If you’ve spent any time on my site, you’ve probably noticed that I’m just a little bit obsessed with efficiency. It’s not that I’m lazy, I just have way more to get done in any given day than there are hours to do it in. That makes me like pretty much every other small business owner. I also find that mornings are the worst from a productivity perspective.
That’s why I love articles like this one.
Once you’ve incorporated these five steps to more productive mornings into your end-of-the-workday routine, you’re done! Your to-do list for tomorrow is ready to go. You can walk into work in the morning knowing exactly what you’re slated to work on and get started instead of spending precious time getting organized.
#1. Do a stand-up.
When: Three hours before the end of your day
A stand-up is an extremely short meeting that originated in engineering departments to ensure daily alignment among team members, but the process can be adapted to any job. I actually run two stand-ups a day, but only the afternoon stand-up will affect your day tomorrow. Every afternoon, ask yourself the following questions: What has to be finished today? What’s left that can be pushed to tomorrow? What should you pull from tomorrow’s list to today (only if you’ve completed today’s to-do items)? Check out this blog post for more information on incorporating stand-ups into your daily routine.
#2. Triage your to-do list for the rest of the day.
When: After your stand-up
After you’ve evaluated what can realistically be completed today and what needs to be pushed, adjust your to-do list. (Todoist, a free to-do list app that allows you to assign one of four priority levels to unfinished tasks, is incredibly helpful for me here.) Any item that’s non-essential can be turfed to later in the week or removed entirely, if you can delegate or forgo completing it.
#3. Review tomorrow’s calendar.
When: Two hours before the end of the day
On busy days, it’s natural to be completely focused on what you have to get done now. But checking your calendar a few hours before you intend to head out mitigates the possibility of forgetting about a commitment that requires prep work. If your prep is a large commitment (use your judgment on this one), start on it today. Otherwise, make a note to prep for your meetings first thing in the morning.
#4. Check your email drafts.
When: At the end of the day
It’s inevitable — at the end of the day, I’ll usually have at least one or two emails I started and abandoned halfway… then forgot about. Unless you need to write a magnum opus or a very lengthy recap email that requires more than 10 minutes of your attention, it’s a good idea to finish off these straggling emails so you don’t have to start tomorrow distracted by your inbox.
#5. Update tomorrow’s to-do list.
When: At the end of the day
When you’ve finished everything you need to for the day, take two minutes to review tomorrow’s to-do list. Ask yourself the following questions: Do tasks need to be completed in a certain order? What items do you absolutely need to finish tomorrow? (Rank these high priority.) What items can you tackle later in the week? (Rank these low priority.) Do certain items need to be completed by a certain time of day, and have you made note of this (instead of relying on your memory)?