Being productive is all about preparation.
If you know what you need to do ahead of time, you will know exactly where to dive in as soon as you get started. On the flip-side, if you do not take the time to prepare, you will find yourself flustered and uncertain because you now have to think through whatever it is you need to do.
Having a great week or day does not start “in the moment.” It starts the night before, the day before, the moment before. It begins with what you set in your mind you are going to do, before you actually set out to do it.
Here are a few ways to “get your mind right” for any challenge ahead:
1. Reflect on what you’ve already finished.
Your to-do list is, and will always be, fluid.
It moves as you move, and it stays put as you stay put. If you don’t get things done, they remain on the list. And if you are always getting things done, then your list will be a growing and expanding reflection of that process (which is the goal).
However, in order to know what is “next,” you need to take a moment to reflect on the status of where things currently are. Look through your to-do list from the week prior and see what you got done or didn’t get done — and then ask yourself why certain things got accomplished and others didn’t.
If something remains on your to-do list for weeks on end, you need to make a decision:
Either remove it entirely (clearly it’s not getting done) or push it all the way to the top and make it a priority to do that item before anything else.
Take the time to reflect, though.
It is immensely valuable over the long term.
2. Organize your to-do items based on category.
This is a tactic I’ve learned from Tony Robbins (although I’m sure many others use it as well).
Go through your to-do list and organize things by category or project, even separating between “Random Life Things” and “Work Things.”
The reason why it’s helpful to organize by category is two-fold:
First, it is far less overwhelming to look at a to-do list that is organized by category.
Looking at a long and random list of everything mixed together, you can feel how exhausting it would be to bounce between so many different types of tasks.
That’s what you want to avoid.
Instead, organize by category so that you can get in one frame of mind and work through everything in that specific category. You are far more efficient when you can remain in one frame of mind for a long period of time, rather than bouncing between different types of tasks.
Organize, and you’ll be more efficient.
3. Do what you can ahead of time.
The best example I have of this is meal preparation.
If you bring your lunch to work, or you pack your bag in the morning, why not do those things the night before?
Anything you can do ahead of time gives you more freedom the next day and is one less thing you have to think about.
The reason why this is so valuable is that you have more headspace to think about what is coming up next, instead of trying to remember all the things you have to do.
Mondays are always jam-packed.
Anything you can get done now, you might as well.
4. Prioritize input, not output.
Sundays should be input days — not output days.
The start of every week is always output focused. You show up to the office, or to school, or even to your own desk to crank through work, and you are expected to be in output mode.
Knowing what’s around the bend, it is advantageous of you to spend as much of Sunday as possible in input mode. You want to be feeding your creativity and your soul so that come Monday morning you are ready to go.
Think of a windup car. You pull it back, you pull it back, and then you let it rip.
That’s input. And more input leads to better output.
5. Take time to yourself.
And finally, the most important part of Sunday night should be the time you take solely for yourself.
Going back to this idea of input versus output, you need to quiet down and relax in order to sustain yourself throughout the week. One way to do this is to meditate. Another way is to read (a book, not social media), or even to just sit quietly with a cup of tea. Silence does wonders, and in our overly busy society it is a valuable asset we all too often forget. Take time to yourself and sit in silence.
If you can sit in silence even for just fifteen minutes, you will be amazed at how refreshed you feel.
And then go to sleep feeling ready for the week ahead.
This article originally appeared in Medium.