You probably have a morning ritual – a strong cup of coffee, meditation maybe a favourite podcast for the commute – to make sure you kick your day off right. But chances are, come knock-off time, things are a little less organised. If you invest a bit more energy and thought into how you end your workday, you will reap the benefits tomorrow. Here’s how.
Write a to-do list
‘Instead of using the morning to plan your day ahead, save the end of today for planning for tomorrow,’ Tracey Foulkes, founder and COO of This Is Productivity, recommends. You could spend your last 15 minutes at your desk slogging away at a task that you know your tired brain isn’t going to be able to finish anyway, or you could dedicate that time to setting out your goals for the next day.
‘This way, you will be able to dive straight in with a fresh brain in the morning, focus on high-value tasks immediately, and get more done in less time,’ says Tracey. If you work in a team, have a stand-up at the end of the day. This is simply a short meeting where everyone – you guessed it – stands up to say what they are working on and how it is going. The idea is that standing people are more likely to stay on topic and keep things brief. Check in with one another on critical tasks that need to be accomplished tomorrow. Then, when you all get in the next morning, there is no confusion or need to meet to discuss your game plan. You can get straight to work.
Sweep your inbox
‘I prefer to spend as little time as possible on email,’ explains Tracey. ‘Try sending less to receive less. However, if you absolutely have to rely on it,sort through your inbox at the end of the day, adding urgent, high-value emails to your todo list – after all, emails that aren’t spam are usually tasks.’ Doing this at the end of the day means that you won’t be wasting your first vital hour at work being sucked into an email black hole. Swing by your drafts folder too, to take care of any emails you started, got distracted, and then forgot to finish and send.
Clean up your workspace
We have all had that one co-worker who insists that their messy desk is actually just creative chaos, without which they wouldn’t be able to function. But for most of us, a neat workspace means greater productivity. Researchers at Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute discovered that a messy, cluttered workspace dramatically reduces your ability to focus. It’s like trying to read a book with the TV on – you might be able to follow the text, but your brain is also being forced to process what’s happening on the screen, so your attention is automatically split in two. So, as 4 pm turns into 5 pm, pack away any bits and pieces, file papers and bin the trash you’ve accumulated during the day. Arriving to a neat desk is a visual representation of starting the day with a clean slate. (And this goes for your digital workspace too – there are few things less inspiring than a desktop littered with files.)
Review your day
All these steps are gearing you up for a better tomorrow, but it’s also important to take stock of everything you have accomplished today. ‘I love ending my workday with a check-in,’ says Tracey. ‘What top three things did you bring across the line today? Did you notice any blockages when getting the important things done? And when were you at your happiest?’ Reflecting in this way will not only help you analyse your working hours and identify
any time-suckers, it will also remind you to give yourself a little mental pat on the back once in a while for what you have achieved, which helps you to self-motivate tomorrow.
Turn off your work brain
When you leave the office behind, do you really leave the office behind? If this is something you struggle to do, you could try physically separating yourself from your workday. For example, change your clothes as soon as you’re home, hit the gym to relieve stress, or meet up with friends (but resist talking about work). If you tend to feel guilty about leaving work at work, consider this: Your brain is like a computer. You may be focused on the browser window you have open – say, cooking dinner for the family – but it is still capable of processing things in the background. Ever gone to sleep with a problem nagging at your mind, only to wake up with the solution? Switching off your work brain is the same thing, and your creative thinking may really benefit. ‘My greatest work ideas sometimes come as I’m switching off,’ says Tracey.
[Image by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels]