At a Glance: Dedicate time in your evening routine to prep for the next day and wake up feeling prepared to face the day head-on.

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Finding time and space each day to tackle your studying and online coursework can often feel more difficult than actually doing the work. That’s why the end of your day is the perfect time to step back, get a little perspective and create tomorrow’s plan of attack. Here are five things to do before you turn in tonight:


Empty your head

As part of his work-life management method, Getting Things Done, productivity consultant David Allen advises getting rid of the thoughts that are “grabbing hold of your brain and shaking it around.” By getting things on paper (and out of your head) you can make space “to be thinking about those things in more creative ways or not to have to think about them at all.

What “attention grabbers” should you write down? To-do items, ideas, obligations, worries, unanswered messages—basically whatever is rolling around in that head of yours. According to Allen: “Your mind is a great place to have ideas, but a terrible place to manage them.”


Define two to three outcomes (or goals) for tomorrow

In “Getting Results the Agile Way,” J.D. Meier talks about the power of outcomes vs. activities. “Just doing more activities, checking off items from a task list…won’t necessarily produce the results you want,” he says. “By starting with outcomes…you give yourself a compelling path to work towards.”


Consult your planner

You can’t make a plan until you know what you’re dealing with. Flipping through tomorrow’s obligations will help you get a better sense of what constraints you’ll be within as you make progress toward reaching your day’s goals.

For example, what time is your first meeting in the morning? What time do you plan to log into the classroom or drop by campus? Will you be able to work a while before you have to be somewhere? If tomorrow’s appointments are back-to-back, does it make sense to cancel or postpone a commitment right now to free up more time?


Tidy up

“Life truly begins only after you have put your house in order,” says international tidying guru Marie Kondo in her latest book, “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.”

Set a timer for 15 minutes and take a quick spin around your house. See how much of the dish pile, laundry or counter clutter you can get through before time runs out. Then hit the hay with a slightly lighter load of chores hanging over your head.


Protect a No Work Time Zone

Keeping your mind in work mode while you try to sleep isn’t productive. It’s like forgetting to turn off the lights when you leave the house—nothing but wasted energy.

To break this negative cycle, give yourself a No Work Time Zone, starting at least one hour before bed. Setting this curfew will help you work more efficiently and create the work-life balance that is so crucial to achieving your long-term goals.

Like anything, being productive takes practice. But if you try these five tasks tonight, you will wake up tomorrow feeling more organized, refreshed and ready to face your studies.