What you do the day before matters just as much as what you do each morning. In fact, what you do the night before makes it much more likely that you’ll actually accomplish what you’re aiming to get done on any given day.
The method you use doesn’t matter. I’m a believer that calendars are more effective than to do lists, but there’s another camp that believes in to do lists, or what is known as the Ivy Lee Method:
Finish each day by writing the 5 most important things you want to get done tomorrow and start each day by working those 5 things. You can also schedule those 5 things on your calendar. It doesn’t matter as long as those 5 things get done.
The most effective productivity systems are actually quite simple when you dissect them. But we keep searching for life and productivity “hacks” because doing so ironically makes us feel productive. If you spend an entire day reading articles about productivity, like this one, you’re not actually being productive. The only way you find out if something works for YOU is to implement it and see what happens.
I’m constantly experimenting with productivity systems because many of the ones that have gotten me to this point haven’t been working as well. The very things that allowed me to finish my first manuscript in 6 months are not enabling me to do the same with my current manuscript. As a result, I’ve been forced to reexamine some parts of my 8-step daily routine. And there are times when my daily routine simply gets shot to hell. But the failure has always been the result of poor planning the day before.
The day I wrote this article, I actually put the 5 things I wanted to get done into my journaling software the night before. By about 9:30 am I’d completed everything on the list.
If you plan the day the night before you’ll be amazed at how much your overall productivity skyrockets.
If you have no clarity about what is is you’re trying to get done in any given day, you’ll be busy, but probably not productive. If you plan your days the night before you, you’ll not only get more done in less time. You’ll also experience more flow.
My best mornings look a bit like this:
- Read for an hour
- Write for an hour
- Surf, snowboard or exercise for a few hours
- Interview people
- Rehearse for upcoming talks
- email and social media
If you give yourself a basic framework for your days, you’ll be much more likely to pack your days with useful work that adds value to your life. The nice thing about a framework is that it’s not rigid. It can be adjusted day to day and to your own liking. It helps you to accommodate for changes in your schedule. Even though I know exactly what the first 2 hours of my day will look like, just planning it all the night before is a great way to reduce decision fatigue.
The first hour of the day is one of the most critical. It sets the tone for what the rest of your your day will be like. If you spend the first hour of your day distracted by pings, buzzes, notifications and dopamine, the rest of your day will be pretty much the same. On the other hand, if you spend the first hour of the day working on what you deemed your essential priorities that momentum will carry over into the rest of your dIt’s a pattern I’ve observed over and over.
When you plan the day the night before, there’s no guesswork as to what you’ll be doing when you sit down to work in the morning.
If doing the best work of your life is important to you, check out my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.”
The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.