63% of respondents in a recent CareerBuilder survey said they believe "working nine-to-five" is an outdated concept, and 24% check work emails while spending time with family and friends. Those figures probably won't surprise anyone with a job in the modern knowledge economy. But while mobile technology has enabled us to work more flexibly, it's also enabled many of us to work more, period.
One reason why is because we've learned to plan less; we can always check in on something remotely or dash off a message on the fly. Fortunately, many of those same digital tools can help us set the stage to get things done the next day before we even set foot in the office, as long as we use them wisely the night before—or earlier.
Writing down what needs to get done the night before is a great way to ensure you start your workday strong. Sound simple? It is—but it's something many of us have forgotten how to do. To take it a step further, though, turn your to-do list into a full-fledged schedule using the time-blocking method.
Before you go to bed, make a list of all your assignments, meetings, and tasks for the day ahead. Start by organizing your phone calls and meetings by time. From there, you can fill in any free hours with the day’s assignments in order of priority.
This approach to organizing your day might not sound very flexible, but in reality, it keeps you from being reactive. Instead, it encourages you to focus on the task at hand and slot whatever assignments that pop up into the free spaces of your day, rather than have to push other things aside in order to jump on them. To help you stick to your time blocks, try a tool like StayFocusd, which helps you limit the amount of time you spend dawdling around online, according to limits you can set in advance.
What's more, something as simple as a time blocking can save you from missing out on much-needed sleep. Instead of laying awake at night worrying about what you need to get done the next day, make a list and put it to bed.
If you're like most people, you have a morning routine: wake up, shower, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, etc. But in practice, they almost never go as planned.
That's where technology can help. There are now several apps that can help you turn your ordinary habits into efficient workflows. If that idea puts a bad taste in your mouth, consider that your daily routines are processes already—so why not optimize them?The Workflow app, for instance, helps you find the closest place to grab coffee, avoid traffic, and ultimately get to work on time, minimizing how much time that whole routine takes up in your day in the first place.
Planning out your next day the night before sounds reasonable enough to most of us (whether or not we actually do it), but what about your week, month, or year? When it comes to keeping track of deadlines, daily to-do lists don’t always give you the full picture. Try breaking down those more distant deadlines into days.
According to one a recent study published in Psychological Science, people who converted their goals and deadlines from years into days were more proactive about getting started on them. Calendar apps like Fantastical 2 can make that a lot easier, adding reminders to tackle individual components of longer-term projects ahead of time. This way you won't be left scrambling on the morning of an important deadline.
Like your parents always told you, the best way to make sure you have a good day is to get to bed early. After all, a cup of coffee can only do so much after a late or restless night. Here are some of the bad before-bedtime habits you should think about cutting back on:
- Too much pointless screen time, whether it's with your phone, laptop, or TV
- Checking emails, work or personal
- Having a nightcap
- Starting a text conversation that can wait until the next day
- Skipping time to wind down
To make sure you're getting enough sleep in the first place, try using a sleep-tracking gadget like the Fitbit or an app like Sleep Cycle, designed to record your sleeping habits and give you a better understanding of the quality of sleep you’re getting.
When you wake up, it won't just feel like there's less for you to tackle—there actually will be.
Alan Carniol is the founder of Interview Success Formula, a program that helps job seekers to deliver powerful answers that prove why they are the right person for the job. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.