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6×10: Or, ensuring a better tomorrow, tonight.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my almost-55 years (!) on the planet, it’s that planning is the long-term endeavor’s best friend. Passion is great, but it’s hard to sustain in the face of tedium; fortune may favor the bold, but it tends to sucker-punch the foolhardy. Planning, on the other hand, will almost always save you money, time, and aggravation, and who doesn’t want more of these? (Or at least two out of three of them.)

But cheer up! With a little practice, planning can become second nature. And practicing isn’t nearly as involved as you might think. You are literally ONE HOUR AWAY from a smoother day tomorrow by taking six small actions tonight that take just 10 minutes apiece. Does it mean that you may get to binge-watch one less episode in your Stranger Things marathon? It does! But when you are not stuck in traffic, running late for whatever, and ready to gnaw off your own arm from hunger, you will thank me. Or better yet, the You From Yesterday.

1. Make a list of things to do tomorrow.

Every night I do this, the next day goes more smoothly. Every. Single. Night. Maybe it has something woowoo to do with visualizing outcome, but I tend to think at least half the magic comes with having a realistic map for the day. Example: if I have eight things to do (not unusual), two of which are time-based and in different locations, laying them all out in front of me lets me see what is the best way to order, and even efficiently cluster, events. This is beyond the very excellent and basic plain old remembering-of-stuff. Write it down. I will if you will.

2. Map your day, literally.

This is kind of like the geographic version of #1. Especially if you drive or have complicated public transit maneuvers, advance-mapping them via Google Maps or Waze or [insert your favorite mapping app here] creates ease and spaciousness. If your day ahead includes dodgy parking situations, destinations with complicated check-in procedures, and so forth, this will bring them to mind more easily. Both #1 & #2 create clarity, which creates ease and spaciousness, which gives you room to be the best actor you can be when you arrive.

3. Prep your breakfast and/or organize food for tomorrow.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be something. Unless you are a superfreak-early-riser, get your food for tomorrow together tonight. Nobody likes a cranky actor, and no one can hear a passed-out one. Plus, you will save money, guaranteed. CHA-CHING. (For stubborn freewheelers, beat yourself at your own game by stashing energy bars and spare bottles of water everywhere you can think of. Because life happens.)

4. Put out your clothes for tomorrow.

If you have an audition, you need to have this together in advance. Hopefully, everything is clean/pressed/ready-to-go. If not, if you check the night before, you won’t be surprised morning-of. I still do this when I have a client meeting or some other destination I need to look spiffy for. (I hear this trick works for people who are trying to exercise, too, but as I am usually trying not to exercise, I can’t vouch for it 100%.)

5. Clear off your major working surface.

This could be your desk, if it’s your command center. This could be your bathroom sink, if makeup and hair are an involved process for you. (I have gone from “no hair” to “no-care hair,” so I’m good like that.) It could even be your kitchen sink; many people, myself included, swear by the day-long psychic boost to be had from waking up to a sink that’s not filled with the filth from the night before. (Relate it back to acting? The better you feel about yourself, the more available you are to be fully yourself in the room.) If it’s an Everest situation, maybe spend a tiny bit of time chipping away at it each night until you’re done. But treat your workspaces with respect and you’ll reap the benefits a thousandfold.

6. Write a gratitude/did-well list.

As one who no longer indulges in chemical stimulants or depressants, I’m a huge fan of an evening ritual that helps trick my brain into shutting down for sleep mode. For me, for the past 4+ years or so, it’s been a medium-sized mug of peppermint tea and a small notebook in which I write, every night, a list of five things each which I’m grateful for and have accomplished that day. There’s enough different benefits packed into this one little routine to write an entire column about. For now, trust me that noting these small things, as well as easing your body into sleep mode, will start changing your life from the bottom up.

BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: She engenders strong feelings in both directions, but one thing everyone can agree on is that Elizabeth “Eat, Pray, Love” (and Become Wildly Successful) Gilbert is a tireless explorer of the creative life. Her latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, is no exception; in it, we get more of a behind-the-scenes story of her climb from obscurity to writer calling her own shots. But Gilbert also shares many stories, ideas, and concepts that should help the lonely, struggling artist maintain the good fight: by demonstrating the importance of each artist’s role in shaping this world, by instructing her on the most effective ways to tap into the Big Creative Juice, and, last but not least, by underlining with real-world examples the importance of doing the sometimes-challenging, sometimes-dull work of making art. 

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may finally have enough money to buy that second pony. (Note: I will not let my love of ponies dictate my recommendations, ever; I only plug that which I love.)

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “The Communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.