20th June 2024

A shutdown ritual can help you end your day on a high note

I am a huge fan of starting your day on purpose.

You can use the same principle to end your day.

Every day, before you end your workday, save a few minutes to process the day. Look at your to-do list and compare what you should have done versus what actually happened. Could you have done better than you did? Did you complete all your high-value tasks?

If you make it a habit to spend a little time every day planning your day and wrapping up your day on purpose, you will continue to have an amazing day every week.

How you finish the workday today can impact your behaviour outside work, your overall well-being, how well you sleep at night, and ultimately your mood tomorrow morning.

Many people spend the last hour of their workday on low-value tasks. (activities that keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done). You can do better than that.

Others bury themselves in their work until the very last minute and start the next day with the same mindset and even less done.

If you are not productive every day, time will pass agonizingly slowly.

Remember, 80 percent of your output is determined by 20 percent of your input, according to the Pareto principle.

It pays to know how you are using your time and on what tasks. Spend your last 20 minutes every day to reflect, process, measure and prioritise for the next working day.

This simple habit can improve your efficiency. A workday shutdown ritual changes everything. In his bestselling book Deep Work: Rules for Focuses Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport describes the importance of ending every workday the same way:

“This ritual should ensure that every incomplete task, goal or project has been reviewed and that for each you have confirmed that either 1) you have a plan you trust for its completion, or 2) it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited at the right time.”

Take a moment to reflect on what you have accomplished

If you started your day on purpose, you would have accomplished high-value tasks today. Review them. Write them down. Focus you on accomplishments and progress. Keep a done list to boost your level of satisfaction.

Celebrate your small wins.

The workday events that ignite their emotions, fuel their motivation, and trigger their perceptions are fundamentally the same.

The importance of progress was highlighted in The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.

Their research, studying 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees in 7 companies, found that making headway on meaningful work brightens a person’s inner work life and boosts long-term progress.

They write in the Harvard Business Review:

“Our hunt for inner work life triggers led us to the progress principle. When we compared our research participants’ best and worst days (based on their overall mood, specific emotions, and motivation levels), we found that the most common event triggering a “best day” was any progress in the work by the individual or the team. The most common event triggering a “worst day” was a setback.”

It’s so easy to forget to stop and take a moment to celebrate your wins — no matter how small. Try not to allow yourself to get distracted. Make time to count your progress. You can reflect using a journal. You will be in a better state of mind before ending your workday.

Identify your high-value tasks for tomorrow

If you have planned your week, or months ahead of time, you know what you will work on tomorrow. Remind yourself.

In his book, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, author Peter Bregman explains:

“Each morning, I ask myself some questions: Am I prepared for this day? Prepared to make it a successful, productive day? Have I thought about it? Planned for it? Anticipated the risks that might take me off track? Will my plan for this day keep me focused”.

Determine the three most important tasks you need to do tomorrow. Write them down. Rank them on your list and assign priorities.

Aim to get them done preferably in the morning when you are most active.

Review other tasks you need to do for the rest of the day.

Visualise how the day will unfold. You will feel better prepared, more confident, and less stressed when the day begins.

What outcomes do you want tomorrow?

What meetings, calls and activities do you need to follow up on tomorrow?

Declutter your desk

Research that shows that clutter distracts you, inhibiting your overall productivity. Take a few minutes every day to clear your desk.

Use the 5-S Principles to organise your desk before you leave.

5S is the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words: Sort (Seiri), Set In Order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke).

  1. Make work easier by eliminating obstacles (Sort)
  2. Arrange all necessary items so that they can be easily selected for use (Set In Order)
  3. Clean your workplace on daily basis completely or set cleaning frequency (Shine)
  4. Maintain high standards at all times (Standardize)
  5. Self-discipline, also translates as “do without being told”(Sustain)

End your day on a positive note and your next working day will be incredibly amazing. End on a high note. Set yourself up for a super-productive day tomorrow — review your completed tasks at the end of each day, plan tomorrow’s to-do list and tidy your desk.

By Thomas Oppong

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