Productivity hack

Productivity hack: “Set the table” to nail your to-do list

Katie Azevedo good habits, productivity, study skills, time management

Productivity hack

By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.

There are so many time-management and productivity hacks that people swear by, and it’s my goal to help you find a few that work well for you. We all learn and work differently — so it’s best to try a bunch, keep what works, and toss the rest.

Some of my favorite productivity hacks that I use daily include using the Pomodoro Technique, prioritizing my to-do list (to 3 important items), and “setting the table.”

Setting the table? What’s that?

I call this productivity hack “setting the table” because it involves preparing for what’s ahead. Here’s the concept: At the end of every day (or night, depending on your schedule), you “set the table” for one task that you need to complete the next day.

In other words, “setting the table” means that you do whatever you can to prepare for tomorrow’s most important task the night before.

This productivity hack works great for students as well as for working professionals, and you can adjust it for whatever role you have.

Here are some examples of this productivity hack in action:

  • If you have a paper or a report to start the next day, “setting the table” could mean that you simply create and name a Word document the night before.
  • If you have an important call to make in the morning, write out a few bullet points you need to talk about. Also jot down the phone number you’ll be calling. Leave this paper by the phone or on your desk so you don’t have to go looking for it.
  • If you have an exam to study for, lay out all your materials (books, notes, pens, etc.) and create a study schedule the night before.
  • Have an important place to be in the morning? Lay out your clothes, your bag, your keys, and anything else you will need to take with you. Even put the toothpaste on your toothbrush so it’s all set to go!
  • Got a busy week ahead? Set the table using this Sunday Routine.

By “setting the table” the day before, you’ll be less likely to put off a task when it’s time to actually do it. The first step is often the hardest, so with the first step out of the way, you’ll feel more comfortable diving right in. (The “hack” part of this productivity hack is the preparation you do the night before. The “productivity” part of this productivity hack is actually buckling down and cranking out whatever needs to get done. That part, my friends, is all you!) 

Productivity is a skill that gets better the more we practice. If you’re constantly feeling behind, then it might be time to change up your tactics and time-management strategies. Try different productivity hacks (try each one out for a few weeks to really give it a chance) and be honest with yourself about which ones work and which ones only stress you out more. Here are 24 productivity tips for studentsdefinitely start here.

Honestly, “setting the table” is likely to work for almost everyone, as what’s not to love about setting yourself up for tomorrow’s win? With the table set, all you have to do the next day is show up ready to nail it.

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