When it comes to the end of the day, chances are you’re running out the door in a hurry to get home. Whether it’s out of excitement for the end of the long day or because you stayed late to finish up work, the last few minutes of your work day are usually the most anticipated.
Bolting as soon as you can could be a bad idea, though. Even if you feel like you don’t have a second to spare, doing these 14 things before ending your day can help you wrap up your work day on a good note, setting you up for success the next day.
- Write A To-Do List
Making to-do lists for the next day while you’re wrapping up at work might seem like common sense, but it’s an easily forgotten task when you’re in a hurry to get out the door. You should always take the time to sit down and either physically or digitally make a to-do list before you end your work day, though. You’ll save yourself time in the morning by not having to think back to where you left off and what still needs done. Plus, you’ll get the feeling of closure you need to leave work at work after heading out for the day.
- Decide What Needs To Be Done First
Making a to-do list is the first step to success, but that’s not all that needs to be done with it. After you have your list, think about what tasks you need to prioritize. If everything is of relatively equal importance, try to settle on conquering the hardest task first the next day when you’ll be most sharp. With this in mind, you can plan the rest of your day and tasks accordingly.
- Clean Your Desk
Working when there’s a small nation of paperclips forming on the corner of your desk where a myriad of pens are already camped out most likely detracts from your ability to focus, even if you don’t notice it. Use some of your precious last few moments to remove any office supplies that have accumulated on your desk and put away any errant papers or files so you can come to a neutral territory in the morning and start your day fresh.
- Track Progress
Even if you don’t realize it, you probably did something awesome at work today. While checking off an item on your to-do list feels good in the moment, these individualized tasks can sometimes detract from the big picture of the important work you’re doing. Think about the progress you’ve made with your current projects and look to what you’ll be working on in the future. This way you’ll have a true measure of your accomplishments.
- Look for Improvements
Was there some way you utilized your time today that wasn’t as efficient as you might have liked? Or maybe you finally found the perfect time to take care of your email correspondence so it doesn’t interrupt your midday meetings? See what went well and what didn’t and try to implement the appropriate practices accordingly.
- Flag Non-Urgent Emails
Of course, just because your day is coming to an end doesn’t mean the onslaught of people who want to connect with you will, especially if you’re working internationally. Instead of answering every email that’s shot your way at closing time, respond to the urgent ones and flag or mark others that can be dealt with tomorrow. This way you’ll have a reminder to get back to the person but won’t be stuck in the office an extra hour longer just to battle through a few more emails.
- Avoid Faking Busy
If the day hasn’t been particularly riveting or you’ve found yourself at the end of a task and don’t have enough time to start a new one, you might consider taking these last several minutes for a bit of daydreaming about your next vacation or how awesome it’s going to feel when your head hits the pillow tonight.
Letting yourself get distracted, or pretending to be busy when you’re not doesn’t serve your career in the long run and will really only make the minutes drag on, so it’s best to avoid.
- Do Paperwork Now That The Crazy Has Died Down
Hopefully by this point in the day your phone lines have died down and you’re not receiving a new call every 15 minutes. If you have paperwork that needs to be filled out or some other menial task that needs your concentration, the end of the work day would be a great time to do it. Just make sure you won’t have colleagues coming in every moment to touch base.
- Let Colleagues Know How You Can Be Reached
Ideally, you want your coworkers to know how to reach you in case of an emergency, but there are also instances when they might need to reach out to you even when things aren’t a catastrophe.
If you think a colleague could feasibly have important questions for you after your normal work hours, let him or her know when you’ll be available or when you’ll be away from your phone. This way you can still help out a colleague in need but also not be interrupted during your me-time at the gym.
- Keep Others Apprised Of Tasks
Similarly, if you’re working with a team on a project, make sure to let the others know of your progress before you head out. This way you can all discuss any loose ends that need to be taken care of and perhaps be reminded of something that may have slipped your mind in the busyness of the day.
- Say Goodbye
After taking the time to speak with your colleagues, make sure to say goodbye both as a friendly gesture and to prevent someone from taking an errant trip to your office in hope of getting a last-minute opinion. A few pleasant office interactions never hurt office morale, either.
- Leave on a Positive Note
Numerous studies have suggested that just the act of smiling — even when you don’t feel happy — can improve your overall mood. If your day at work was rough or you simply aren’t looking forward to being stuck in rush hour traffic, plaster a smile on your face and hope you can fake it till you make it.
- Plan Your Commute Wisely
If your commute causes you needless amounts of stress, take a few minutes before you leave to think of the best way to get home that will include whatever errands you need to run beforehand. This may mean waiting until traffic dies down, or leaving a little early and making a phone call or two in the car. In the end, making a conscious decision and not merely diving into traffic can save you both time and gas.
- Walk Out The Door
Most importantly, leave! There’s a reason why work-life balance is such a popular topic of conversation — we all seem to be pretty bad at it. When it’s time to call it quits for the day, don’t feel bad about leaving when you’ve done all that you need to do for the day. There will probably always be something you wish you’d gotten to during the day, but instead of causing more worry, simply leave and go enjoy your home. Work can wait until you’re ready to seize the day tomorrow.
No matter your line of work, there’s a way to make your end of the day more successful and put those last 30 minutes to good use. Then you’ll be set to start tomorrow off on the right foot.