But there’s another important component of a productive day that happens well after your alarm goes off: how you close things out when the clock strikes 5 (or 8 p.m., or midnight).
The close of your day not only signals a shift between your work life and your personal life, which is key, but it’s a chance to review your progress and set fresh goals for the following 24 hours.
Here are six things to do at the end of each day to wrap things up on a high note and set a productive agenda for the next morning.
Review Your Progress
Tracking your daily progress and analyzing results is an important step toward reaching your goals. Not only does it help you analyze where you might need to step up your game, it also helps you feel good about what you accomplished on any given day.
As you near the end of the work day, take a look back over your to-do list and see all the things you crossed off. Some days it the whole thing might be scribbled out, while others might only see the completion of one or two major tasks.
Either way, give yourself a pat on the back for keeping the ball rolling forward, then move on to step 2.
Set Fresh Goals
Reviewing the day’s progress puts you in a perfect position to set your to-do list for the next morning. Up until recently, I’d wait until first thing in the morning to set the day’s agenda. Then I realized this was disjointed.
With a full night’s sleep and potentially several social/family activities in between work days, it’s easy to lose track of where you left off the day before or to forget that small housekeeping task you thought of just as your computer shut down.
Instead, now I make each day’s task list at the close of business the day before. It allows me to pick up seamlessly where I left off on any unfinished tasks and helps me keep consistent momentum on ongoing projects. It’s also one less thing waiting for you to do when you walk into the office.
Tie Up Loose Ends
You may have heard the phrase “eat the frog.” Mark Twain said if you eat a live frog first thing every morning, you can go through the day knowing the most difficult task is behind you.
Unless downing live amphibians is your thing, your frog typically refers to your most challenging task, which should be completed first thing in the morning. That leaves all the mindless stuff—answering emails, listening to voicemails and the like—for later in the day when you’ve got a little less juice left in the tank.
Use the last hour or so of your work day for these loose ends. Make a dent in your email backlog and respond to any phone messages that have piled up during the day.
My personal favorite loose end to tie up at the end of the day are the thank-you’s—a job well done by a team member, a supplier who helped you out, or the nice receptionist who made your wait a little less painful.
Just a quick line or two in an email to say thanks can make someone’s day and will also make you feel more fulfilled yourself.
Straighten Up Your Desk
There’s an age-old debate over which kind of workplace is best. Some maintain that an organized desk equates to an organized mind, while the other camp says a messy one indicates a creative genius at work.
The level of chaos you allow to accumulate at your desk during the workday is your personal preference, but there’s definitely something to be said about the empowering feeling of walking in to an uncluttered workspace first thing in the morning.
If you’re already a neatnik, then you’ll thrive on putting everything in its place and walk out of the office with an added dose of satisfaction.
If you’re on the untidy side, try this: look at your next-day to-do list and decide which item is your frog. Anything related to that task can be left out on your desk, easily at hand. Everything else can be stacked in a pile (however messy) and placed in a drawer or desktop file until you need it.
Let Employees See You Leave
A 24/7 workday isn’t healthy for anyone, but it’s a part of company culture that starts at the top. If you’re hammering away at your desk until 9 p.m. each night, it’s tough for employees not to feel obligated to do the same.
Set the tone for a balanced workplace by leaving at the true close of business hours—at least most days. Whether you like it or not, your behavior signals what’s expected and acceptable for the rest of the flock.
As the entrepreneur-in-chief, it’s tough not to be wired into work at all hours of the day. And in most industries, you will need to be available to respond to urgent matters even when you’re not physically in the office.
However, disconnecting from non-urgent work when you leave for the day is necessary for your own sanity and job performance. So when you end the workday, end it!
If you’re really struggling to stop refreshing your email over dinner with your family, try an app like Inbox Pause that lets you pause emails from being delivered until the next morning.
Just as following a morning ritual sets your day off on the right track, wrapping up work with a similar routine helps maintain consistency and keep you on the path toward your goals.
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