One of the most common questions I get, or struggles clients have is around how to start the workday. We all know the importance of starting our day off right, a good start guarantees a great day right? Yes.
Our productivity increases, our mood is better and we seem to enter a flow of ease. So of course we focus our attention on starting our day well, but the problem is life happens – we get an unexpected call, something comes up in an email that we have to address and suddenly we are in the thick of a mess and the vision of a perfect start to our day is out the window and we feel as though we have “failed”.
The thing is, the key to having a successful morning tomorrow is to have a great end today. It’s half of the puzzle of being productive. Think of your morning and end-of-day routines like first and last impressions that impact how you see your work, attitude and productivity level. The end of your day sets the tone for tomorrow, and the start of your day will set you up for success today. I find that we put a lot less pressure on ourselves when we begin to adjust how we start our day versus how we end it and therefore recommend fine-tuning our end of the day first.
With my clients, I like to call how you end your day “Closure Activities.” They are the last things that you do so you can close off the day and give separation between your work and the rest of your day (ever so important during these work from home times) having a positive impact in reducing levels of stress and increasing happiness in your life. Ending your day positively also ensures that you look back on it with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, making it easier when you start your next day.
Here are my top 5 tips for ending your day to give yourself your best tomorrow:
- Give Yourself Time to End – this is key, give yourself 20 minutes to wrap up your day, having this time scheduled for “closing” off your day will ensure that it happens and will give your mind the time to unwind as you do it. If you have this scheduled it’s easier to avoid taking those last-minute, low priority emails or starting a new task ‘because it will just take a sec’. You have to value this time to end your day in order to get the most out of it.
- Review Your Accomplishments – Look at everything you got done in your day, so often as we move through the motions we fail to acknowledge what we’re actually accomplishing. By taking the time to recognize what you got done you will feel better about your abilities and more capable of what you have left to do, which brings us to our next step —
- Make and Schedule Tomorrow’s To-Do List – Now that you feel capable of what you have accomplished, pull together or reevaluate tomorrow’s To-Do List and schedule it. Ask yourself “what is the top priority” and set together with a plan to get it done. This takes away the nighttime thoughts of ‘planning/thinking of everything you have to get done because you already have a plan in place.
- Tidy up – We have known this since kindergarten when our teacher would make us clean up at the end of the day but it’s something many of us fail to do. Nobody likes the feeling of walking into a mess especially if you have a busy day ahead of you. This is even more important when our office is also our home. Tidying up is the actual physical act of closure to our workday. Take a few minutes to toss any garbage, organize your paperwork, close your laptop, put away cables and cords and things you don’t need. This will give that feeling of a fresh start when you start the next morning.
- Finally, Disconnect – Don’t be afraid to shut down your smartphone or at least shut off the email alerts if even for only an hour. Let people know about it. When you end your day, tell your colleagues the period of time you will be unavailable and stick to it. It’s important to break the “work mode”, especially when we work from home, as it can be ever so tempting to go back to ‘one last thing’. In this hour, ideally more or the whole night, do something. Pre pandemic this would have been your commute home so a walk, a workout or another form of self-care is ideal before you go into making dinner or watching the latest Netflix binge. Have a plan for activities to fill this time so that when it comes to the end of the day you don’t have to think about what to do but just slide right into it.
Like anything, the key to ending your day with a closing routine is to get it done. I always like to embrace the attitude of ‘Done is Better than Perfect,’ and to have self-compassion. Start adding this bit by bit and soon you will have a sustainable habit that will make your mornings that much better and the work-life balance that much easier.