Most probably, you have a work ritual in some shape or form. Something that guides on what you need to get done for the day. However, do you have a work shutdown ritual? If you are like most people, most likely you do not have one.
What is a work shutdown ritual?
In his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport, a productivity expert opines, “A shutdown ritual is a set routine of actions that you perform at the end of each workday to finalize your day and signify that your workday is done.
So, how do you create a work shutdown ritual?
First and foremost, start by reviewing your day. Some of the questions you can ask yourself are:
How was my day?
What did I achieve today?
What did I do right to achieve them?
What have I not achieved?
Why was I unable to achieve them?
Which resources, help, or planning do I need to achieve them?
Which distractions did I face during the day?
What do I need to do to be not distracted?
Asking these questions will make it clear to you whether if you are getting things done, or not.
After reviewing, discard any tasks that do not add any value to your day. For example, after reviewing your day and you find out you were distracted with endless back and forth emails, you can communicate to your team that you will only answer emails in the afternoon. So, anything sent before that will have to wait unless it is an emergency.
Everything that came up during the day and you were not able to handle it but needs your attention, schedule it for the next day. This will save you from procrastinating and being overwhelmed down the line. If it’s not possible, schedule it at least within the week.
Maintaining a schedule will help you stay on task and give you a sense of what needs to be done. This is a great way to set goals and look back on what you've achieved over the week. It also helps you organize your tasks in a chronological and orderly way.
4. Write down
There is power in putting ink on paper. Write down your to-do list for the next day of work, taking account of what you have reviewed, discarded, and need to schedule. This can be as simple as a to do list, or a detailed overview of all your tasks.
Prioritize them accordingly, with deep work having the highest priority, and then below it admin work (emails, meetings, calls). This will help you prioritize your own work throughout the week and give your tasks a clear sense of purpose.
5. Log out
Shut down all open browser tabs, save any uncompleted work, and then turn off the power of your laptop. When you log in the next day, you will start from a clean slate. This is a great way to clear your mind of the clutter of the workday so you can focus on relaxing and unwinding.
Logging out of everything really helps delineate the time between work and play, which is very important for your mental health. If you can truly give your mind and body the rest they deserve, you'll do your very best work when it's time to get into the nitty gritty of it all.
6. Speak it
Words are powerful, and as such, have a phrase to mark the end of your workday. For example, you could say “Shutdown complete”, “End of my workday”, and then walk away from your work station.
A verbal affirmation like this gives a sense of finality and completeness to your workday. You'll feel powerful and authoritative, like being your own boss! Try this verbal affiirmation every day and see how it affects your outlook and your temperament after a long day of work.
Why is it important to have a work shutdown ritual?
Do you find yourself constantly checking your email when you are cooking dinner? How productive do you feel at such moments? More than likely, you don’t.
However, the fear of an email being sent and you not replying immediately makes you anxious. Inadvertently, you are always in work mode, which is not healthy.
Here are the reasons why you need to do a work shutdown ritual every day.
1. Engage your subconscious mind to solve your toughest problems
Have you ever tried to solve a difficult problem and could not seem to hack it? Then when you stepped away from it, or you decided to “sleep on it”, you were able to find a solution.
If you have, thank your subconscious mind, which was working overtime in the background to find a solution.
The subconscious mind does the heavy lifting and deep work and is activated when you step away from the conscious part of the brain which does the day to day activities (coding, writing, designing, driving, etc).
This is where a work shutdown ritual comes in to help activate the subconscious mind to help you solve problems in your work.
Knowledge work is mentally draining, and you need to recharge to remain productive. By doing a work shutdown ritual, you tell your mind “we are done for the day, and we can rest.”
So, for example, if you do your work shutdown ritual and decide to take a walk to unwind, your mind will yield to the walk, and will not worry about any work stuff. You, therefore, recharge your energy with ease, as compared to not having that clarity on whether you are still working.
3. Stimulate creativity
Creativity is the ability to connect two disconnected ideas. Finding the time to do activities that help you activate this type of mental connections is very important.
For example, watching a movie, going out to dinner with friends, immersing yourself in a hobby, learning a new language, it is in these moments you will have “aha” moments and come up with the best ideas.
Now, think of yourself always being on “work mode”, and no work shutdown, how will you create anything? A work shutdown ritual signals to your brain, we can now create.
4. Anchor for other habits
When you become consistent with your work shutdown ritual, you can use it to develop other habits, what James Clear calls habit stacking.
The idea is to pair a new habit with an already existing habit, which makes you more likely to stick to your new habit.
For example, you could create a habit like, after your work shutdown ritual, you will put on your gym clothes and head out to the gym to work out.
Eventually, you end up having bigger wins.
It may seem unnecessary at first to have a work shutdown ritual. It sounds like some new-age practice that is full of fluff. However, the work shutdown ritual is a productivity/time management technique that has been proven to increase productivity.
So, go ahead and try it and see how much it can improve your productivity.
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