Five minutes in the evening can save you hours in the morning
One of the tools in my productivity toolbox is the simple practice of writing down my priorities for the following day each night before I “clock out.” I usually aim to spend five minutes identifying five priorities.
My brain, I’ve learned, is wired with an inherent need to always be prioritizing and optimizing, so writing down my priorities comes to me quite naturally. But on the days that I forget to complete this simple task, its value is revealed. During the following day, I invariably look up at around 2PM and realize that I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I would have hoped. Then, I remember that I didn’t create that little priorities list the night before, and it all makes sense.
Why is this exercise so important? Because it’s a shortcut to a flow state. Plenty of people smarter than I have written about flow states, so I won’t go into that here, but basically, this little list lets you get right back into the thick of things wherever you left off the previous day. The alternative is to spend the precious first part of your day, when your brain is likely at its most creative and productive, trying to remember the previous day’s tasks and making decisions about their importance.
Although decision-making is not what you should be doing first thing, it makes perfect sense in the evening. You still have some momentum from the day’s work, so your ideas for tomorrow are right at the surface, making it much easier to chart a course. This leaves no room for your brain to get sidetracked in the morning—just look at your list, and get to work on item #1.
Prioritization is extra important right now. During normal times, motivation can be... a challenge for self-employed people. During a pandemic, when we can no longer go to our focus zones—coworking spaces, local coffee shops, libraries? The struggle, as they say, is real. No matter what you do to your home office, working from home presents more distractions and diversions than your normal workspace, wherever it may be.
So try this evening prioritization ritual. Counteracting at least some of our lost productivity is possible with a little list numbered 1 through 5.