4 science-backed ways to end to your workday more successfully

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My average workday used to have several “ends”.

I would end my day at the office by closing my laptop, putting it in my bag, and saying goodbye to my workmates. But after putting my daughter to bed, I would take my laptop back out of my bag and squeeze in a tiny bit of work before dinner.

I’d close it again, gobble down some food, and return to my laptop. And finally, when my Flux notification popped back up to tell me I needed to get off all devices to prepare for bed, I’d end my workday once more.

Not surprisingly, I never felt a sense of closure on any workday. They simply blurred together.

Since coming to this realisation, I knew things had to change. After researching the best ways to achieve closure and end the day with a sense of satisfaction, as well as set myself up in the best position for the next day, I have changed my habits to the following:

1. Park on a downhill slope

If you are human, there is a good chance that when you have sat down to start or even continue work on a project, you have felt overwhelmed, not knowing what to do first. Sometimes, it’s just hard to get started.

Even writers such as Ernest Hemingway are not immune to this issue. To help himself find motivation and flow in the morning, Hemingway used to end his writing sessions mid-sentence. It allowed for an easy start the next day, because he could simply complete the sentence and keep on going.

Essentially, it’s the writing equivalent of parking on a downhill slope. It tricks our sometimes lazy brain into starting, because it’s starting from an easy base.

I now finish almost every day midway through a project. It might be an article that I have structured, but not fleshed out. It might be in the middle of a new product strategy I am working on, whereby I know exactly where to pick back up the next day.

So long as I am at a mid-point, starting work the next day becomes far easier.

2. Shut down your day

It’s so easy to leave the office, only to get home and start working again. And even if you are not engaged in this pattern, it’s very easy for work and stresses from the day to linger in your mind well beyond 5pm.

To help reduce stress and provide closure on your day, author Dan Pink suggests developing a mental shutdown of your day. Specifically, he recommends spending two to three minutes writing down what you have accomplished that day.

Feeling a sense of progress has been shown in research to be the most powerful motivator at work, so ending the day reflecting on this progress provides a sense of satisfaction.

Next, spend two to three minutes planning the following day. This helps provide a sense of control, another great motivator, and also helps provide mental closure.

3. Set yourself a problem to ponder

If you are particularly uncomfortable with the idea of not working well into the night, take advantage of the power of your unconscious mind. To do this, think of a problem that requires creative thought to solve, and ask your mind to work on it overnight.

Alternatively, think about a big decision you need to make. Research has shown that when we switch off from consciously thinking about the problem, our unconscious mind takes over and is a very effective creative thinker and decision-maker.

4. Send a gratitude note

If you have one more minute left to spare, take a moment to send someone a gratitude note. This might be in the form of an email or a text message, and expresses your gratitude for something they did.

Gratitude has been shown time and time again to be an effective mood elevator, so it’s an effective strategy to make sure you end your day on a high.

Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy. Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives.

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