Let’s imagine for a minute that it’s the end of your workday, whether it’s 4 pm or 8 pm or midnight (hopefully not midnight), and you have finished the last thing on your task list, or at least the last thing you plan to do on your task list, and you’re ready to wrap it up for the day. Now I know it can be tempting to just slam the laptop shut and run, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I have found that if you spend a few extra minutes wrapping things up neatly, and putting things in place for the next day, you can really end your day productively instead of in a rush and set yourself up for even more success.
Even though it’s Friday and I just want to be done with the day and the extra crazy work week, I will not just slam my laptop shut then say “peace out!” No matter how busy or tired I get, I still plan to follow my 3 step process that I go through at the end of each work day to be sure that I’m staying on track with my goals and my projects and ending the day on a high note. I call it my Daily Debrief. Here are the three key steps.
First, spend a few minutes and jot down one win that you had that day. It can be anything from finally handling a difficult task that you’ve been putting off, or nailing that sales presentation to a possible new client, or just a great conversation you had with a business friend. It can be so easy to dismiss our wins and forget about them. I know I’m guilty of this. I never used to celebrate my wins, but instead I always focused on what DID NOT go well and therefore felt like my business was doing terribly. However, I just needed to acknowledge the stuff that was great each day. If you’re a journal person, write down that win. It shouldn’t take you more than a minute and then you can look back on your weeks or months as a whole and see ALL the great wins you had. This also helps you to end your day on a high note rather than dwelling on something negative.
Next, I open up my project management software one final time for the day and do a little assessment. I look at what I assigned myself for tasks that day and what actually got done. When I first started doing this I noticed a trend, every day I’d still have 3-5 tasks left on my plate, which I then had to push off until the next day. By Friday I would open up Asana (my favorite project management software) and have a list of 25 things left to do that week when there was no possible way that was going to happen. Once I realized that the number of tasks I was assigning each day was WAY too much, I started backing off and getting more realistic.
By doing an assessment at the end of each day and looking at what got done vs. what did t, I can realistically ask myself “did I put too much on my plate today?” “How many tasks would have been more reasonable to assign myself today?” Over time I started getting a better handle on how many tasks I could reasonably assign myself and accomplish each day so I was not setting myself up for failure.
After I assess what got done and what didn’t and why, I make my plan for the next day or the next week. I add any notes or comments to tasks. And then I re-assign anything that wasn’t completed to a different day but being mindful of the workload I can reasonably handle. I look at what really HAS to get done next and I prioritize my day. I rearrange the tasks in the order I need to do them for the next day so that I’m ready to hit the ground running as soon as I open my computer. I don’t need to spend any time figuring out what the day holds or what I need to do, because I already prioritized everything the night before.
Now I know this sounds super simple but it can be harder than you think to stick with it, especially at first. Nonetheless I found my wrapping up my day productively and tying up those loose ends and planning for the day ahead, I saved so much time the next morning.
To recap, once you’ve wrapped up your work for the day, take a minute and think about or write down a win you had, or two or three if you are so inclined. Next, pop into your project management system and assess your day. What got done, what didn’t get done, why didn’t it get done? Do you just need more time, or were you procrastinating from it? And finally, use your assessment to re-assign any tasks that were not completed to different days and then prioritize your tasks for the day ahead.