays, and I use whatever space is available to tie up small loose ends from the first half of the week.

Second half of each week

By the second half of the week, the majority of my standing appointments are done, with the exception of two or three 1:1s and the WordPress.com Happiness Team Leads call on Thursday. This means, as long as there aren’t fires to put out, that on Thursday I have half a day where I can focus on any remaining draft reviews for other team leads, quality reviews for team members’ tickets and chat transcripts, feedback requests from other leads, and any writing and thinking I want to do or have committed to.

I do not schedule anything on Fridays. When we added weekend support, I realized there wasn’t a weekday I could take as a flex day without having to cancel on someone: I had 1:1s every day of the week. I rearranged the 1:1s that had previously been on Fridays so that I could start taking that as a flex day when I work on the weekends.

In theory, Fridays are my planning and thinking day. At a minimum, I try to get my TODO P2 list up for the next week. My original intention with Fridays was to use them as a thinking and learning day, but ultimately they end up being the catchall day to catch up on remaining TODOs that were blocked Monday through Thursday by the many unplanned things that happen in any given week: pings, questions, P2 comments to write or reply to, P2 posts to read, unplanned sick leave to cover, discussions that pop up during the week, and various other random items.

I’m working on that last piece though, to get Friday to a place where I have a little bit of space to take a step back, think, and plan longer term. I think the solution begins with putting better boundaries on my days, so that I don’t continue to say yes to things I can’t do without working overtime. Saying no is hard, but I know in the long run it’s better for everyone.

This is my second entry for the Week 4 Support Driven Writing Challenge: Daily Routine.

2 thoughts on “Weekly routines of a Distributed Support Team Lead

  1. Commendable planning and action list. I’m not in a lead position at my company, but I am inspired to pick up my own notepad and jot down actionable events and checkmark whenever they’re done. I’m going to start maintaining a better workflow in the coming days.

    Liked by 1 person

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