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“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin
Routines are a staple of getting a handle on your life. A vast majority of the time, we fall into bed at the end of a long, exhausting day and hit the pillow snoring before even considering if everything’s ready to go for the next morning.
Something I need to work on is developing a better evening routine beyond what I already do, which is pretty much this list:
- Setting the coffee maker to delay brew
- Staging my lunch for the next day
- Laying out clothes
- Making sure my rock climbing bag is next to my backpack if it’s a rock climbing day
- Turning the electric blanket on, so the bed is nice and toasty when I get in
- Obvious things like washing my face, flossing, and brushing my teeth
All of these things help my morning run a lot more smoothly because it takes away the stress and chaos of trying to figure it all out in the morning.
There are several benefits of planning your day the night before.
You Know Where Everything Is
How many times have you gotten up in the morning and wondered where you put your keys, wallet, or chapstick?
Or if you bring your work home with you, do you know where your laptop and important papers are? Where are the sticky notes if you need to leave your spouse, partner, children, or roommates a note before you leave? You don’t want to spend precious morning minutes running around the house doing things you could’ve done last night.
When you wake up and know where everything is already, you’ll spend less time trying to gather things together and make it out the door on time.
Put all your things together in one place to take with you in the morning. I use the corner of my couch. My backpack, jacket, access card, and whatever else I need for the day are right there, and my car keys right next to the couch in their bowl.
Your Decision Bank Stays Fuller for Longer
There’s research that we all have a finite number of decisions in our “bank” every day that depletes as we make them.
This is why we see big-name CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg wearing what looks like the exact same thing every day—it cuts down on the number of decisions they have to make in the morning on what to wear.
I cut down on my morning decisions by doing Sunday food prep and then staging my lunches out the night before for easy grab-and-go in the morning.
My list of “evening routine” things are mostly to reduce the number of decisions I make in the morning and the time it takes to execute those things.
Set your clothes out the night before. Prep everything you’d otherwise prep in the morning before you go to bed. Is your lunch staged in the fridge to easily grab and go? Is your coffee maker set to brew automatically? (Did you remember to put coffee grounds in the coffee maker?)
You’re Less Stressed
When you’ve planned out the next day before you even fall asleep, you’re less likely to spend time awake worrying about it. When I didn’t have a system to prep the night before, there were times I’ve left for class or work and forgotten either a textbook or my access card.
Forgetting things causes stress—how are you going to deal with being without them, or will you need to take precious time to go back and retrieve them? It can rest on your mind all day, and some people are inclined to beat themselves up over forgetting things like that.
Planning things out—even using a checklist if you need to—lets you thwart that stress in its tracks.
Brainstorm the things you usually feel rushed to do in the mornings or commonly forget to bring with you when you leave. Just like you would create a travel packing list, create a checklist for everything you need to bring with you or make sure gets done before you leave the house.
My partial list, for example:
- Access card
- Climbing gear (Thursdays & Sundays)
- Kindle or the book I’m currently reading
Then, once you complete the list, decide what things you can stage or prepare the night before in order to make your morning less stressed and chaotic.
You’ll Sleep Better
Have you ever gone to bed with work and your endless unfinished list of to-dos still swirling through your mind? I know I’ve tried to go to sleep occasionally and end up tossing and turning because of all the things I’m worried I’ll forget to do in the morning. It’s more common for me to come up with writing ideas when I’m trying to fall asleep—it’s the writer’s curse!
But if you have a system in place to capture what you want to remember tomorrow it lets you fall asleep much easier.
Did you know that something like 95% of our thoughts are repetitive? If we keep thinking the same things over and over again, don’t you think we’d remember them?
I’d like to say that’s the case, but oftentimes we think of something we need to do, tell ourselves “Oh, I’ll remember that. I don’t need to write it down,” and then promptly forget it.
Keep a notepad and pen on your bedside table. When you find yourself in bed, unable to fall asleep because you’re worried you won’t remember to bring something with you in the morning, write it down.
I once woke from a dream in the middle of the night and immediately wrote it down. The subject of the dream became an important plot piece in my novel, and I doubt I would’ve remembered it had I not written it down on that bedside pad of paper.
Tomorrow’s “To-Do’s” Are Super Clear
There have been times when I make it to work in the morning and, beyond processing email, I feel pulled in too many directions to adequately decide what to work on first. This is a problem in the age of “multiple priorities” and eight bosses.
It’s also a problem for people who work from home and those who are SAHMs or SAHDs…
What housework or home business tasks take priority?
Deciding on the order of things to do uses up brainpower and, if you already know what you need to do but are just waffling on the order to do them in, writing them down the night before is one possible solution.
I did this just a few days ago after returning home from a business trip. I thought about the things that are piling up on my plate and sorted them by priority. That’s the order in which I should complete those things come the next workday.
But how do you determine priority?
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a simple matrix to determine what you should pay attention to and what you can either delegate or delete.
The key here is not to get distracted by the Not Important & Urgent things—these would be things that feel like emergencies but really aren’t. If someone is calling you so much the phone is ringing off the hook but they’re just impatient, that’s not something you need to pay attention to right now. Ignore or delegate it.
The box you want to be in most often is Important/Not Urgent. These are the things that create progress and success in your life and work.
Before you turn off the computer and start really getting ready for bed, take about five minutes to write down the most important things you need to do tomorrow. It can be a top one or top three, but no more than five. Prioritize them using the Eisenhower Matrix. Then, when you’re ready to start work the next morning, you already know what you need to do first and what things you need to delegate!
Call to Action
Like anything, planning your day the night before is a habit and can take a while to “stick.” But, once you’ve gotten it down, you’ll wonder how you ever functioned without being this prepared!