The Importance of a Daily Productivity Routine
Most productive people will tell you that the key to their effectiveness comes through their daily productivity routine. There are hundreds of daily routine articles out there that run through different lists of things you should do each day from meditation and mindfulness to intermittent fasting to cold showers based on the breathing techniques of the “Iceman” Wim Hof. This isn’t to say that these techniques don’t work or that they aren’t effective in getting you started for the day, but rather to make the point that if you wait until the morning to decide what you’re going to be doing each day, you’re starting off the day at a disadvantage.
A while ago, I started a 5-minute daily routine that 10xed my productivity and it’s based off a simple principle — a 5-minute nightly time of reflection. Each night, I take 5 minutes to think about and reflect on the day. I try to look at the “wins” I’ve had throughout the day — these are things that I’ve done well based on the priorities that I had. I look at the “losses” I’ve had — these are the areas where I’ve blown it or didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. And I set my priorities for the next day — these are the top three things that I want to accomplish tomorrow.
I look at my wins to give me the confidence and encouragement that I was able to do what I set out to do. This makes me feel good and helps me to be optimistic about what I did that day. I also feel it is important to go to bed each night with at least one win under my belt. When I do that, I find that I feel a lot better about myself and what I’m doing in my life. A lot can go wrong and the world can seem to be falling apart, but if I can find one handhold, one “win” to grasp onto, it gives me hope for a better tomorrow when things might not be going so well.
I look at my losses to be realistic with myself. Sometimes if everything is going exceedingly well, I can get a false sense of reality. I can start to think that everything should and will go well in life and I forget that many times it doesn’t work that way. When I look at my losses each day I remind myself that (1) things don’t always go my way, (2) I haven’t arrived, and (3) I can continue to get better. This keeps me grounded in life and also helps me to recognize that I can and should strive for excellence. It reminds me to keep an attitude of “hard work” and commitment.
Finally, each night I set my priorities for the next day and here’s why doing this at night is preferable than waiting for the morning.
Why Nighttime is Preferable
First, the beginning of the day usually has enough troubles of its own. Things come up. People have issues that need to be addressed. The tyranny of the urgent begins to assert itself upon me and as someone said, plan your schedule or your schedule will plan you. If I wait until morning to try and find a time to prioritize my day and set my tasks and schedule, I usually find that the time to do that disappears in all of the chaos and busyness. Doing this at night avoids the urgency of things that happen at the start of the day and gives me the time I need to do what’s really important.
Second, I’m not a morning person and I don’t have the discipline to get up at 4 AM to have the quiet and solitude I need for effective prioritization. Evenings provide this opportunity for me better than mornings do. So at night, when everything has settled down, I find it easier to shut things off and have a time for reflection. As mentioned, I think about my “wins” and “losses” for the day and the next day’s prioritization seems to fit well with that type of reflection. Also, when I have the time and solitude to consider what’s important, I find that I prioritize better and I select the things that are important over the things that are urgent. No doubt you’ve seen this matrix:
Utilizing this, if I’m going to do what I need to do to get to where I want to go in life, I need to focus on the blue area – the area that’s important but not urgent. That’s usually where success lies and it’s the hardest part to address. Why? Since it’s not urgent, it easily takes a back seat. Prioritization means putting things in that category (important but not urgent) at the top of my list and the time of reflection I need to get that right happens at night.
Finally, when I do this at night, it does two things for my sleep. Having reflected on my wins and losses, I have a realistic and encouraging outlook on what I did that day and what I need to focus on for tomorrow. That reflection begins a relaxation process that prepares me for sleep. Second, knowing what I am going to do tomorrow helps me to filter out all the noise that would typically be plaguing my thoughts as I go to sleep. Selecting my three priorities for the next day allows me the space in my mind to know what’s important and what I’m going to do without overwhelming me with 25 things that “need” to be done. A good night’s sleep has been the most effective way to win tomorrow so making sure I’m in a good state at night is huge.
If you have had difficulty setting aside a time in the morning to prioritize and schedule your day, try taking 5 minutes at night and see if that works better for you. My routine is pretty simple because I don’t believe in making something so complex that it becomes impossible to accomplish. I would rather do something small on a consistent basis than to try and take on too much and fail. Small wins and little accomplishments consistently over time add up to big returns.
You can take a closer look at my routine in this article or if you want, download the free checklist.
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