The Most Important Productivity Hack I Learned as a Kid That I Still Use on a Daily Basis:
“Is your bag by the door?”
It was the one question my mom asked every single Sunday through Thursday night during the school year, without fail.
When I was a kid, I was allowed to watch a little bit of T.V. before bed. My brother, sister and I would spread out on the couch and squeeze in as many episodes of Spongebob, Even Stevens, Fairly Oddparents, or Drake and Josh as we could before it was lights out.
Unless we weren’t ready for school the next day.
If we weren’t fully-prepared for the day ahead, my mom didn’t give us any T.V. time.
Every night, my mom made us lay out our clothes on the floor (even though we wore uniforms). She had us help in packing our lunches (though, she’s the one who would actually make the PB&Js) and set out bowls, spoons, and napkins for our breakfast cereal the next morning. And she always made sure our backpacks were fully packed, zipped-up and next to the front door.
When I’d ask “can I watch T.V. now,” she’d always respond:
“Is your bag by the door?”
It used to annoy the hell out of me.
‘Is your bag by the door’ — what kind of question is that anyway? What’s so bad if it’s in my room? Is it gonna kill me if I leave it unzipped? Or worse, unpacked?!
I’d usually respond with some smart-ass comment — and that’s when my mom would cut me off from T.V. for the rest of the week.
But regardless of how often I argued against her method of preparation, it never changed. From kindergarten to 8th grade, my mom bugged me about ‘being ready’ for the morning. Anything I could possibly do to make for an easy start to tomorrow needed to be done.
Even when I didn’t feel like watching T.V. — when I just felt like going to bed — my mom didn’t allow that unless I was fully-prepared for the next day.
Through high school, it carried on. Obviously by that point it was less of her telling me and more of me just doing it out of spite, but nonetheless, the reminders were always there. And being a two-sport athlete with terrible organizational skills, I definitely needed them.
But of course, I didn’t know that. I thought it was dumb. Pointless. A waste of time.
Fast forward to the night before my first college football game.
We had an 8:45A.M. start time, with mass held in our university’s chapel. Dress code was required — suit and tie, dress shoes…the whole sha-bang.
Since we’d be heading to breakfast immediately after mass, and then the stadium immediately after that, we had to have all of our game-day gear with us.
Making a mental note of everything I needed in the morning, I realized how embarrassing it would be if I was late, or how irresponsible I would look if I forgot something.
And then, like an instinct, I thought,
“You know what, I should pack and put my bag by the door.”
That small habit is, without question, one of the most important lessons I learned as a kid.
To a lot of people, simple prep is pointless.
What’s the purpose of laying out an outfit when my closet consists of the same jeans and t-shirts? Why pack and zip-up my bag when all of my work stuff is right there, on my desk? Why pack snacks for the morning when it takes less than 30 seconds to do so?
If all of these things seems trivial, it’s because they are. Getting dressed, packing a backpack and readying some snacks takes all of 5 minutes — if that. And all of those tasks at hand are essentially mindless — we could practically do them in our sleep.
That’s where we typically say, “Welp, this can wait till morning.”
Yet, too often morning comes, and we feel rushed, behind, totally unprepared for the day ahead. We shoot out of bed well past our alarm, forget to rinse off all the soap in the shower and hop on one leg while we try to brush our teeth.
The day starts in chaos, which sets the tone for the rest of the day, allowing for little-to-no shot at redemption.
Start every day right before you go to sleep.
Set the tone for a productive day by being proactive the night before.
Pick out your clothes and snacks, pack your bags and make sure you have your wallet, keys, charger and anything else you think you might need.
Even though it seems pointless, remember:
Everything you do the night before is one less thing to do in the morning.