A Productive Day Starts The Night Before – Set Yourself Up For A Successful Morning
One of the biggest shifts in my productivity, personally and professionally, started after I altered parts of my daily routine. The first step was waking up earlier. Then, the next discovery that paid immediate dividends was finding out that a productive day starts the night before.
In my post Waking Up 5AM Changed My Life I share details on how getting up earlier compounded benefits across my financial situation, career, fitness and general wellbeing.
One area of that post that generated a handful of questions and comments was the routine I was doing the night before.
Which is fitting because these mornings have only become so beneficial because I’ve set myself up for success the night before. Through trial and error, I’ve developed a routine to ensure I can most effectively and efficiently take advantage of that 5AM – 8AM window.
The 5 main areas of my productive nightly routine focus on:
- Organizing For Productivity
- Reflecting On The Day
- Planning For A Productive Tomorrow
- No Screens & Reading
- Getting Enough Sleep
No two situations are the same and so many variables may not make this feasible in your own life. For example, I have no children, walk to and from work everyday and have always been a morning person.
Below is the system that has worked for me.
Initial Shift To Waking Up At 5AM To Increase Productivity
As I alluded to in my waking up at 5AM post, I’d slipped into an unproductive habit a few years prior. My alarm in the morning was being pushed later and later.
I was rushing off to work having accomplished nothing in the morning. By the time I returned home after a busy, often stressful day at the office, my energy level was low and I’d either skip or put in a pathetic workout. Any thoughts of side hustling, starting a side business or exploring new opportunities was lost.
Long-story short, the trajectory in many facets of my life was heading the wrong way.
Thanks to Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week and interviews I’d seen around that time with successful entrepreneurs, executives and industry leaders, I decided to wake up at 5AM. The Huffington Post shared an article highlighting when successful people wake up and the routines that have helped their lives.
There seemed to be a consistent mindset from these individuals…
Win the morning, win the day.
That first 5AM alarm went off approx. 28 months ago and has remained locked to that time for 97% of the days since.
A Productive Day Starts The Night Before – 5 Tips From My Routine
Time is a finite resource and we are each only given so many days, hours, minutes and seconds to achieve our goals.
I’ve always been a morning person. Some of you might be better suited to being night owls. Again, no two situations are the same. I’ve found that I’m most productive in the mornings (outside of my downward trajectory period).
Therefore, I’m looking to use that time most effectively on 3 specific areas. Those focus points are: fitness, side hustling (blog and freelance digital marketing) and preparing for work.
To read about what I’m doing with those 3 focuses in more detail, check out the waking up at 5AM article. This post will concentrate on the night before and that routine. More specifically, the 5 areas that I concentrate on to best prepare for a productive morning.
The goal for me then is that when I wake up I’ve set myself up for the most success possible.
1.) Organizing For Productivity
This stage of the night before routine can be nailed down to: clean, lay out and prepare.
The objective is to complete or set up any of the tactical, administrative and cumbersome tasks the night before so I can leverage those most productive morning hours on what matters most.
I’ve looked to organize for productivity the night before by focusing on removing any morning distractions from my:
These might sound trivial but my morning mind can remove these worries and spend the energy elsewhere. After getting out of bed I can immediately get started on my bigger goals by accomplishing these 3 things the night before.
Preparing Food To Help Morning Productivity
I bring my own lunch to work 95% of the time (generally 19 out of 20 days over 4 weeks). On Sunday, I will bulk cook meals to cover Monday – Wednesday. Then on Wednesday night, I do the same to cover Thursday – Saturday.
Each night I package up my lunch for the next day so that the only thing I need to do in the morning is grab it from the fridge.
For my morning food and drink needs, every night I will organize my pre-workout snack and arrange my breakfast items to the front of the fridge or cupboard. Plus I get everything to make coffee out and set it beside the machine.
Everything I could possibly need for the morning is now prepared and ready. All I have to do is turn on the coffee machine and pull out the food. I’ve written about bulk cooking and getting the best bang for your buck with food in this 13 Easy Ways To Save Money On Groceries post.
Dishes Clear For A Clear Mind
This was something my Mom instilled in me. She used to say something along the lines of “a dirty dish in the sink is a slippery slope”.
It might’ve been a ploy to get me to always clean up after myself. However, what she really meant was having the mindset of “I’ll do it later” was a slippery slope. Outside of dishes, that way of thinking can have a compounding negative effect.
Therefore, each and every night the sink is empty. The counter is clear outside of my coffee mug and water bottle.
Clothes Ready For A Productive Morning
The final cumbersome task of setting myself up for a productive morning is clothing. More specifically, getting the clothes out needed the next day’s workout and time at the office.
These are hung and laid out every night.
Again, I’m most productive in the morning so the goal here is to alleviate any trivial tasks as best possible. I can wake up to immediately put on my workout gear and again get changed for work after showering without putting thought on what to wear, finding items, etc..
I want to run on autopilot when it comes to smaller decisions so I can put the majority of focus on those fitness, side hustle and work prep priorities.
2.) Reflecting On The Day
Each night as I’m winding down I take time to reflect on the day that was. This generally occurs after the trivial prep tasks above are done.
What went well? Was there any personal or professional wins to celebrate? Did anything not go as planned? Is there something I did wrong to cause that?
Reflecting back on these crazy, busy and fast-paced days helps me reset and re-engage with what I did (or didn’t do). Sometimes, the takeaways aren’t going to profoundly impact anything. Other times, this process gives me a clear picture on bettering my life, money, career and relationships.
I spend 5-10 minutes penning these down in a mole skin journal.
Journaling – Reflection For Productivity
I definitely wasn’t always someone who wrote in a journal or spent anytime on self-reflection. Similar to the reason I shifted to waking up at 5am, I was hearing so many successful and interesting people mention it as part of their nightly process.
I decided to give it a try. And it’s definitely helped over the last 2+ years.
The Huffington Post touches on 10 Surprising Benefits You’ll Get From Keeping A Journal.
The journaling process I do every night has definitely helped with #2, #3, #6 and #10 from that list. Asking myself about the wins and losses from the day has increased my mindfulness and self-discipline.
In turn, that leads into goal setting and planning.
3.) Planning For A Productive Tomorrow
The next step is laying the groundwork for what I want to accomplish the next day. The wins and losses from the journaling step 1 above often help develop these goals and priorities.
Knowing I have this 5AM – 8AM window before work to concentrate with limited distractions, I want to ensure I know what I’m actually trying to do.
The goals and priorities focus on the 3 areas to my productive morning I mentioned before:
- Side Hustle
Planning for a productive tomorrow has really helped me take ownership and spike commitment to what I want to achieve. However, writing these down the night before had also made my mornings more streamlined as I know what I’m looking to focus on from the moment I wake up.
This is accomplished through my journal again and the app Todoist.
Journaling – Goals & Priorities
The next section in my mole skin journal after the daily reflections section is the goals and priorities for the next day.
I will write out a fitness plan for the next morning. I’ve been doing this long enough now that my different routines are ingrained in my head. But the act of writing it out really reinforces that commitment and accountability.
Next up is the side hustle and blogging goals and priorities for the next morning. Since starting this blog I’ve shifted my freelance digital marketing hours to 50% of what they used to be. I now spend approx. 1 hour working on each in the morning after the workout, shower and breakfast.
Finally, I will make note of any meetings, projects, upcoming deadlines or key details on the schedule or priority list for my work. Again, this is to help set myself up for success the next day by actively planning and thinking about the coming day.
Todoist – Check Lists For A Productive Day
After making note of these fitness, side hustle and work goals and priorities by hand, I create some quick Todoist checklists in my phone.
Todoist is the amazing app and web platform for organizing, planning, setting reminders and staying on track.
The whole goal here is peaking that accountability, commitment and discipline to my biggest goals and priorities. It’s also very fulfilling to “check off” items on your to-do list on Todoist.
Medium has a great feature on mastering Todoist so you can best use the app.
4.) No Screens & Reading
Given my brand marketing career in a dynamic always-changing industry, side hustle digital marketing projects and running this blog, I often don’t hold up my end of the bargain with the ‘no screen’ rule.
However, a goal of mine is to continually limit my screen time before bed. I noted having a full 24-hour digital detox as one of the items on the 30 small wins challenge.
It’s safe to say, I’m trying to cut screen time at a minimum of 30 minutes before lights out.
In place of screens, I’ve been picking up books.
Lifehack notes these 6 benefits of reading before bed:
- Sleep better
- Reduce stress
- Become more creative
- Improve concentration
- Increase empathy
- Create serenity and peace
Adding more reading to my routine before bed in place of screens has definitely helped set myself up for a successful morning. It’s another key element of the idea behind a productive day starts the night before.
5.) Getting Enough Sleep To Drive A Productive Morning
When I first started waking up at 5AM I was sleeping 6 to 6.5 hours. After 9 months of that I knew I needed to get closer to 7 hours consistently.
Recently the goal is to be lights out and falling asleep at 10PM or earlier. However, this is currently another shortfall that I’m actively looking to improve my consistency with.
I notice the difference in productivity even on the days I get 7 hours 15 minutes versus 6 hours 45 minutes. To avoid burn out and remain productive I need to ensure I’m getting enough sleep.
The Mayo Clinic notes 7 to 9 hours for adults is the target range but also mentions the quality of sleep is just as important.
Some strategies that have “seemed” to be increasing the quality of my sleep are:
- The shift of screens to books as noted above
- Drinking 2 cups of water before bed
- Using flux on my computer
- Eating dinner earlier
- Developing a consistent schedule and routine
My goal for the rest of 2018 is to consistently hit that 7 hour mark and keep the sleep quality high. Continuing to ensure I get enough sleep will make my routine even more beneficial and help me best create a productive morning.
In Closing…A Productive Day Starts The Night Before
As I mentioned earlier, no two situations are the same. What is feasible and beneficial for my life, may not totally be applicable to your lifestyle and living situation.
There are countless strategies, resources and tricks that can increase productivity.
Personally, my goal is to leverage the morning as an opportunity to better reach my goals – financially, creatively, physically and so on. In recent years, setting myself up for a successful morning has made major momentum by building out the system above.
The framework of my routine around a productive day starts the night before is:
- Organizing For Productivity
- Reflecting On The Day
- Planning For A Productive Tomorrow
- No Screens & Reading
- Getting Enough Sleep
Are you a morning person and use that time to support your priorities?
Are there any productivity strategies you use to better set yourself up for success?
Let me know in the comments below.
Here are some other posts to help you take control of your money and life:
- The Personal Finance Resources And Content That Saved My Life
- 15 Smart Money Moves You Can (Easily) Make This Month
- Best Personal Finance Podcasts – 30+ Money, Investing And Side Hustle Shows
- Building Good Money Habits – Make Your Own Money Momentum
- 35+ Rewarding Side Hustles Anyone Can Do To Earn More Money
- 25 Books On Personal And Professional Development