How’s 2023 been treating you so far?
For me, things have—shocker—been remarkably smooth. I’ve had a few false starts and lulls in momentum (which is normal, and perfectly healthy, of course) but in this fourth week of January I feel like I’ve finally found my groove. And it feels good.
But point of this post is not for me to brag. There’s one thing that has eluded me this January. It’s been happening right at the end of every day.
I had a beautifully productive Thursday last week. I had three meetings. picked someone up from the airport, and ran two errands. I even got a haircut! And I topped it all off with a dinner with a friend. At the end of that day, I felt that feeling a lot of us are often chasing—the “I did enough today” feeling. “Tired in a good way.” “You earned a break.” So, when I got home, I had an almost-celebratory plop down on the couch. And I stayed there for hours. I even fell asleep there, and woke up disoriented hours later.
That was all well and good, I figured—until the next morning came. I had to play catch-up. I was slow on the uptake. And I didn’t know where anything I needed for work was. I had to search for where I last placed my documents and files before I ran out the door to make it to that dinner. And those few hours of “couch sleep” were clearly not as restful as the ones I get in my bed.
I realized that a lot of my recent success was due to the things I had done each preceding day. I had prepped my to-do list and day plan, and emailed it to myself every evening. I had set out my workout clothes ahead of time, just like I recommended you do in a previous post many moons ago. And I meal prepped some days—even if it was only one or two days in advance, it still made my week easier.
So on that Thursday, with my day packed so tight, I had no time for any of it. And I was shocked at how much I “felt it” the next day. The next morning was spent finishing what I should have dealt with the day before. I tumbled into the next day, disoriented and unprepared.
Thankfully, the solution is straightforward. And it came to me in the most lovely of packages— some words of wisdom that RescueTime reader Christina recently shared in the comments section of a previous article. She outlined how she ends every day, as she put it, “parked on a downhill slope.” In other words, she and her husband act strategically at the end of each day to make the beginning of their next day a breeze.
Her comment made so much sense. So I put some of her tips into action. And something clicked.
Here are some examples of what she does, and how they might help you optimize your days.
Your digital space
For a lot of us, our digital world is the most important space for us to maintain and keep tidy. It’s also a surprisingly malleable domain that we can hack to give us momentum as we start our mornings.
Christina says, “At the end of my day, I open the document or program that I want to start the next day with, and close all the other open tabs and programs. (I don’t shut off my computer each day, I just let it sleep.) That way, when I arrive at the computer in the morning, I’m not tempted to go straight to my email, but instead am immediately faced with the project I actually want to be working on.”
Anything to cull the shining blinking distraction machine that our computers can be in the wrong contexts.
There’s no end to the types of tasks that can be made easier by parking downhill: “even leaving off in the middle of a sentence, or with some other obvious and easy place to start, is also a big help.”
Your physical space
You might relate to this: for me to be able to do my work without distraction, things need to be in their correct physical places. Otherwise, I’ll spend the whole time either searching for items I need, or bumping into and knocking over things that aren’t where they should be.
I’ve long espoused the virtues of a clean workspace, or at the very least a clean desk. Simply getting to sit down to that blank slate every day is itself an advantage. You already have a head start on getting something done that day.
And the act of putting things in their places the night before will make them findable the next day when it comes time to engage with them again. It’s all about greasing the skids—lessening that period of friction between powering down and booting up.
One thing I’ve learned that I can’t compromise on is my nighttime routine. My tooth-care habit has expanded to, like, four or five steps. And I’ve aspirationally added skincare to the equation too. It was a bit of work to get it to stick initially, but it’s nice.
And beyond the meditative aspects of completing a regular health-focused routine, I’ve found it measurably affects how I feel when I wake up in the morning. I feel brighter, and lighter, and less like I’ve already fallen behind in the day.
Pair that feeling with an endorphin-releasing workout routine in the morning and you’re off to the races. So start that process the night before. Make your intentions to exercise clear to yourself, brush your teeth, and go to bed.
Also—it goes without saying, but if you spend the night sleeping in three different armchairs with bad ergonomics around your house, you’re gonna be less rested than after an uninterrupted eight hours in your bed. Invest in spending intentional, positive time in bed—your health is worth the effort.
Keep doing what you’re doing
So, my “New Month Resolution” for February is simple: Keep doing everything the same, but leave the car parked downhill at the end of the day. And try not to fall asleep on the couch as often.
You should do the same. You likely have a lot of reasons to be proud of your effort and performance so far in 2023. Don’t rock the boat too much!
But if you have any semblance of a similar problem, try out some of Christina’s tips for yourself. Start by leaving some helpful little hints for yourself all around your day. Open your computer and finish the sentence you left incomplete eight hours before.
Park on a downhill slope—and tomorrow, speed down that hill.
Keep up the good fight, friends. Let me know how it’s going.