Why It’s Better to Make Your To-Do List the Day Before

Day and Night

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Do you make tomorrow’s to-do list before you go to bed or first thing in the morning?  I’ve always made my list the night before and I think that works better for these 8 reasons:

1.       If I make tomorrow’s list before I go to bed, I sleep better.  I have a plan for the day and know exactly what I need to do as soon as I get up.  Plus I’m not trying to remember what I have to do tomorrow because I already planned it out.

2.       When I’m making the list the night before, it gives me more time if I discover that something needs done beforehand, like making sure certain clothes are clean, having cash on hand or taking food for the office potluck.

3.       If I wait until the next morning to make my list, I lose a lot of time in the morning.  By the time I get up, get dressed and figure out what I need to do, the day is already well underway and I feel behind.

4.       When I plan, I always plan what we’re having for dinner.  Planning the night before gives me time to thaw anything I might need for the meal.

5.       Knowing what I’m doing tomorrow helps me prepare mentally, especially if it’s going to be a tough day.

6.       Making my list the night before helps me know what time I need to get up.  If I have a lot going on, sometimes I need to get up a little earlier.  If it’s going to be a slower day, I can take my time in the morning.  But I only know that if I know what’s going on.

7.       When I make my list the night before, I notice if there are any conflicts or if there’s too much to do so I can make adjustments before the day gets started.

8.       If there’s something I need to do first thing in the morning, I might miss it or be late if I wait to make my list until morning.

When do you make your to-do list? 

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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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19 thoughts on “Why It’s Better to Make Your To-Do List the Day Before

  1. Truthfully, I don’t do one at all. I can’t work with to-do lists. It’s a right- brained trait. It’s easy for me to miss stuff on them, and the effect of having a list can be very overwhelming, rather than satisfying when I “cross something off.” I tried the daily to do, which off went by the wayside at the first work crisis; I tried the weekly master list, which sounded like a great idea but because a monster of work in itself; and the autofocus list, which only served to scream at me, “You have too much work” and then I stopped doing stuff on the list.

    What I have is very, very loosely structured, or to say, has a bare hint of structure. I have a sort of a tickler, but only for the days. I stick stuff in at a random times. Not everything goes in it. Just things I don’t need today and maybe not even tomorrow. It’s almost never more than two weeks out, except for regularly occurring things that I have to do sometime during the month, but don’t necessarily have to do on a specific day. And I’ll shift stuff in the folder if I’ve got a day of emergencies and know I’m not going to be able to get to it. What doesn’t go in the folder is what’s today. If I get tagged for a briefing today, I’m already working on it.

    1. Sounds like you’ve worked out a system that works for you. Thank you for sharing.

      I know there are people out there like you (my husband is one of them, too!) who don’t need lists but I’m definitely not one of them. Without a list, I get nothing done and I feel overwhelmed. Once I make a list, I feel more in control and calm.

      We each have to do what works for us.

  2. I am a morning list maker when I do make lists (which isn’t as often as I should). I usually make them before I am ready for the day so while sitting and drinking my coffee. I usually just have a rough outline for the week though. You make a very strong case for making the to-do list the night before though.

  3. Patty, you always give me food for thought! I really like what you said about planning dinner the night before. I am just not a menu planner. I am not sure what mental block I have but it just does not work for me. Maybe a week at a time (or some I have seen are a month at a time!) is too much for me, maybe just the night before would be the solution. We don’t eat out frequently, so I cook – I just spend a lot of time each afternoon trying to decide what it is I am going to cook.
    I typically make my list in the morning, but my mornings are usually not high stress and this works well for me. I do review my planner each evening and have a good idea of what I need to do the following day, but my list is made in the morning and sits on the kitchen counter so I see it as soon as I get home from work (no list, nothing needs to be done, right?). I think adding menu planning in with the planner review in the evening may be a solution….hmmm, we will see.

    1. Donna, I actually do make a weekly menu but I don’t always know which day I’ll make which meal. So the night before I figure out which of my meals I’ll make for tomorrow. But even without a menu plan, that would still work. And it would save you a lot of stress knowing a little in advance what you’re making. Trying to come up with something right before you need to cook it is SO STRESSFUL! At least for me.

      Let me know if you try it and how it works. I’d love to hear.

  4. I definitely do mine the day before. In the evening, generally while watching TV, I glance over my schedule and think about anything that I have to do to prepare for the next day. I also add any to dos I think of and let my hubby know if there is anything he needs to know before the next day. I find that this is early enough (8-10ish) in the evening that I can do anything that needs done, and late enough that I don’t feel like I need to do some of it that night.

  5. I don’t always remember to do my list, but when I do the night before works much better. Like you said – any conflicts, etc. can be adjusted before they become a crisis!

  6. Hi Patty! Love your homemaking blog. What time of evening do you this ? The reason I ask is if I do this in bed or lets just say really close to bedtime – I worry about it all OR lay awake at night thinking I have so much to do…! Do you do at the end of your evening? Middle? Start?


    1. Jennifer – I usually sit down on the couch between 8:30 and 9:00 each evening. During that time, I read, quilt, plan my day and talk to my husband while we watch some tv. Once in a while I make the next day’s list after dinner, but mostly it’s in the evening when I’m sitting on the couch during veg time.

      The thing is – if you make you’re list and you’re worried that you have too much to do, you probably do! And if that’s the case, you might need to tweak your list so it’s more realistic. If you have a lot to do and it all has to be done, making your list the night before will help you know what time you have to get up and get you started on it ASAP. It will also help you figure out how you’re going to get it all done.

      If making your list causes you to worry about the next day, then something isn’t working right.

  7. If I do make a to-do list (I don’t actually do one every day!) then I always do it the night before. It gives me time to think about what needs to be done, and I know that in the morning I can just get up and check the list!

  8. I have been thinking about switching to night time list making and I think the case you have made here has me convinced me to finally try it out. But I have found that making a list is the one thing that helps me feel like I have control of my day, I would love to extend that feeling into the night.

    1. Making your list the night before really does help you feel more relaxed when you go to bed and helps you get a jump start on your day. Let me know how it works for you.

  9. If I have free time during the day I will start my list for the next day. If not, I definitely do it at night. I sleep much better. Even if I have a list done for the next day, but I think about a big event coming up in a few days, I will start a list for that to ease the anxiety. This way I can plan the next few days for shopping, cooking, traveling, etc.

    I love your posts! Thank you.

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