How to make life easier for your future self

Have you heard the saying, An ideal day starts the night before?

In her book Bright Line Eating, Dr Susan Peirce Thompson states:

“In many religions, such as Judaism and the Baha’i faith, the next day is thought to begin not at midnight but at sunset … Your success on Day 1 is going to depend heavily on your preparations the evening before”.

So over the last few weeks, I’ve been getting a head start on each day by doing a little prep work the night before. Nothing too strenuous. Just a few tiny tasks.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling through my phone in the evening, I knock off a few tiny tasks that take less than 2 minutes to do before going to bed.

Some of the tiny tasks include:

1. Setting up and tidying my workspace

When my space is clutter free, it’s so much easier for me to start the day in a positive and focused frame of mind.

2. Preparing my breakfast

I put all my smoothie ingredients into a bag (except the liquid). In the morning, all I need to do is tip the bag into the blender, add some water and blitz.

3. Putting out my gym gear and packing my gym bag

When I wake up in the morning, I don’t need to think, “What am I going to wear to the gym?”, “What do I need to take to the gym?”, “Have I forgotten my towel?” or “Do I go to the gym today?”. I get up, automatically put on my clothes and head out the door.

4. Writing down my goals for the next day

When I start my work day, I just look at my list, pick the first item and away I go.

5. Packing my presenter/work bag

This makes such a difference in terms of feeling organised and less rushed before I head off to deliver a talk. I’m not thinking, “Have I got everything? Is there anything I have forgotten to pack?”. Instead, I feel confident and calm as I drive off to the job.

6. Selecting what to cook for lunch and/or dinner

The recipe is out on the kitchen bench. On my work breaks, I look at the ingredients that need to be chopped and I chop. When all the ingredients are prepped, I can whip up my meals very easily.

Do I complete all of these tasks every night?

No. This is the ideal I’m striving towards!

But if I manage to do just a couple of these tiny tasks, it makes a massive difference to my day. The days feels a lot easier. And I’m not the only person who feel this way.

In his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang shares how this practice allows him to operate on autopilot and focus on his writing tasks. Here’s what he does in the evening to prepare himself for the next day:

• Closes all the browsers on his computer (freeing himself of distraction)
• Opens up the Word document he needs to work on
• Outlines his morning writing task
• Programs the coffee machine
• Queues the music he is going to work to

This may seem fastidious but it works. You won’t know unless you test it out, which brings me to . . .

Applying this idea to your life

Look at your diary, planner and/or calendar. Pinpoint the next day and ask yourself:

“What little tasks could I do this evening to make tomorrow easier?”

Select a couple of small tasks and commit to doing them this evening. You’ll need a prompt to remind you.

What’s a prompt?

A prompt is anything in your environment that reminds you to take action. A prompt tells you, “Do this behaviour now!”

Your prompt could be:

• your alarm going off
• a sticky note reminder
• an app notification
• a note on a whiteboard
• a person reminding you to do something
• a timetable/schedule stuck on your wall
• a habit you already engage in (e.g. brushing your teeth)

Make sure you can see or hear the prompt, otherwise you’ll miss it and there’ll be no action.

If it wasn’t for the obvious prompts in my environment (e.g. big sticky note reminders and projects laid out on various surfaces in my house) I wouldn’t get anything done. As Professor BJ Fogg says in his book Tiny Habits:

“No behavior happens without a prompt.”

To sum up

Do yourself (and future you) a favor by completing one or two small things this evening to make tomorrow a little easier.

Doing a few small tasks may seem insignificant but remember, it all adds up. Tomorrow you’ll be thinking, “I’m so glad I did those things” as you feel less rushed and more in control of the day.