Why My Most Productive Days Begin The Night Before
And a simple 10 step process you can use to set up your day and get focused
Rewind to about December 2018 and you’d find a really lost, scared, and scattered Chirag. I just let myself wake up every morning, go along with the movement of my day, create endless to-dos, and practically end every night with regret that I got almost nothing substantial done. Not only was I not being productive but I was also constantly repeating the same mistakes over and over. I’d overeat, skip workouts, chase the wrong people, get hurt, stay up late, party too much, etc. In simple terms, I wasn’t growing as a person.
One day, I found a list of goals I had written out months early and realized that almost nothing on that list had been completed. I was shocked. So, I decided enough was enough and that it was time to get serious. I did a bunch of research and found that one of the easiest ways to really make your days meaningful is to simply plan them the night before. This way, when you wake up, you’re no longer scrambling around. Instead, you wake up with a sense of control and purpose in your day. It started as simple as just making my daily calendar in Google Calendar the night before. Since then, it’s evolved into what I call the 10-step Daily Board.
Every night before going to bed, I take about 10–15 minutes to grab my journal and map out the following diagram:
Now, here’s what happens at night:
1. Daily Quote
For me, quotes are some of the greatest ways to learn big lessons in small packages from some of the greatest minds of history. It’s quite frankly the closest we’ll ever come to have a conversation with the likes of Einstein, Plato, etc. So I always start my Day Boards with some inspirational/insightful quote that I hope will capture the tone of the day of the next day. Sort of a motivation message from current me to future me. For example, my favorite quote comes from writer Emily Dickinson, “find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy itself”. The day I wrote this quote, I found myself reading it throughout the day every time I was stressed and it reminded me to keep smiling.
2. Monthly Objective
Whether this is a yearly goal, quarterly, or monthly, it’s completely up to you to experiment. I choose a month, but the idea for this section is to remind you that a month, while it may seem like a lot of time, is simply a collection of days. For me, this adds a purpose to my day. It encourages me not to waste the day because I know the monthly goal is important. On days that I might feel hopeless or feel like my to-dos are “boring”, the monthly goal reminds me that a marathon is just a series of steps taken one after the other.
3. Daily Objectives
Many studies have found that our society tends to work best with 3–5, preferably 3, tasks for the day. These are the powerful 3 tasks that will move you forward to getting closer to the important monthly goal. I’m guilty of not being able to limit myself to 3 so I put a hard stop at 6. You’ll quickly figure out how many things you can really get done so feel free to adjust that number.
Remember, a 100 point list will seem impossible and the act of writing is procrastination itself. Pick a number from 3–6 and stick to it. Force yourself to truly prioritize what is important to your day.
Let’s face it, we can’t survive in a vacuum and despite wanting to work on our passions, life does demand certain things. This section helps me jot down my small errands but reminds me that my errands are not necessary progress in my goals or projects. A busy day isn’t necessarily a productive day.
5. Health and Fitness
This section tends to vary depending on the workout schedule I have but it always contains a tracker for glasses of water. I used to forget to drink water all day but having the tracker helps because the feeling of filling in a box helps. Plus, if I leave the section empty, it bothers me.
1–5 are to be set up the night before. I used to really struggle to set up a night routine because I would always be scrambling to figure out what to do and things like parties or late-night studying would leave me exhausted to the point where I would just push it off. Since creating the Day Board method, it’s become much easier because
- I know that I only need to answer these 5 sections — It’s concise, finite, and effective so I can get it done.
- I know that spending the 10 mins every night will make my mornings so much easier and I know I’ll feel more control over my day
Now, here’s what happens in the morning:
6. Morning Thoughts
Studies have proven that our brains use our sleep to help process information from the day which is why people might wake up with ideas. The goal of this section is to capture anything I may have missed last night.
7. Today’s Wins
Studies show that our brains tend to focus on pain/loss more vividly than happiness/wins. So, to combat this, this section allows me to capture the small wins of the day:
- Helps me keep track of the good things
- On my down days, I can flip through the past few days and remind myself of the wins
8. Today’s Lessons
Failure’s inevitable, not every idea will and should succeed. However, I’ve been trying to adopt a “NO-LOSS” mentality. I don’t lose, I either win or I learn a lesson which will bring me closer to a win in the future. This section is to capture those lessons and tips to my future self.
9. Today’s Thoughts
This is my free-space to think, jot down ideas, doodle, etc. There’s something about writing on paper that stimulates my mind more than simply typing or writing on my phone.
10. The Bubble
This is hands down my favorite part. At the end of the day, right before I start the Day Board for the next day, I take 5 minutes to reflect over everything on the paper. To truly mark an end to my day, I put a check in the bubble. The simple check signifies that I did all that I could day and it’s a commitment that I will strive to be atleast 1% better tomorrow.
Well, that’s my 10 step Day Board and I can honestly say that it has been a master tool in changing my life for the better. Remember, what works for me may not work perfectly for you. So, pick and choose what you like and JUST GET STARTED. The most important thing in the beginning isn’t what you do but rather the fact that you’ve started.
Let me know if you have any questions or ideas! Also, what’s your favorite method to plan your day? Let me know below!!