For years, I started my day the very same way: I’d sit down at my computer and jot down my lengthy to-do list. Everything was listed there—the projects I needed to complete, the emails I needed to answer, and those little reminders that have a way of mysteriously falling out of my brain.
I assumed this was an organized and strategic way to get my day underway. But, then I had a thought:
What if I could just start working right away? What if I didn’t need to spend a chunk of my oftentimes very productive morning time (what I consider to be my own golden hours!) scrolling through my inbox just to get this list scribbled down?
It was then that I decided to make a change to the way I was doing things. And, my friends, I did something so groundbreaking and earth shattering, I still can’t believe I pulled it off.
I began writing my daily to-do list the night before.
Alright, it’s a simple concept that probably isn’t deserving of your shock and awe. However, as small of a change as it is, it has actually had major benefits for my entire workday—not to mention my work-life balance.
So, what exactly do I love so much about writing my precious to-do list at night?
1. It Ties Up Loose Ends That I Used to Forget About
You know how it is—tons of random, little things crop up throughout your day that you need to take care of. But, if you don’t have the time to get them handled right then and there, you vow to do them later.
If you’re anything like me? The fact that you wanted to follow up on that email, buy stamps, or call the dog groomer promptly vanishes into thin air if you don’t get it written down somewhere. And, even further, the likelihood of you actually remembering that little task or reminder by the time you show up to the office the next day is pretty much slim to none.
This is why jotting everything down at night is so helpful. I’m far more likely to remember those smaller things that I wanted to accomplish when they’re fresh in my mind.
2. It Switches Off “Work Mode” So I Can Actually Relax
Personally, I have a hard time flipping off the “work” switch in my mind. (It’s partially my fault and partially the fault of people who email me way past dinner time.)
The good news? Writing your to-do list in the evening can help with this. Perhaps you want to make it the very last thing you do before you leave the office so you can dedicate your night to your personal life.
Or, maybe you’re one of those people who can’t resist bringing a little bit of work home with you and you’ll jot down your list after dinner before you finally plop yourself down on the couch. Either way, listing tomorrow’s tasks serves as the perfect capstone to your workday.
Plus, getting all of those lingering things out of your head and down on paper makes it that much easier for you to clear your mind, kick back, and unwind.
3. It Forces You to Bypass Morning Stress
Sometimes, starting your workday can be brutal. And, that’s only exaggerated when the first thing you need to do is sit down and write out all of the things you still have yet to accomplish. It’s like beginning your day by standing at the bottom of a giant mountain and looking up.
Fortunately, I find that—by creating my list at night—I’m far more motivated to hit the ground running when I get started in the morning. I already have my priorities set and an action plan listed out, which makes me that much more eager to actually get moving.
It’s sort of like feeling more driven to write an article when I already have the outline done or more determined to exercise when I already have it scheduled for the week. By having just that starting point ready and waiting for me at my desk, I’ve been able to maximize my morning productivity even more than I thought was possible.
If you’re one of those people who has previously started your workday by feverishly scribbling a to-do list, I can relate—I never would’ve dreamed that I’d switch up my strategy.
However, moving that task to my evenings has resulted in quite a few noticeable perks—including better organization and more adequate work-life balance.
So, why not give it a try for yourself and see if it pays off? I’m willing to bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Photo of person writing in bed courtesy of Ashley Corbin-Teich/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author