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Want to know how to have a more productive day tomorrow?


How was your day?

Are you happy with it? Was it everything that you thought it could be?

I’m not talking about “oh, I had such a bad day today”.  Those only last 24 hours.  Then everything resets and we get another shot at having a great day.

I’m talking about getting stuff done. About making sure that you have a more productive day tomorrow than you did today.

Why We Don’t Get Stuff Done

The problem is that most people don’t have a plan for what they need to accomplish.  It’s like they set off on a cross-country trip without planning a route.  Or booking hotels in advance.  Or buying Mountain Dew.

(craaazyyy!)

Preparation is Key

If you’re like me, there’s a good chance you have amazing hair.

And an even better chance that you didn’t get everything done that you needed to today.

In fact, maybe you:

  • didn’t do anything you set out to do
  • have no idea what you actually did
  • used to have a to-do list but it only made you feel worse
  • feel a sense of dread about tomorrow because at the end of the day you realize all the things you didn’t do today will be waiting for you in the morning
  • ugh

I used to be stuck in that rut.

I’d hit the office going full steam, right into a detour sign.

I found myself getting farther and farther away from the things that I wanted to do.  Farther away from the things that I felt were important. And closer to being completely frustrated because I felt like my time, and therefore my life, was out of my control.

Get Ready for Tomorrow Today

But I finally stumbled on a little system that helps me make the most of every day. And it’s the things I do the day before that help me do that.

It’s the things you do today that make sure you have a more productive day tomorrow.

The key to having a more productive day is being prepared a day early. Start getting ready for tomorrow today.

1. Do a Brain Dump

Ever wake up in the middle of the night with “monkey brain”?  WIth your thoughts jumping from tree to tree screaming for your attention.

That used to happen to me all the time.  I’d wake up with a thousand thoughts running through my brain.  Most of them had nothing to do with what I knew I really needed to get accomplished the next day, but I couldn’t shut them up!

It’s quite amazing that your head has the ability to keep track of every single thing that you need to do.  It’s quite annoying that it reminds you of them at 2:00 am.

The key to having a quiet mind, which is an essential part of setting the stage for a more productive day tomorrow, is to empty it.

Find a sheet of paper, a notepad or a notepad.exe.  Take 5 to 10 minutes and just write out every single thing that you need to get done.  Make the ultimate to-do list.

Don’t worry about how you’re going to get them all done and don’t get wrapped up in how many things you write. Or spelling. Ogrammarer.  Just write.

**You might want to set a timer for that, because the first few times you do this, it’s gonna seem to go on forever.

Why it works:

When you transfer your to-do list from your head to another medium, be it paper or computer, your brain knows that all that information exists somewhere else.  So it doesn’t have to keep reminding you of it.

2. Pick Your Top Three

I hope the brain dump didn’t make your head so empty that you can’t remember why you started reading this.

Isn’t it nice to have identified all those crazy things?

Here’s the good news… you don’t have to do all those things!  Well, not tomorrow anyway.

In fact, right now all you have to do is identify 3 of them as the most important.

As you wrote out all the things you need to get done, a few of them probably stuck in your mind a little bit as “oh I really need to do that“.

Well, narrow that down to the top three and highlight/circle/underline/bold those.

Time for Some Action

Now get a different sheet of paper and write those top 3 things down.  This time as action items.

Don’t just say “call Tom“.  Write out an action and a reason, and even a desired result if you can. “Call Tom re: closing out the Tompkins account. Get approval“.

If any of those are things that you can’t do tomorrow, you need to break them down into smaller chunks until the tasks are something that you reasonably could do.  We’re going for small wins here.

Why it works:
  • You can do three things.
  • By choosing the most important, you are not only setting some priorities for those tasks, you are telling your brain that you know what’s important.
  • By using action statements, you are clarifying what needs to be done and how you expect it to turn out.

Nothing breeds success like success itself.

Even finishing just one will make you feel like you got stuff done!

Knocking out those three most important things will make you feel like you had a great day, and you just might get other things done too!

3. Visualize Your Day

What would your day look like tomorrow if you accomplished those 3 most important things?

What would it look like if you had an even more productive day tomorrow??

Take a few minutes to think about how tomorrow would look if it would go exactly as you want it to.  Close your eyes and think about your perfect tomorrow from start to finish.

Okay.  Get off the beach and get back to where you’re really going to be tomorrow. Unless you’re really going to be on the beach.  And then why are are you here?

Take a lesson from some of the most accomplished people in the world and see yourself having a more productive tomorrow.  This technique is used by a plethora of successful people including Jim Carrey, Oprah Winfrey, and Jack Nicklaus.

Picture yourself:

  • getting out of bed after a good night’s sleep
  • having a healthy breakfast
  • engaging in a morning routine that makes you feel refreshed and aware (yoga, meditation, a nice long hot shower)
  • an easy commute (even if it’s just to the living room or Starbucks)
  • knocking out those 3 most important tasks
  • having great interactions with friends and coworkers
  • getting home feeling like you actually got stuff done
Don’t you feel better just thinking about it?
Why it works:
  • visualization activates our creative subconscious which starts thinking about ways to make what we pictured happen
  • it programs our brain to start gathering the things we will need to succeed in making the visualization come to fruition
  • it activates the law of attraction, which starts bringing the people, resources, and circumstances needed to achieve our goals

4. Lay it All Out

Ever spend 15 minutes in the closet trying to decide what to wear?

That’s not a great start to having a more productive day.

Take a tip from other successful people and decide tonight what you’re going to wear tomorrow.

Some celebrities have taken this to what I’d say is practically a genius level; they wear the same thing every day.

  • Mark Zuckerburg wears a grey t-shirt, occasionally accented by a black hoodie.  Except when he testifies in front of Congress, of course.
  • Simon Cowell has a closet full of comfy t-shirts and jeans.
  • Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers every day.  The same outfit Astin Kutcher wore when portraying him in the movie!

Why did they do that?

Why it works:

By choosing a standard outfit, they eliminated one decision from a world filled with decisions that need to be made.

I’m not suggesting that you wear the same thing every day.  But if you decide tonight what you are going to wear tomorrow, that’s one less time-waster you’ll have in the morning.  And that’s a great start to the day.

Bonus tip: get your outfit ready and in the front of your closet.  Make it easy to stick with that decision by not having to wade through other outfits to get to the one you selected

Feel like you're falling behind? Take these simple steps today to have a much more productive day tomorrow!

5. Get Your… Stuff… Together

Has this ever happened to you?

You head out the door on your way to work and realize you:

  • don’t have your wallet
  • forgot your sunglasses
  • left your lunch in the fridge
  • don’t have your laptop/tablet
  • left the presentation for the Tompkins account on the kitchen counter
  • need to buy lunch because yours is still in the fridge
AArgh!!!

That is not the way to start a productive day!

It all could have been avoided by putting all those things you’ll need tomorrow in one spot.  I suggest you put them by whatever exit door you use to head off to work.

  • Electronics
  • Accessories
  • Keys
  • Sunglasses
  • Wallet
  • Access Badge
  • Food
    Okay, don’t leave this out with everything else.  But pack whatever your lunch is into your lunch-box/pail/Fry’s grocery bag and put it in the fridge.
Why it works:

If you have everything in one easy to access location, and you do that every day, you won’t waste time searching for anything in the morning.

Having all your essentials laid out tonight will mean a more productive day tomorrow.

An easy start to the day leads to an easy finish to the day.

6. Be Grateful

To some people practicing gratitude seems kinda hokey.  Remembering the things you’re grateful for can sometimes seem like a waste of time. When you have so much else to do, who has the bandwidth to sit and think about what you’re thankful for.

But if you think it can’t make a difference in your day consider this:

Drs. Blaire and Rita Justice reported for the University of Texas Health Science Center that “a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.”

The way you think affects not just the way you feel, but it affects you physically as well.  Wow!

Keep a Gratitude Journal

It’s a good practice to take just a few minutes each day to write down how your day went, especially the things that went well, and what you would like to see happen tomorrow.

Having a gratitude journal on your nightstand to remind you to capture those thoughts is a great idea.

If you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness.

But it doesn’t have to be a journal, per se.

Remember when you wrote down those top 3 things you need to do tomorrow?  Why not take a minute and write down 3 things that happened today that made you happy.

You’ll find your frame of mind is much calmer, and that will help you relax and get better sleep tonight, which will lead to a much more productive day tomorrow.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Why it works:

Reminding ourselves of all the good things we have in life puts us in a better mood, in a better frame of mind. It also provides a significant boost to our happiness, which helps us feel more like getting stuff done.

7. Get Better Sleep

And the last thing before you get up and have a more productive day tomorrow is to have a good night’s sleep.

If you’re batteries aren’t recharged, you’re just not going to perform at your best.

I’m not suggesting that you need to get more sleep, I’m saying you probably need better sleep.

A study done by UCSD in 2010 suggests that the secret to a long, more productive life lies in getting just the right amount of sleep, which for most people is 6.5 hours.  That ain’t me, btw.

It’s much better to get a good 6 hours of sleep than a lousy 8.  Think back to the last time you tossed and turned all night… how productive were you the next day?

But you’ll do better getting less sleep that’s good than more sleep that’s bad.  In fact, getting too much sleep can be just as bad as not enough.

Quality vs Quantity

Much more important than the amount of sleep is the quality of sleep.

Here are a few things that will help you sleep like a log to have a more productive day tomorrow:

  • sleep on a mattress that is right for you
  • make the room a little chilly
  • use a sound machine to cut out external distractions
  • avoid electronics for 30 minutes before sleeping
  • have a calm mind
    • meditate
    • brain dump
    • prepare for tomorrow

Are You Ready?

If you’ve done everything on this list to prepare for tomorrow, then you should be really proud of yourself.  Look how much you accomplished today.

And you’re probably about ready to put on your jammies and get in bed.  (don’t forget to brush your teeth!)

Here’s to a more productive day tomorrow!

If you’ve tried out these tips and they work for you, let me know in the comments below!

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Often referred to as “that long-haired computer guy”, Dee Hathaway is a government technology leader with a passion for helping people do things better and a goal of always having the newest cell phone available. His first book Here's What Let's Do: Stop Being Average and Start Being Awesome was an Amazon #1 bestseller.
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