The Busy Exec / Entrepreneurs evening checklist

What do you do each evening to prepare for the day ahead? Do you find yourself planning and preparing for the next day? Do you reflect on what you have done well today, or done well previously? This checklist should serve as a reminder to get some simple, yet important steps done before you switch off for the day. Time invested in your evening ritual will pay dividends. Many of us have a routine and are fixed at it. Ready for the next day. As a business owner, executive or entrepreneur there are many different things that happen each day, beyond the usual, and we need to be aware of them and process them so we can develop.

What do you do to set up yourself up for the day ahead?

Some of the habits of successful business people to set them up for the next day. Many from my own practices that I have developed over the years.

Planning - Knowing what you are going to do the next day means that when you wake up you can get off to a flying start.

So why a checklist? Lists are powerful tools to support follow-through. With a good list you can check off the elements of task or process that need to be carried out, that can otherwise easily be forgotten. Lists are not only useful as a memory aid, lists help you to get your thoughts off your mind, so that you can stop thinking about them. Your reticular activating system is a part of your brain that stores information that needs to be acted upon in the near future. If it knows you need to remember something, it will keep it there, paused for action, constantly reminding you. If you're trying to sleep and you haven't found a reliable place to put that information, then good luck. The solution? You can't get much better than a notepad and pen. This will help you to stop the mind whirring around.

Delegating - feeling anxious about how you're going to get all that work done, or how you're going to make next months sales targets? You can't do it all by yourself. Not trying to do everything yourself is key to success. While ultimately you are responsible for most of what happens in your business, or in your department, you can not achieve meaningful goals on your own. You need support, and you need to serve others better. If you are running a lean business and operating as a freelancer then you may not have many moving parts, yet if you are coordinating a number of different elements, moving parts, people, and overseeing the running of the business generally then you have a lot on your plate that you need to stay on top of. It's no easy task running a business and the failure rate is testament to that. Many businesses crash and burn. We don't want that to happen to you. Take a load off your plate, and consider who you can delegate tasks to so you can focus on where you need to add value in your business.

A home for everything - when you are running a business there can be multiple physical things, and many digital elements from files to messages that need to be processed and stored. If you let these things run wild and don't give them a home you are making your life harder on yourself. You have a limited amount of executive function that is reserved for decision making and higher level activities the brain deals with. By organising your things you don't have to spend up that precious decision making power by looking for things that should have been better placed so you could find them quickly. I've expended a lot of energy in the past looking for documents, and so I built the campaign room to better manage the flow of information and take care of a lot of the details that I was having to use my executive function to manage. This links to delegation as well, since the capacity to make decisions is limited, I want to use my decision making capacity on the decision that only I can have an impact on, and I want to leave the rest of the decisions and brain power work to other people who are qualified to do the things that they can. This way I will be adding the most value where I am able, and not doing a task that someone else could be doing.

Gratitude - Being grateful for what you have. Not everyone is a fan of gratitude, yet it is a powerful thing, simple being thankful for what you have, what is good. Friends that care about you, that check in on you, loved ones, a roof over your head, food. Simple things. Success in business, clients that value what you do for them. These things are simple yet I am grateful for them. If something is taking longer than I hoped, or not quite gone how I would have liked it, I can take the lesson, yet I can also be grateful for the things that are going well. This gives me more energy and a better approach to face the things that need to be improved upon. To top this practice off you can send thanks to the things and people you are grateful for. This doesn't mean you have to start messaging or tweeting people. But if you see them, do tell them how you feel. Yet as an everyday practice or regular thing, what you can do is to think about it, and smile about how it makes you feel. This is more than just a thought exercise, there are physiological effects that occur when you are happy, such as endorphin release, which makes you feel good, and being grateful encourages that. So instead of dwelling on what is not going well, put a thought to what is going right, and that might just improve your evening, and help you sleep a little easier.

Reflecting - Reflecting on what went well in the day, and what can be improved on. Taking time to reflect on what you have achieved and what went well, and what could have gone better is an important part of the day.

Reading - Part of processing the day for me is reading. I have an enviable library that I've collected over the last 10 years in business and started from the 4 years prior to that when I was at business school. I refer to many different texts for the different issues that I face and engage with on a daily basis from sales to psychology to finance. I've had to become an expert in a number of areas in order to understand how things work as a system and interrelate. Understanding only one element means you are practically in the dark on the effects of that on other aspects of a system. When it comes to business, I like to know how the different areas work to a detailed level of understanding so I can better advise clients on approaches in different situations. I go deep into digital, and consult the specialists in the Claritao Partner Network and our collaborative specialists. This way we can deliver both broad consultative advice, and deep level expertise for our clients. Without the reading that underpinned some of my learning, I wouldn't have the response that has come from standing on the shoulders of giants, and the application of that knowledge in the real work that has given me the experience I have today. Through reading, I process what has happened, and am able to reinforce the learning and come up with improved approaches, in addition to the debriefs we have as a team.

Writing - another aspect of processing is writing. This helps me to consider areas in more detail. Knowing your learning style is important here - I process by talking, and writing, so either discussing (monologue) with someone, or writing thoughts down helps me to process and plan. Other people will have different communication and processing styles so its worth checking out what yours is. I'm quite visual too so I like to draw as well. Others might like to role play, or run it through in their minds thinking about how they felt and the actions,- kinaesthetic learning. However you process information, consider giving yourself some time to review your day in the mode that helps you most.

Exercise / spa - exercise works for some in the evening. Helping to relieve stress, and to clear the mind. For others it can mean that they are too wide awake after exercise and struggle to sleep, yet for those of us that finish the day and still have a bit of a spark left inside we need to wind down. I do finish some days and simply need to rest, yet most of the time, I'm fired up, energised and my mind is whrring constantly, problem solving, thinking, creating and enjoying my work. Going to the gym or other activities such as climbing is another way that I process information. I find swimming meditative. I do triathlons occassionally, having recently completed a half ironman distance triathlon. The training that I undertake while in preparation for a triathlon is a disciplined practice, and offers me a chance to spend a lot of time with my mind, thinking. I tend to go without earphones, and I can process. When I finish writing this piece, I'm off to the gym to go for a swim and it's going to help me wind down, process key moments from the day, and do a bit of planning, both short term and longer range while I power through some lengths in the pool. Then I'll hit the sauna which will help me to wind down even further putting me in a relaxed state ready for bed. I'll also jot down a plan for tomorrow when I'm done, and get through the checklist as best I can.

Reward - a small pleasure for doing good work , and getting everything you needed done. We all need to recognise our little victories. Even in defeat we can appreciate what was done well. If you do the hard work of looking into what was done, and what could have been done better you should recognise that good work has been taken place in deconstructing the learning. We can't all get everything right all the time. So long as we intend to learn from our mistakes that's all we can ask. Then actually learn from them. If you go out next time and do the same thing, you need to have a quiet word with yourself and consider what you will do to put that situation right.

These are daily check-ins. The real wins come from planning each week. Making a plan on the weekend, with some time set aside to plan what you want to do with your week is a great way to add value.

This list can go on, yet one of the important things about lists, is they shouldn't be endless, or they become meaningless. Stick to the priorities, and get them done.

What do you do to prepare for the next day, and help yourself sleep well? Do you have any habits, practices or rituals? 

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Article by

Daniel Janes

CEO and Growth Manager

Across Executive Focus and Claritao we help business decision makers stay on top of their game, and implement growth strategies to achieve their goals. Follow the programme to get the results.

Our tips series is to help leaders overcome challenges that we all face in running our companies.

Link your plans to you objectives. We have a tool that I developed called the Claritao Daily Planner - I've been using it for the last 7 years, and has helped me to be more productive. When I stop using it, things are ok for a little while as the organised momentum carries forwards, however when requirements shift, and the daily pattern needs to change, the daily planner is a great tool for focusing the mind and the activities on what matters. I'll be sharing more on that. I produced a course on Executive Focus for Mastering the day so will share a post on the principles.

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