By Kara Mason

5 Things to Do by 5pm That Will Prepare You For Tomorrow


A small investment in an amazing tomorrow.

How prepared are you for tomorrow?

Little habits can make all the difference when it comes to productivity, but as the late afternoon approaches and we lose our steam, sometimes the last thing we want to do is think about the next day. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, right?

Dealing with tomorrow tomorrow is an understandably easy thing to do, but getting a head start can make all the difference.

Think about your most productive days and what makes them that way. We are usually most productive when we have a plan. Even if the plan isn't firm or is just a rough concept for the day, waking up primed and knowing what you will do helps you to hit the ground running and not waste time.

If you want to have a productive tomorrow, you’ll want to implement a few habits into your schedule today that will set you up for success. Productivity can become a habit, if you treat it as one.

These 5 tips only take a few minutes each (perfect for when you already have a full day as it is) and can actually save you time later on. Before you sign off at 5pm, try completing these tasks and see how much of a difference it makes to your productivity and workflow tomorrow.

1. Do a personal status check

As hard as we try, we aren't always able to check off every single item on our to-do lists. Interruptions and impromptu meetings happen; sometimes it feels like weeks can go by where we are constantly on someone else's agenda, rather than our own. 

No matter how your day goes, it can be useful to spend a few minutes sharing a status update with the team. Not only is this helpful for team communication and other people's workflow, but this can center you as well.

Dissecting your workflow can help you find a good stopping point at the end of the day, work more efficiently in the future, and guide your overall progress. The Ink+Volt Project Status Pad is the perfect tool to help you organize your thoughts and the many moving parts of each project.

By summarizing your progress for other people, you can synthesize it in your own mind. This helps you understand the best place to pick up tomorrow - which might not be what you would have thought it was, if you hadn't taken a moment to reflect.

The simple act of running through where you’re at can prompt important conversations, highlight deadlines, frame top priorities, and even motivate the entire group.

2. Do a big picture check

Now that you’ve taken a good look at your work, take a minute to zoom out. Yes, details are important, but it’s also helpful to take a look at the big picture. 

Why is this a good practice? Stepping back and seeing the whole, rather than the pieces, helps you make sure that all the work you're doing is taking you in the right direction. It’s easy to get bogged down in details because they make up so much of our day, but you've got to be working on the right details.

A quick way to practice looking at the big picture is to ask yourself what work you did during the day that contributed to your overall goals. Answering this question forces you to put your work in context. If your work isn't aligning with the bigger goal, why is that? If there is a good reason, this could be a moment to update or refocus your bigger goals to match your current reality.

If you’re a team leader, staying in touch with the overall vision is a good way to leave the day. It’s like a refresher for why it all matters, which you can bring with you into your future communication or any final words for the day.

3. Do a final inbox skim

Before you sign off for the day, give your inbox a quick scan. You don’t necessarily have to hit inbox zero every day, but double-check to make sure you didn’t miss anything pressing. On busy days, important emails can easily get buried or "saved for later" and forgotten.

Reply to urgent emails and clearly mark emails that need your attention in the future. Creating tags or folders for emails can help you keep track of a busy inbox.

That quick scan will also help you the next day. You won’t have to spend the morning digging out from under your email, which can hamper any early morning motivation you arrive with to work.

4. Spend 5 minutes on reflection and gratitude

Don’t finish your day without practicing a little bit of gratitude. Whether it’s a personal practice that helps keep you connected to your work or giving kudos to your team, a gratitude practice can have a big effect. 

If you're struggling to think of something you're grateful at the end of the day, ask yourself a few prompting questions:

  • What went well today?
  • Did anyone help me or do me a favor?
  • Did I notice anything I love about my role (or my desk, my office building, my lunch...)? 

If you're a manager - or if you're just feeling grateful for a coworker or your team - consider spreading your gratitude at the end of the day! A quick Slack message or dropping by someone's desk on your way out takes 2 seconds but can mean a lot to everyone involved.

Some studies have linked workplace gratitude to more positive emotions and less stress, in addition to more noticeable outcomes like employees using fewer sick days and reporting a deeper satisfaction with their job.

Showing gratitude can feel a little awkward, but it’s worth it because it makes for stronger teams and a more comfortable work environment.

You can find a few ways to show your thanks to your team here

5. Outline your priorities for tomorrow

Avoid a hectic day by making sure you’re ready the evening before. 

A quick review of your schedule before the clock hits 5pm can help prevent any surprise deadlines or scrambling to get out the door the next day. Don’t forget to move any important to-do's that didn't get done today to your list for tomorrow. If you have a digital calendar and a paper planner, do a quick check to make sure there aren't any inconsistencies.

Making a draft to-do list can also help you end your day on a high note. It helps you feel like you’re prepared and you won’t lose sleep thinking about whether you’ve forgotten anything because you’ve already double-checked!