You go to bed with great intentions: Get up early, hit the gym, arrive at work ready to tackle that tough assignment.

But even if you jump out of bed as soon as the alarm rings, you encounter obstacles right away. You spend too much time figuring out what to wear. Your oatmeal takes forever to make. You brought work home, so you have to repack your bag with files, laptop, charger and everything else. And where the heck did you put your car keys?

The result? You start your day with a snarl instead of a smile. And instead of being super productive, feel like you're playing catch up right from the start.

That's why productivity experts advise that the best way to start your day is to kick it off the night before. Whether you're a morning person or a night owl, evening is the best time to prepare for a great day tomorrow.

Here are four ways to do so:

1. Stage-manage your entrance. In theatre, "stage-manage" means arranging for a certain effect or impact. Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email in the Morning, suggests that you have all your "props" staged the night before so you have everything set to go. That means: You've prepped breakfast and made (and packed) your lunch. You've chosen what you're going to wear and laid out all the pieces. Bags--gym and work--are filled and positioned near the door. As a result, you don't have to spend any time or effort organizing, and in the morning you're serene and prepared.

2. Plan your attack. Craig Jarrow, creator and author of Time Management Ninja, advises that you should "use your calendar to look into the future. When you do your planning, don't only look at today; look a week or even a month forward. This gives you the opportunity to prepare or adapt calendar activities before they're upon you."

3. Manage your mind. One key ingredient of a productive day is a good night's sleep. So one worrier I know make a list every night of every tough problem she faces tomorrow. Then she puts the list in their work bag and zips the bag closed. The idea? To shut away all the problems she'd ordinarily obsess about overnight. As a result, she decreases anxiety dreams--like when you have a big test tomorrow and haven't studied--and sleeps more peacefully.

4. Psych yourself up for success. Chris Palermo, an employee engagement consultant who is currently job-hunting, believes that night-before preparation puts yourself in a positive mindset that leads to success. In fact, Palermo believes that your night-before preparation should ideally start on Sunday evening for the week.

"It's not uncommon to hear people lament Sundays as the end of the weekend," writes Chris. "But I look forward to the coming week; because I'm always absolutely convinced my next opportunity is right within reach. I typically do a quick run-through of my 'job boards' on Sunday night--and begin setting up my plan for the week: which jobs I'll apply to, which people I'll be emailing, with whom I need to follow up and which conversations I hope to have.

"It's easy to get jazzed up and anticipative as I read each description and envision myself in that company. Each week, I can easily see my week's activities culminating in a Thursday where three companies are fighting over me. A positive attitude is vital in this journey. And that's why I don't dread Sunday nights--because each Monday morning I get to get up and embark on the plan I've set up; the one that introduces me to my new employer!"

Want to be productive tomorrow? Start tonight.

Published on: Feb 15, 2018