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What You Can Do Every Night To Make A More Productive Tomorrow

What You Can Do Every Night To Make A More Productive Tomorrow
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We’re used to living life in segments: 24 hour days, 7 day weeks, 365 day years. Work, play, sleep. Morning, afternoon, night.

The way we segment our lives determines the activities that we select to do throughout the day. To be more productive, try on this new frame of mind. Instead, imagine life as a continuous flow where each moment follows into the next in one non-stop sequence from beginning to end. If you’re wondering what you can do differently to be more productive tomorrow consider these 7 suggestions.

Be grateful

No matter where you are in time and how things are going, there is always something to be grateful for. Find it and give thanks. Write it in your journal or on the notes app of your phone. If you are hard-pressed, be grateful for your ability to read this line. Not everyone can read and not everyone can see.

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Assess progress towards your long-term goal

It’s easy to get stuck in the minutiae of execution and lose sight of whether or not what you’re accomplishing every day really matters. Think about where you want to be long-term and look at how you spent your time for the day. How much time was dedicated to activities that will help you move towards your dreams?

If you’re not satisfied with that number, do something about it. If you have no idea where you’re spending your time, consider a time-logging app.

Create a list of 3 tasks you’ll finish tomorrow

Now that you’ve thought about your long-term goals and the associated tasks, create a list of 3 tasks that you can and want to accomplish tomorrow. Be clear about when and where you’ll accomplish these 3 tasks. If you use a calendar, make sure you schedule time on your calendar to work on them. Don’t add any new tasks until you finish 2 of the 3 on your list.

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Visualize a successful tomorrow

For the most part, you can predict quite accurately what tomorrow will look like. The meetings you have scheduled, the activities you have planned and the people you will see. Take time and imagine what a perfect tomorrow will look like from the moment you wake up until you go back to bed. Watch yourself accomplishing those 3 tasks that you’ve selected for the day and include bonus highlights. Maybe you catch your train, impress your client, or enjoy a great conversation with your good friend. Pick whatever you want it to achieve and believe.

Remember that mental rehearsal is not about fantasizing. Choose what the realistic ideal will look like. You might be surprised at how close you come to what you rehearse.

Make as many decisions about tomorrow as possible

Choose what you’ll wear and eat, along with any anything else you need to decide tomorrow the night before. This will free up your brain and help preserve your willpower for the more consequential decisions tomorrow. With more brain capacity and better decision making, you’ll see your productivity and energy rise.

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Write the first two lines

As an extension to front-loading your decision-making, set yourself up for success by starting the activity you plan to do tomorrow. If you’re a writer, write the first two lines of the article you plan to finish tomorrow. If you’re a parent, put the laundry you plan to wash in the washer. If you’re a doctor, lay out the files for the first two patients you plan to see. You get the point.

The hardest part of completing an activity is the start. If you can get that out of the way, you’re likelihood to actually finish the task when you decide to tackle it is high.

Sleep 8+ hours

There is no better productivity booster than sleep. When you get enough sleep, you can better focus on your plan for the day because you’ll have more self-control. Not only will you get more of the right things done, you’ll also notice your interactions with other people to be easier going. This is hard for those of you who do a lot. My advice is to see adequate sleep as one of your most important tasks to accomplish every day. Make it a priority.

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What routines or actions do you take the night before to set yourself up for a productive tomorrow?

Featured photo credit: Bed Time by VirtualWolf via flickr.com

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Robert Chen

Executive Coach

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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