How do you like to end the work day?
We all know how important a morning routine can be for setting up a productive day. But how we end our days can also set the tone for our evening as well as the week ahead.
By the time 5pm rolls around, you might be eager to shut off your computer and head straight home. Or, if you work from home, and don’t have a firm end time, you might be tempted to burn the midnight oil.
Whatever your scenario may be, it’s worthwhile to close up shop and incorporate a wind-down ritual for your day.
A wind-down ritual is like a palate cleanser for your day. It’s a way to refresh your office space and wipe the slate clean. It helps you review your day’s work and get your ducks in a row for tomorrow. And it also resets your state of mind, allowing you to shrug off the stresses from the office, and ease you into your evening.
1. End your day with these three questions
Do you ever feel like your work days bleed into the next? Or that the week is just a blur of work assignments, meetings, and commuting?
To feel more connected to your days, it really helps to take stock and reflect on how your day went. It’s a simple exercise that increases your awareness of how your time and energy are being spent.
So before 5pm rolls around, ask yourself these three reflective questions:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What can I do to make tomorrow better?
These questions are a lens into your work day and help you examine your work, goals, and actions more clearly.
Let’s break them down a bit more.
- What went well: It could be something profound like landing a big client, or a smaller, but still meaningful win like “I spoke up during the team meeting.” Acknowledging your successes, of all sizes, is a big confidence boost. It lets you know what you do well and that you should be doing more of it.
- What didn’t go so well: Maybe you found yourself snapping at a coworker or you forgot to submit an assignment on time. As challenging as it may be to recognize the grittier parts of your day, it’s essential for your career development. To grow as a person, you need to know what can be improved.
- What can I do to make tomorrow better: It doesn’t have to be a life changing resolution. A small change like “remember to eat lunch” can make a significant impact on your mood and day.
2. Review your to-do list
Give your future self a productive start to the day by reviewing your to-do list.
Here’s how to assess your to-do list so that you can roll into work the next day feeling prepared.
- Check off items you completed. This one sounds obvious but make sure you’re crossing out or checking off completed items. Checking off your tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment and increases your motivation. It’s a little Jedi mind trick that works!
- Circle tasks you didn’t accomplish. Identify any pending tasks and add them to tomorrow’s to-do list.
- Take note of tasks/items you deliberately ignored. Is there something about the task that’s making you procrastinate? See if there’s a way to reduce its size or scope, and make it more user-friendly. For instance, if you’re procrastinating on your expense reports, then make it easier by separating it into smaller steps. Example: gather my receipts, scan and upload receipts to my computer, complete the online form. Add these mini steps to tomorrow’s to-do list.
- Write down any new tasks. Maybe your boss asked you to do some research or maybe you received a calendar invite to a morning meeting. Add any tasks to tomorrow’s to-do list so that you’re not scrambling on the day of.
3. Send a status email to your boss
Your boss probably has a million plates in the air, so, oftentimes, you have to be the one that’s managing your manager.
Sending a status email at the end of the day keeps them apprised of important information but also keys them in on all the valuable work you are doing.
The trick to a status email is to keep it short and concise. Use bullet points and make sure to indicate what action needs to be done from their side.
I wanted to keep you updated on this week’s project.
- Presentation: I’ve attached a draft below. Need your comments by Wednesday.
- Meeting with stakeholders: The meeting has been set for this Friday. Would you like me to attend and take notes?
- Vendors: Please approve the list of vendors by tomorrow afternoon.
4. Refresh your office space for 5 minutes
Office clutter is not only an eyesore but it’s also a strain on your mind. A clean and organized desk makes your internal state feel clean and organized.
You don’t need to do a deep clean everyday. A quick tidy session is enough to make your space look put together—and make you feel better as well.
Set a timer for five minutes and tackle as much as you can.
- Put documents in their proper file folders
- Recycle paperwork or shred sensitive documents
- Put pens and office supplies back in their proper place
- Wipe down your desk
5. Do a calming activity
You work hard all day so it wouldn’t be a surprise if you were still feeling tense by 5pm.
Help yourself calm down and release the stresses of the day by doing a calming activity. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long meditation. A small, quiet activity can be just as effective in creating a sense of calm and peace.
Ideas for calming activities include:
- Lighting a candle
- Doing some light stretches
- Writing down three things you are grateful for
- Closing your eyes for twenty seconds
- Taking a walk around the block and getting some fresh air
- Reciting a soothing mantra
- Looking out the window and admiring the sky
Explore and find some activities that work for you and help you wind down by the time 5 pm hits. You’ll end the day feeling calmer, more prepared, and more mindful of your time.
Written by JiJi Lee