How To Plan Your Day At Night
Imagine you’re an actor.
It’s opening night of a Broadway play and you’re the star. You’re backstage thinking of all the praise and accolades you’ll get. The illustrious career that lies ahead.
You hear the stage manager yell, “Places in 5!”. And then you realize…
Shit — I never even looked at the script!
This is the equivalent of not planning your day at night.
Every day you have on this Earth is an opportunity. An opportunity to make something happen. Precious time that shouldn’t be wasted.
If you wait until the morning to plan your day, three things happen:
- You’re asking for stress and anxiety.
- You won’t be as productive as you could be.
- You won’t be as effective as you could be.
Let’s break these down…
1. Stress & Anxiety
Take our actor scenario. The curtains go up, the lights shine on you, and…now what?
You’re in a panic. You’re not sure what to say, what to do, or where to go next. In the best case scenario you’re improvising and making up something decent as you go.
Another good example is a football player not knowing the play before the ball is hiked. It’s a recipe for disaster.
2. Less Productive
If you’re stressed and anxious, you aren’t fully present. You aren’t able to focus clearly on the task at hand. Your mind wanders, thinking about what you need to do next and wondering if you’re missing anything.
This mindset makes it difficult to a) get things done and b) handle unforeseen challenges as they arise. You’re forced to adapt, prioritize, and schedule on the fly.
If you haven’t already set priorities for yourself (see #2 here) then it’s likely you won’t get important things done that day. Emails will bury you, meetings will derail you, and by the time you finally getting a handle on things, the day is almost over.
3. Less Effective
Considering the points above, the quality of your work will obviously suffer. You’ll feel rushed, discombobulated, and unable to provide your complete attention to your work.
Perhaps a more important point here is decision fatigue. By not planning and visualizing your day, you are forcing yourself to constantly make decisions throughout. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. As the day goes on this wears on you.
Mentally exhausted at the end of each day? That’s decision fatigue at work.
Although subtle when isolated, the impact of continually using your brain’s processing power for small decisions quickly adds up over the course of a day. Not planning ahead tremendously increases the number of these decisions you have to make.
You’re so tired from the mental energy exerted to go through that day that you say, “eh, I’ll deal with this tomorrow” and the cycle repeats itself.
Here’s What To Do
It’s clear not planning your day has negative impacts. Luckily this bad habit is an easy one to break. It requires two steps and less than 20 minutes a day.Here’s how…
STEP 1: Plan Your Day At Night.
Take 10–15 minutes and do the following:
- Look at today’s calendar. Take stock of what you did and note any needed follow ups for tomorrow.
- Look at tomorrow’s calendar. See what calls or meetings you already have on there.
- Look at your To-Do list. Refer to the “Post-It System” (#2 here) if you need help on this. See what your top three priorities are and block out time for them on your calendar.
I can’t tell you how important this is. One great benefit is a feeling of content as you finish your day. Reflecting on things you did and noting things that still need to be done provides a sense of closure. It becomes a ritual of sorts, signaling the day’s end.
A second benefit is that you feel more on top of your life and the important things you need to get done. Everything feels in order. You’re in control. Sure, unexpected challenges may pop up (they will) derailing your priorities — but you’ll be in a better position to handle and quickly adapt to it.
STEP 2: Stop. Breathe. Visualize.
Once you’ve planned out tomorrow, take a few minutes to visualize what your day will be like. Visualization is an incredibly powerful technique that is used by the highest performing people in the world. Try it.
Think about yourself waking up. About what your morning looks like. A morning routine is a great thing to have (a little more on mine, #3 here).
See yourself walking into that office, taking that call, crushing that meeting. Actually watch it happen as if it’s a show on Netflix.
Go through the entire day. Take a breath. And sign off.
You’ll go to bed calmer and wake up calmer. You’ll feel more confident and prepared as you start your day. And when that meeting comes up — why be nervous when you’ve already seen yourself crush it? It’s just the next thing on the list. An inevitability.
The day will be less stressful and you, as a result, will be more productive and effective. Getting the shit you need done — and well.
So go. Give it a try. Plan your day at night and report back. See what sort of impact it has on your life.