Do you have problems staying productive during the work day? Do you ever run out of things on your to do list? Do you lose direction half way through your day?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, I am willing to bet that you either don’t write a to do list or if you do, it happens after you arrive at work in the morning. You think that you can plan out your day when you arrive in the morning and go from there.
Unfortunately, I do not think that is an effective way to start your day.
Writing a to do list after you get to work does a few negative things:
- It takes away from time that could be spent being productive on a project or clearing out your inbox.
- It assumes that you won’t get interrupted while writing the list.
- As soon as you step in the office you lose your clarity of vision for the day because things start flying in – emails, memos, people stopping by your desk, etc.
If you want to get the most out of your day, then you need to prepare in advance. My most productive days are the ones where I sit down the night before and write a to do list for the next day. You have some time to relax after work, unwind, and relax. Once that’s done you can clearly focus on what it is that needs to get done the next day, what things you need to absolutely do, people you need to talk with, or errands you have to run.
I have found this strategy to be so successful that I’ve started preparing my lunch the night before. It allows me to be ready to go in the morning and not waste time in a fog of sleepiness. Same with my gym bag. I make sure my laundry is done and my bag is packed and ready to go. If I don’t, I will definitely forget something important (like a shirt!) and be frustrated when I arrive at the gym and don’t have what I need.
The same principles apply to your job. Is there some reading you need to do tonight to prepare you for tomorrow? Need to do some research? Practice for a presentation? Write down some phone numbers to call? Don’t plan. Prepare. Do stuff to be ready to go tomorrow. It makes a tremendous difference.
I am completely guilty of not doing this consistently enough, but I am working to build the habit because I have seen the effectiveness of being prepared for a new day. My challenge to you is try this on Sunday night. Write down your work to do list for Monday. If you are unsure of how many things to put on your plate, err on the side of overloading your day. It is far better to have too much to do than not enough.
If you work out before or after work then prep your gym bag before you go to bed on Sunday. Make your lunch and put it in the fridge. Give yourself an advantage, especially going in to one of the most dreaded days of the week…Monday.
Try it out and let me know if you notice a difference in your productivity levels in the comments!