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If you are tired of wasting your weeknights, it’s time to create an end of workday ritual. Here’s how!
Do your weeknights feel like a black hole of time? You want to be active and productive, but you are too tired to do anything after work. Laying down on the couch watching Netflix has become your main weeknight hobby. You know you could be using your time better, but don’t have the energy to figure out how.
If you feel like you don’t have enough time in your life, figuring out how to better use/appreciate your weeknights can make a huge difference. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but the hours can really add up over time.
Many people who are productive and work hard in their careers struggle with how to use their weeknights. At the end of a long workday, we feel tired and don’t have much left in the tank for our lives outside of work. In many ways, this exhaustion is mental exhaustion. So, if we can shift our mindset, it is possible to combat this feeling. And one of the best ways to shift your mindset is through an end of the workday ritual.
What is an end of workday ritual?
An end of workday ritual is a series of activities that helps you to mentally close out the day. It helps you to reflect on your workday and then transition into the rest of your evening. By creating a specific routine, the activities will start to become routine and will be a clear indication for your brain that it is time to end your workday.
Why do you need an end of workday ritual?
To Combat Chronic Stress
One of the main causes of burnout for professionals is chronic stress. Stress becomes chronic when we carry it from day to day without ever really relaxing or releasing it. By having an end of workday ritual, you can start to release stress on a daily basis. By practicing this daily, eventually, you will be able to release stress from even the most stressful of days.
Research shows that how something ends disproportionately impacts how we remember it. So if you have a great day at work but then have a conflict or challenging situation towards the end of the day, you will likely forget everything that happened before and just remember the stressful situation. You can hack this by creating an end of workday routine where you are consciously choosing how you want to end each day.
To Save Mental Energy
There is a psychological phenomenon called the Zeigarnik Effect that has found that people are more likely to remember a task when they are interrupted while working on it. While you can use this hack to remember things better, it also means that unfinished tasks are usually taking up a disproportionate amount of your mental resources, because your brain is trying to keep them front of mind. This can contribute to the mental exhaustion that we feel after work because your brain is overloaded with trying to remember things. By having a ritual to close out your day and a system to remind yourself of unfinished tasks in the future, it is easier to mentally disconnect and turn your attention elsewhere after work.
To Mark Your Progress
Harvard Business Review researches Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer studied the work lives of 12,00 employees and found that “of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work”. We often think that progress comes from accomplishing big projects or goals, but real progress comes from taking daily action that moves us towards something. A lot of times we don’t recognize those small micro-steps and miss out on an opportunity to feel pride and satisfaction in our work. An end of workday ritual creates a built-in opportunity to recognize and celebrate daily progress, leading to increased overall satisfaction.
To Incorporate Healthy Habits
An end of workday ritual can also be customized/hacked to incorporate any healthy habits you want to include in your life. I have some specific recommendations for your end of workday routine, but you could easily tag on other goals like drinking water, stretching, cleaning up your inbox, etc. The idea is to take advantage of the habit stack and use the ritual to trigger other actions you want to build into your daily routine.
What does an end of workday ritual include?
While this can be customized to meet your needs, below is my suggestion for your end of workday ritual. Each item is designed to help close out your mental loop, complete the stress cycle, mark progress, and leave you feeling positive and fulfilled.
BONUS: Click here for a recording you can listen to each day that walks you through each step.
Your End of Workday Ritual
1. Brain Dump
Our minds are often racing after a long day, full of thoughts and feelings about everything that has happened. The first part of the end of workday ritual is to dump all of that out on paper. This helps you to stop ruminating cycles and to clear space. Set a timer for two minutes, grab a piece of paper, and write out everything that comes to mind.
2. List of Accomplishments
After you’ve emptied out some thoughts, take your paper and write out at least three accomplishments from the day. These do not have to be huge wins. This could be any progress that happened that day. Or even something you were worried about that turned out better than you expected. Always write at least three things, but you can add more if you are on a roll and had a great day.
3. Top Three Things for Tomorrow
Next, write out on a separate piece of paper or electronic document, the top three things you want to accomplish for tomorrow. Try to constrain this list to three things. If you noted other items in your brain dump, save that list to process for the next time you are updating your to-do list and scheduling your time. If you need help with this process- check out this article.
Next, make a list of at least three things you are grateful for or appreciate from the day. This could be someone doing exceptional work, someone helping you on a project, a valuable conversation, a lunch you really loved, an unexpected break in the day- really anything that happened that you appreciate. If it feels appropriate, you can even send a thank you to someone who you are grateful for that day.
5. Quick Meditation
By now, you’ve cleared your mind quite a bit, but a quick mediation can help to close it out. Set a timer for one or two minutes and close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath during this time and notice any thoughts that cross your mind.
6. Physical Activity (complete the stress cycle)
Our bodies often need a physical release to complete the stress cycle. A fun way to do this is to put on a favorite song and move your body – dancing out the stress of the day. If you want a more subtle approach to this, you can also tense and release the muscles in your body. Do this by tensing up your muscles as much as you can, holding the tension for about five seconds and then fully releasing. I like to start at my feet and do this for each area of the body in succession.
Bonus! I’ve created a guided recording to take you through this weekday process. When you reach the end of the workday, pop on your headphones, press play, and the recording will take you through each step of this process. You can find this recording by clicking HERE.
Weeknights don’t have to be a black hole of time. They can be a great opportunity to spend time with family, catch up with friends, workout, or work on passion projects. This end of day workday ritual will help you to close your day and smoothly transition to the rest of your life. Enjoy!