How I Use a Simple ‘Night-Before’ Questions Checklist to Greatly Improve My Day (And Life)

I know what it’s like to go through the day disorganized, and without knowing what I’m doing.

I know how a day can be swallowed whole by the lure of tasty and stimulating distractions.

I know the frustration of having a busy day, and working hard, yet feeling like I’m running in one spot not going anywhere.

Never building any momentum.

I’ve also known days in which I’d crammed in a lot of meaningful work — days that seemed to stretch wide to allow me time to focus and think…

…and actually complete things.

What I’d come to realise was that to be more productive and passionate (and to create time for the fun stuff too), I needed to be clear on two things:

1. What matters the most?

2. What is the rough plan for the day ahead?

The trouble for most of us is that we jump on all those tasks that seem urgent, at the expense of doing what matters — what is essential — what is in line with our passion and purpose.

So, for example, we spend half the day responding to emails for fear of upsetting people (short-term value), when we should have used that time to work on our next book (long-term value).

We end up fighting fires and trying as hard as we can to knock off all those things on our ever-burgeoning to-do list.

So we don’t get very far.

We stay busy. In our overwhelm, we do empty tasks to fill the time.

I needed to make a change

A few months ago, I decided to put an end to wasting time on seemingly urgent tasks, and figure out what to do to gain momentum each day in the things that mattered.

I sat down, brainstormed, and found the best approach was to ask myself several critical questions before the start of each day.

The answers to these questions point me towards what I need to prioritise each day, what needs to get done, and when.

They needn’t take long to fill out. Even 10 minutes of thoughtful preparation each evening can equal hours of extra productivity.

In a previous post, I showed you what those questions were. Here they are again (I have refined them since):

  • What will I make happen within five years? (ONE major goal)
  • What will I make happen within one year? (ONE major goal)
  • What will I make happen within 30 days? (ONE thing)
  • What will I make happen within seven days? (ONE thing)
  • What will I do to start this day positively? (Doing something other than what I usually do out of habit)
  • What must get done today that develops my main craft?(Daily work on a craft leads to mastery)
  • What three extra tasks must get done today if any?(Streamline your to-do list to what matters)
  • Who will I contact today to generate opportunities and good will? (Nourish your relationships)
  • What will I do today that scares me? (Keep me stretching, building confidence and character)
  • What will I do today to benefit my health?
  • What will I do today to expand my extra-curricular world?(Such as 30 minutes of learning a language, or reading)
  • What was yesterday’s key inch? (Most crucial metric, such as new subscribers added, money made, and so on.)

Answers need to be succinct and drilled right down to ONE thing in most cases, which forces you to think about what really matters the most.

I like to have longer-term goals on the same page as the daily tasks because they help inform what I need to prioritise today to reach those bigger goals.

The questions apply particularly well to freelancers, artists, and entrepreneurs.

They allow for my priorities to evolve if they need to. Each day, I face these questions anew, even if many of the answers remain the same.

Writing the same words over and over each day solidifies them in my mind, and makes it much more likely for them to materialise through action.

Doing this with consistency has helped me a lot. I know what matters, and I maintain a path doing the things that are the most important, not urgent.

That helps me gain ground more efficiently.

I procrastinate less; I’m growing and developing and learning, and I feel more of a sense of focused calm each day.

I have also made one tweak to the process of running through these questions. I have started filling them in the night before. This means I absorb what I need to do in my sleep and I wake up ready (on most days ;)).

Feel free to copy and paste these questions into your own doc, and run through them each evening in advance of the next day.

Let me know how you find them, and how and if your focus improves by doing it.

Stand by — I am soon releasing the first batch of physical planner books in which you can write your answers.

I’m calling it ‘Book of Lift.’

Here’s what the questions pages look like:

And the whole package:

Follow my newsletter here to keep up to date with when you can get yours.

Originally published on Red Lemon Club.

Alex Mathers
Alex Mathers


Alex Mathers is a writer and illustrator from London, based in Bangkok. He enjoys exploring ideas that help us be more confident and creative. His book: 'Joining the Dots: The A-Z Handbook for Making a Success of Your Creative Skills' is available for free, for a limited time.

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