How many times has this happened to you? You go to bed after a long, unproductive day with the intention that tomorrow is going to be different.
Then you wake up the next day and fall right back into the same old trap. It feels like you’re trapped inside your own private version of Groundhog Day.
Before you know it, it is time to eat lunch and you can’t point to one significant thing you’ve accomplished.
In my experience, the best way to ensure a productive day is to set myself up for one the night before. This gives me a chance to make sure I do the most important things first.
Even if my day gets hijacked—and sometimes it does—I’ve achieved my most important tasks. I structure everything around this.
Here are five strategies I use to set myself up for the most productive day possible:
- Protect my morning routine. I don’t take early morning appointments. Ever. I rarely take breakfast appointments. My hours from 4:45 to 8:00 are sacred. I don’t allow them to get interrupted by anything other than the occasional flight—which I loathe. Fortunately, they only happen once or twice a year.
- Create a to-do list with my top three must-dos. Before I wake up in the morning, I already know what my top three must-dos are for the day. These are the non-negotiables. I am committed to making them happen no matter what. I list them in Nozbe in priority order. (These are in addition to my routine habits.)
- Set up your computer with only the first programs you will need loaded. This is so important. The reason I used to get sucked into e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook, is because I had those programs open when I woke up. Now I shut them down at the end of the day. I only have open those apps I need to see when I wake up. These are the ones I will use in my morning ritual.
- Set your exercise clothes out. I’m no different than anyone else. With the exception of amazing spring or fall weather, I’d rather stay inside where it’s comfortable. But I need exercise—for numerous reasons. I am always more productive when I get it. For me, that begins by setting out my exercise clothes the night before. It’s how I make my intention real to my subconscious.
- Get to bed at a designated time. It’s a heck of a lot easier to get up on time if you go to bed on time. I rarely go to bed after 10:00 p.m. I start getting ready at 9:00 p.m. (Yes, I have an evening ritual, too, that I intend to write about in a future post.) I personally never have to use an alarm. I have conditioned my mind and body to wake up at 4:45. I am sometimes early but never late.
Do I ever fall short of this ideal? Absolutely. It happened just this morning. I got up extra early. By 7:00 a.m., I was running ahead of schedule. I had finished my morning ritual.
I then said to myself, I’m a little ahead of schedule. I can afford to check the news before I head to the office and start writing.
Bad mistake. I got sucked into the tractor pull of the Internet. Before I knew it, I had lost an hour. Not only was I not ahead of schedule, I was behind. Argh.
Oh well, I don’t beat myself up about it. In my view there is no failure, there is only learning. What I learned was that I must, must resist the temptation to get on the Internet before my must-dos are done.
Fortunately, I’ll have another chance to practice tomorrow. And I know that having a productive day tomorrow begins tonight. It’s all in the setup.