7 WAYS TO END YOUR WORK DAY FEELING HAPPY AND SATISFIED
Here are some science-tested tricks for wrapping up your day happy and in a way that sets up tomorrow to be the best day it can be. Make a rule for yourself to put aside some time at the end of the day to take care of these few things. They can make you happier at work and likely more successful too.
1. Clean up for a fresh start tomorrow
There’s hardly anything that stops good morning energy — and inspired ideas — more thoroughly than having to stop and clean up from the day before you can get down to business. Talk about your buzzkill.
Tidy your desk before you leave each night and — after saving your open work — close out all of your computer’s now-unneeded windows and browser tabs, except maybe for one (see #4 below). A Princeton study showed that clutter, physical and virtual, takes a surprising toll on your energy.
2. Review your good work
We celebrate project milestones and measure our progress with long-term goals, but we also achieve things every day that are worth feeling good about. Take a few moments to review what you got done during the day — you deserve the strokes. It’ll help you stay excited about your work.
3. Get tomorrow’s to-do list together in order of priority
Doing this has two benefits.
First of all, it gives you a sense of completion when you hand off tasks to another day so you get work out of your head at the end of the day. Otherwise, we tend to keep mentally working on the things we haven’t finished due to something called the “Zeigarnick Effect.” You deserve to have time off, you know.
Second, it relieves you from having to decide where to start the moment you step into work in the morning. Each decision you make takes a little bit out of you, and a to-do list helps you start off the day with some of them already made. It’s like a head start.
4. Get set to eat the frog
This one’s based on an old Mark Twain saying: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” So, no — no actual frog is required here. Rather, we’re talking about planning to deal first thing in the morning with what you think will be the biggest — and most critical — task of the day. Your Most Important Task. After that, the rest of the day will be easy.
In number one above, we told you you might want to leave one browser tab or window open overnight — that would be the tab or window you need for, um, eating your frog the next morning. It can make it easier to get started in the a.m. since at least that much of the prep work will be out of the way.
Alternate thought: if you’re really dreading that nasty task, you can plan on a simple one first for a momentum-generating quick-win that’ll launch you right into it.
5. Face your fears
Inevitably, there will be certain tasks you keep putting off, and the longer you do so, the more resistance you’ll have to completing them. It’s the “procrastination doom loop” at work.
It’s not because you’re lazy or a bad person — there’s probably some good reason you’re avoiding them. Often, it will be a subconscious sense you don’t know how to handle the problem, for example.
At the end of the day, when you know you don’t have to deal with the troublemakers right now, stop and think about each of them to figure out what it is that’s so avoidance-worthy. Maybe you don’t know how to do something you’re supposed to do. That’s okay. Just break it down into smaller, doable tasks. Lots of seemingly impossible goals can be accomplished going a step at a time.
You’ve been working all day, and that day has to end sometime. Establish your quitting time and stick to it. If you’re having trouble honoring your time limit, back yourself into doing so by making some plans with other people after work. Going on too long leads to bad work, bad feelings, and exhaustion.
7. Make the last thing you do feel good
There are a few ways to make sure you leave work in a positive mood, no matter how rough a day you’ve had.
- Odds are, there will be things that don’t get done by the end of the day. That’s okay. If you know you’ve been at it all day, that’s all anyone can ask. If there are things that took longer than expected, that’s life. In fact, those are often the tasks that teach us the most.
- Thank a coworker for something they did. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and you’ll feel good making someone else feel good.
- Do a coworker a favor. Got an idea for how to make someone else’s tomorrow easier? Go on. Do it. A tried-and-true way to feel good about yourself.
There are really two common threads to all this good wisdom: take the time to feel good about yourself, and get a running head start on tomorrow. Settle into a routine like this, and if the studies are right, get ready for enjoy your work more and have a stronger shot at success.
Thanks to Becky Kane for her wise ToDoist blog post.