Write your plan the night before and supercharge your day.

Write your plan the night before and supercharge your day. Plans made in the morning have two changes to go off track. Plan the night before and see immediate improvement in the realistic and practical priorities on your list.

The day was over. The kids in bed, the house quiet.

Time to sigh, breathe deep, and decide how to relax.

I glanced down and I caught sight of my daily index card plan I’d made that morning.

Ugh. I’d totally forgotten about it after the hubbub of the day had begun. I had begun with such high hopes and ended up feeling like I’d simply held on for dear life.

Oh well. I thought. That’s just my season of life right now.

Listen On:








Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve told people to be sure to plan their days. Just 10 minutes in the morning makes a big difference.

I was wrong.

What really makes a big difference is if you make your daily plan the night before.

Making some sort of plan first thing in the morning will probably help more than making no plan – as long as you look at it during the day.

A plan made during the evening, however, has much more sticking power for two very potent reasons.

Write your plan the night before and supercharge your day. Plans made in the morning have two changes to go off track. Plan the night before and see immediate improvement in the realistic and practical priorities on your list.

The problem with plans written in the morning

I think there are two kinds of people.

I am of the first kind: a lark. I love mornings. I love the smell of the air in the morning. I love the feeling of a fresh start and a blank canvas full of potential. I get mentally revved up thinking about the day in the morning. I am full of optimism and energy in the morning, especially if I have some time before the kids are up.

You know what that means?

The plan I write in the morning is totally unrealistic. It won’t work.

You might be the second kind: an owl. Owls prefer the peace of the dark night. While larks love mornings before the kids are up, owls come alive after the kids are in bed. In the morning, owls start off a little groggy, a little slow, a little fuzzy. It takes them time to wake up and get moving.

The plans owls make in the morning will be irrelevant or incomplete. They won’t work.

But both kinds of people can make an effective plan – a more effective plan – the night before.

A plan takes 10 minutes, maybe less.

  1. Look at this day’s list. Mark off what can be marked off. Jot a note or two about what happened today. A little reflective journalling, even if only 10-12 words dashed off, brings your mind to your day, your life, and your priorities.
  2. Look at the calendar. What’s coming tomorrow? What’s coming the rest of the week? What do you need to do tomorrow to be ready? Add that to tomorrow’s note, whether it’s an Evernote note or an index card or a bullet journal page.
  3. What did you not do today that is important enough to be moved to tomorrow’s priorities? You only get three priorities per day, so choose wisely. If you didn’t do it today, why didn’t you? Will you actually do it or do you need to delete it or delegate it and adjust your expectations?
  4. Look at your weekly or interval task list. What on that list would be the best choice to pick for tomorrow? If your 3 Most Important Things aren’t already selected, fill in with items from that list.
  5. Bonus: Name your day. I like to use the formula “Today is a x day” and fill in x will something that will keep me focused where I need to be focused. “Today is a school day.” “Today is an enjoy the ride day.” “Today is a fast-paced day.” “Today is a sick day.” This statement helps me align my expectations for the day.

Why plan the night before

In my unresearched opinion and personal experience, I see two reasons why the plan made the night before is the better plan.

First, the evening plan is more realistic and prioritized.

At the end of the day, you have a better sense for how things go. You aren’t looking at a blank slate of a day just after a good night’s sleep. You have to start by updating your list for that day, and that motivates you to make a plan that hits your priorities and doesn’t add fluff you don’t really mean. Workout video? Really? When? Your perspective in the evening is clear and practical, not optimistic and not groggy.

Second, the evening plan has time to settle.

Of course you do have to look at your plan in the morning, but you benefit from being able to sleep on the plan. Write the plan, then sleep. While you sleep, your mind processes the previous day and that includes the plan you just made. When you wake up, it’ll be easier to focus because 1) your plan is ready to go, and 2) your sense of what is in the plan is keener.

The morning pressure is also reduced. You don’t have to be creative when you’re barely awake. You don’t have to create a brilliant plan before coffee. You can use your coffee-drinking time for reading or for writing, for a hobby or for devotions. Simply wrap up that time with a brief glance at your already-made list and you’re ready for the races.

Plus, if you sleep in, you’re not totally out of sorts. In the morning all you need is a 1-minute-or-less glance at your daily plan and you’re good to go.

Know Thyself

Whenever my morning-made plan didn’t pan out, I blamed my execution or my forgetfulness.

But while I was researching for Work the Plan, I came across this habit of preparing your plan the night before. I knew selecting my outfit the night before helped. I knew choosing what was for dinner the night before helped. Weren’t those little plans?

I had to try it. I started making my plan the night before and saw instant improvement in my fulfilling the plans – because the plans I’d made were realistic and focused in a way my morning plans never were.

I am so glad I did, and I know you will be too, if you try it.

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  1. That certainly makes a lot of sense. Last week I had been listening to Eat That Frog and I planned in my personal google calendar the big frog items for each day. Because my calendar widget is visible on my home page of my tablet and my personal calendar is a particular colour I was getting a reminder of my frogs in two ways, my list and my calendar. I ate some good sized frogs last week and felt so good.

    This week (Monday here in Oz) I got up this morning with a wishy washy idea of doing school but I hadn’t planned for it well enough and I had no focus. Due to not enough sleep and a slow start (as in I still need to do morning tasks and it is past 1pm) I am brain fogged and irritated.

    On these sort of days I clean. And try to eat well. Tonight when I am feeling a sense of achievement from all the cleaning I will plan tomorrow and prepare better. Tomorrow is a new day and I am going to decide on my frogs, put them in my calendar and focus. I can do this!

    I think this writing a plan the night before is definitely something to try. Will give you feedback soon.

    Best wishes
    Jen in Oz

    1. I think it depends on your homeschooling style and your energy level. I have definitely been through times where my homeschooling list was about all I could muster. Now, “Complete homeschool day” is one item on my list – but I do put it on there because it is one of my priorities that should outrank anything else I might put on the list.

  2. Thank you for your reply, Mystie. That makes sense. :-) I think it does need to be on my list for now too, or it falls in priority. I only have energy and time for so much, and I must make sure that gets done.

  3. I have been creating my daily plan every evening for about a month now. I have found the mornings go so much more smoothly because of it. I do, however, love the idea of the 3 most important things. This I have not tried as of yet. I will try to incorporate this in tonight when I make my plan for tomorrow. Thank you!

  4. I am absolutely a lark ;-) Doing my list at night would limit it because I just want to go to bed already at 8 or 9! It would also help me sleep, knowing I wouldn’t forget something.

  5. I am a huge fan of planning the night before. I’m a huge fan of enough sleep, but staying up 15 more minutes to plan is always worth it.

  6. Great article! If I wait until morning to plan I am overwhelmed and end up still trying to decide at noon!

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