To Make Tomorrow Great, Start It Today
Mornings are the most productive time for people--especially highly successful people. The best way to maximize your mornings is to spend an hour at the end of each day prepping for the start of the next. Here are the 7 steps that will help you do just that.
1. Write down the most important things you'll tackle
Make a list of three to five things that need to be done and start the next day by focusing only on those things. This is a great way to keep from feeling overwhelmed by all you have to do. If you don't accomplish a task on the list, it should become the most important task to be completed the following day.
2. Set a workday limit
Unless you're working on a big project or racing to meet a deadline, set a time limit for how late you will stay in the office--and stick to it! Overworking yourself at the end of the day will only lead to stress and exhaustion, so get the important things done early and be out of the office by a reasonable time. If you've got a project that's not finished, find a good stopping point and leave it for the next day. If you are focused and working hard throughout the day, you should be able to tackle your to-do list. If not, reevaluate your workload and determine whether some delegation may be in order.
3. Check-in with colleagues and employees
Discuss the good things and the bad things that occurred throughout the day, and how you can do more of the good (and less of the bad) in the future. Answer any questions employees might have, and confirm that everyone is on the same page regarding projects and deadlines.
4. Clear your space
Tidy up your desk, empty your trash, respond to all emails that require responses, delete your junk mail, organize your folders. These mundane tasks are best done as quitting time approaches, with your more important goals having already been met. Checking your inbox at the end of the day ensures that you aren't using email time as a way to procrastinate.
5. Reflect on the day
How did things go? Did you accomplish everything you set out to do? If not, what can you do differently tomorrow? Whether jotting down notes in a journal or simply making mental notes, when you are conscious of your actions you set yourself up for more success.
6. Leave your work at the office
After returning all calls and emails, feel free to turn your work phone off for the evening. It's important to make personal time for yourself in order to feel refreshed and ready to take on the next day.
7. Do something active!
Odds are good that your days are largely sedentary, so it's important for your physical and mental health to make time after work for exercise. Go for a brisk walk, take a workout class, ride a bike, but don't put it off! The longer you wait after work to get active, the less likely you are to actually follow through.
Following these steps should help you to feel more prepared for the next morning, which will lead to less stress and anxiety at home, which is another great reason to end one day with a solid plan for the next.
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While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.