Prepare the day before so I don’t have to panic tomorrow

photo courtesy of

I am a big fan of digital task management apps but I’ve realized that the less time I spend in my task manager, the better I feel. It’s unavoidable. World domination is at the top on my list when I’m in planning mode. But eventually I have to get out of planning mode and go into execution mode. I’ve been guilty of opening my task manager throughout the day and trying to wing it. I get one task finished. Then I hesitate. I finished the current task and check my task manger for the next task to work on. I would spend a lot of time trying to determine what I want to do next. Each time I finish a task, my flow gets interrupted when I reach for my task manager. Instead, I should be planning my task list ahead of time so that I can hit the ground running tomorrow. I know what I want to do throughout the day and I get into the rhythm. I no longer switch between planning mode and execution mode.

At the end of the day, I have a shutdown list that looks like this:


Here’s a short summary of how I plan for the next day.

  1. Inbox processing - I visit my various inboxes (Drafts, OmniFocus inbox, physical inbox tray, voice messages, social media accounts) and process them into my task manager, calendar, or digital notes reference.
  2. Review - I visit my OmniFocus review perspective and see projects that need to be reviewed today. An alternative approach would be to review all of the projects that you are working on in the next seven days. There’s no need to review the Someday/Maybe projects; just the currently Active projects. I’ll want to
  3. Forecast and Due- Check the Forecast perspective or the calendar to see my schedule and commitments for the next few days. I may need to look at my schedule and find any holes that I can fill with tasks from my task manager.
  4. Flagged and Contexts (Tags) - Unflag any currently flagged tasks that I don’t want to work on tomorrow. I can always save it for another day. I can also flag tasks that I can work on for the next day. If you don’t flag/un-flag tasks, you can see your master task list and choose three to five tasks to do tomorrow. Look for holes in the schedule and try to fit tasks in between major appointments or time commitments.
  5. Projects - Review my currently active projects. Update the next actions if there are any changes that need to be made due to new circumstances. Rewrite the first next action if an active project is stalled to help kickstart it.
  6. Contexts - Look at my calendar to see if I can spend some time in a particular context such as @computer, @office, @house, or @person’s_name. I might want to do some @computer work in the morning or spend time at the @warehouse in the afternoon. There are times when I need to think about working on a specific project or working in a specific context.

I use my own OmniFocus Reviewing/Planning workflow to create my own shutdown list. A more universal method would be to print out the above checklist to ensure that you don’t skip a step. Modify your shutdown list to suit your particular workflow.

Staying in the zone


I plan what tomorrow will hopefully look like. I check my calendar schedule and list down a few of the projects and/or tasks I want to work on tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, I am ready to shift into action and go full speed ahead. When I am in execution mode, I don’t want to return to planning mode and start up again. I stay in execution mode like a bicyclist. I keep pumping my bicycle pedals and keep the rhythm going. I don’t stop unless absolutely necessary. I finish a task or project and my next action is already waiting for me. I no longer have to stop to check my task manager. These sudden starts and stops get annoying because it breaks the flow and I lose rhythm and pace.

Do you have any tricks on how to stay in the zone? I’d love to hear from you if you have something up your sleeves when it comes to planning your next workday.

1 Like