You often hear people talk about planning their day in the morning, but planning at the end of the day is much more effective, is a better stress reducer, AND allows you to have real down-time in the evenings and on weekends.
It’s really simple to do, but it takes commitment and discipline. Spending 10 minutes at the end of each workday to plan for the next day is a key habit that will allow you to both get the day and week started (because your tasks will already be prioritized properly) and to truly disconnect and recharge when you stop working for the evening or weekend.
If you’ve prioritized what you need to do for tomorrow, then you won’t be spinning out about it at home, or when you are trying to fall asleep. You will feel calm and collected because your tasks are out of your head and already prioritized. You will be able to be present for whatever you do when you are not at work.
So, how do we do it?
The first thing to do is to make sure to schedule planning time on your calendar, as it won’t happen if you leave it up to chance. Remember, work expands to fill the time allotted, so if you think “I’ll get to it at the end of the day” but don’t schedule it, it’s very unlikely to happen. Schedule 10-15 minutes of time on your calendar every day for end of day prep as a recurring appointment. So, if you typically leave the office at 6, then schedule this for 5:45. If you tend to leave the office as varying times, you can always drag the appointment around on your calendar as it makes sense.
When you get to your scheduled planning time, review your notes from the day and add them to your task-list.
Do a quick brain dump of any remaining tasks lingering in your head.
Re-prioritize any tasks that you didn’t get to today. Remember, just because you didn’t get to it today doesn’t mean that tomorrow is necessarily when they need to get done.
Check your calendar to make sure that what’s on the docket for tomorrow still works with the time you have allotted in your day. If you have 5 meetings tomorrow, you’re probably not going to be able to make much headway on that big project on your task list.
Then leave work with a clear head, ready to tackle your other responsibilities - or to just have fun!
When you spend 10 minutes reviewing your task-list and re-prioritizing for the next day, then when you start work again, you don't need to spend any time at all wondering what you should do first, or deciding what to work on; you've already prioritized. You can hit the ground running.
Alexis is a productivity, time-management and efficiency coach. She spent the first 15+ years of her career running operations and HR at several early-stage start-ups, where there was always way more to do than people to do it. But she also believes that work-life balance is essential for everyone, even though the definition may be different for everyone. Alexis' aim is to help you do all that you want to do, with less effort and less stress.