It’s 4:35 pm. You’re exhausted. Drained is more like it.
It’s been a day of fighting distractions, racing to meetings, staying awake, ingesting caffeine, and trying to get stuff done. Now, you’re packing your laptop to take work home. And tomorrow, you’ll get up, rinse, and repeat.
But what if there was another way?
I’m going to give you a simple process for maximizing the end of your workday to deliver an extraordinary amount of productivity to your entire work existence.
I suggest starting this process at least a half hour before wrapping up your day. This runway time will allow you to take off with a huge creative and productive burst the following day.
Step 1: Respond to as many emails as you can
I’m a huge believer in chunking—the practice of doing similar tasks at the same time. Email is one of them.
What makes this number worse is the halo time of distraction over email. Many of us allow email to creep into every moment of our day. You get an email notification, and—whizz!—your mind skitters away from whatever task it was doing to see what shiny new email you’ve got now! It takes an average of 25 minutes to recover from a distraction, meaning we spend the entire day distracted by email.
That’s a freaking waste of time.
Eliminating email creep is one of the single biggest gains you can make towards improving your productivity. That’s why responding to as many emails as possible in 30 minutes or less is the first step in this end-of-day process.
The vast majority of relevant emails hit your inbox during workday hours. By the end of the workday, you will have received most of the important messages. If you can respond to 80% of these or so, you can effectively reduce tomorrow’s workload by a huge margin and will be way ahead of the game when you start your day.
Step 2: Turn your computer and mobile device off.
This deserves its own personal point because it’s so important.
By turning your device off, you’re putting up a barrier to the invasion of notifications. Of course, if you use your computer or device for scheduling your day or taking notes, you’ll want to keep it on. Just be sure to close any programs that could interrupt your end-of-the-day productivity prep. Instead, keep your project management software open in order to stay organized in the next few steps.
There’s another helpful bonus to turning off your computer. When you shut down your computer completely, it closes out all the programs and/or browser tabs you have open. All this information and unfinished activity should be set aside before the next day begins.
Why? Because each day deserves a fresh start—not a regathering of the ragged leftovers of the previous day. If you have any remaining issues you need to deal with, make that part of your brain dump (more on that in step 3).
Step 3: Perform a brain dump.
Write down everything that’s on your mind that you need to do. This can include everything from personal and family to-dos to work tasks. It can be as random as necessary. I record my brain dump on my computer.
The goal in the brain dump is to reduce mental clutter. Productivity is more about mental control than the techniques that help get stuff done.
Writing down the things you need to do is an important part of preparing for the next day’s fight. Your mind is clear, and the distractions are set aside. It’s go time.
Step 4: Plan the next day.
It’s important to plan your day before it starts. A day that starts without a plan is like an engine that needs to warm up before it’s safe to drive. As one productivity expert admits, it’s possible “you spend more time hacking your to-do list than you actually spend doing stuff.”
If you start your day planning, you’re wasting your most productive time planning instead of doing. Do your planning the day before so you can jump in fully prepared, fully planned, and fully ready to get stuff done.
You don’t need a to-do list, as Daniel Markovitz skillfully explains. Instead, you need control of your day. So schedule calendar slots for the things you need to get done. This allows you to actually take time to complete things, rather than scramble to check things off without a clear sense of when that will happen.
What does this look like practically? Simply review all your upcoming tasks in a project management app like TeamGantt. Make sure you’ve scheduled time to work on these important tasks.
Don't underestimate the power of gantt charts in this process. Gantt charts give you power over your projects—visual clarity and mental control. By structuring your schedule ahead of time, you have the ability to tackle the day's most important work head on.
Step 5: Clean your office.
Cleaning your office is a powerful hack that improves productivity. Your office space is known as an “environmental factor.” The status of this environment changes the way you think and work.
Research shows that “the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for paper.” If you clean your office, you will become more productive. It’s just that simple.
Robin Sharma shares this advice and anecdote:
Mess creates stress (I learned this from tennis icon Andre Agassi who said he wouldn’t let anyone touch his tennis bag because if it got disorganized, he’d get distracted). So clean out the clutter in your office to get more done.
There are other benefits to a clean office:
- It brings closure to the day. By tidying up, you’re putting to rest the melee of a day’s activity. It feels good and provides an appropriate stopping point.
- It helps you relax when you stop working. This makes it easier for you to go home in a peaceful state of mind and actually enjoy yourself when you’re not working.
- It creates a sense of renewal and energy the following day. The biggest upside of a clean office is the fresh start the next day. You walk into a clean office, and you’re ready to kill it with productivity.
Reclaim your workday
It’s time to reclaim the end of your workday. Once you do, you’ll be able to reclaim the beginning of the workday—and that means you’ll gain productive mastery over your entire day.
Imagine stepping into your office tomorrow morning. It’s clean. It’s quiet. Your mind is clear, poised for action. Sitting on your desk is a clear schedule of what you’re going to nail in the next 8 hours.
It’s time to seriously get things done.
Get more done with TeamGantt
Ready to knock out tasks like there’s no tomorrow? With TeamGantt, you’ll have all the tools you need to take control of your projects so you can pack more productivity into every day.