Day-to-day

“Day-to-day” refers to things that happen every day, or that happen within the space of a day.

Today's story: Finding meaning at work
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Day-to-day

Today’s English expression is “day-to-day,” three words, day-to-day. This is a funny expression that refers to things that happen every day, or that happen within the space of a day. We usually use this phrase when we’re talking about things that are repetitive or not too exciting. With “day-to-day,” we’re thinking in the short term. We talk about things that happen from one day to the next in a pattern.

You can use this with a variety of words. You can talk about a day-to-day job, a day-to-day life, a day-to-day routine, day-to-day operations, things like that.

Believe it or not, the day-to-day routine of a firefighter is pretty boring. Wait a second, you might be saying, responding to alarms, rushing to the scene of a fire, fighting a blaze—that doesn’t sound boring! But that’s not what the day-to-day routine of a firefighter is like. Most firefighters don’t take out a hose and put out a blazing fire every day.

The day-to-day life of a firefighter is not as glamorous. They go to the station. They check their equipment. They do safety tests. They take trainings. They educate other people on fire safety. They sit around the station and wait. Sometimes they get calls to check on the safety of someone who needs help. They respond to false alarms. This is the day-to-day life of a firefighter in most places. This is what happens most days, one day, the next day, this is what happens. But once in a while, they jump into action and they have to fight a huge fire. That’s more the exception. The day-to-day life is not that exciting, thankfully.

Outside of my responsibilities here at Plain English, I’m in business consulting. And in consulting, we do projects in teams for clients. Often, a very senior person at my firm will be at the first meeting with our client. That senior person has lots and lots of experience, very impressive, but that person is very busy. That person isn’t going to actually, you know, do the project. So that very senior person tells the client, “Jeff will be your day-to-day project manager” or “Jeff will be your day-to-day contact.” That means, on the majority of days, the client should talk to me, not this very senior and very busy person.

Likewise, a company might have a chief executive officer, a CEO. The CEO is responsible for the strategy and the big ideas. The CEO doesn’t—or shouldn’t—manage what happens in the ongoing operation of the company. There’s usually a head of operations or someone who takes care of the more routine day-to-day matters. The CEO should have a day-to-day operations manager to handle things that are regular and routine, so the CEO can focus his or her time on more strategic matters.

In today’s lesson about finding meaning at work, I said a lot of people—especially in big organizations—have a hard time seeing how their day-to-day jobs are important . In the example of a small bakery, for example, the day-to-day work might be the same every day: wake up early, bake the bread and the muffins, and sell them in the shop. That person may do the same thing every day, but the day-to-day job has a clear impact on the customer.

But if you work for Bimbo or Mondelez or Kellog’s or the other huge bakeries of the world, you’re not baking a loaf of bread and handing it to a customer. Your day-to-day job might be to operate just one or two large machines all day, or you might work in an office. When workers say they don’t find meaning in their day-to-day jobs, it means that their personal routines feel disconnected from any real service to a customer or society.

Quote of the Week

Time for a quote of the week. Today it’s from Narayana Murthy, an Indian businessman. He says, “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” So that’s our closing thought for this lesson on finding meaning at work: Nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong. And a lot of people, as I mentioned at the beginning of the lesson, a lot of people are finding that they are stuck and they’re looking for something more meaningful.

See you next time!

That’s it for today’s Plain English. As you know, part of the Plain English Plus+ membership is live calls. And we do the live conversation calls three times a month. We get together and we talk about one topic, one conversation topic. I wrote this on a Saturday and we had a call that morning about parenting styles; that was inspired by the lesson we did about “birdnesting .”

Anyway, this will be the topic for the live call coming up next Saturday, May 14. That will give you some time to think about it before the call. We do the Saturday calls in the morning here and in the afternoon in Europe. They’re at 9 am in Brazil, 2 pm in most of Europe. Early, early in the morning for JR and me in Chicago, but we don’t mind.

The live calls are a great way to practice speaking in English in a safe and supportive environment, and to make friends from around the world. I’m on every call, JR is on most of them. They’re on Zoom, so we’re all on camera, we can all see each other. And they’re honestly one of my favorite parts of Plain English Plus+. If you’re not yet a member, there’s plenty of time to join before that call coming up on May 14…and if you’re listening after, don’t worry: we have plenty more coming up. You can see the full schedule on your dashboard. You can join at PlainEnglish.com/Plus .

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Story: Finding meaning at work