Time to log off, shut down and hit the (insert your own reality here: gym/ happy hour/ commuter train/ gridlock traffic/ childcare center).
Not so fast! Your mother always told you, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” And as painful as it is to consider one more task today, you will thank yourself tomorrow morning.
Following are three end-of-day work habits to adopt that will help you maximize productivity for the following day.
If it’s Friday (TGIF!) these are triply important to make your Monday morning smooth.
1) Review Your Calendar
It sounds elementary, but most people have been in this situation: you arrive at your office only to realize you missed an early morning conference call, networking breakfast or even a dentist appointment.
The key reason to consult your calendar before you leave, rather than on your commute home, is not just so you are in the right place in the right time in the morning, but so you can prepare what you need before you leave.
For example, do you need to:
- Email yourself some documents to review prior to the meeting?
- Make copies of a plan or proposal to take with you?
- Alert other team members of your whereabouts?
- Confirm tomorrow’s meeting to ensure others (who didn’t consult their calendars!) don’t forget?
2) Make a To-Do List That Works
Sometimes you are mid project and want to keep working but (gym/ happy hour/ commuter train/ gridlock traffic/ child care center) is calling. There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling you have to shut down when you are in the groove, but a smart to-do list can make it easy to resume seamlessly the next day.
Whether you use an app, a spreadsheet, a voice recorder or good old-fashioned pen and paper, here are some tips:
- You’ve reviewed your calendar already, so put those appointments and deadlines right up front.
- Don’t just note the name of the project; note where you were. Example: “Finish editing Brandt newsletter… start on page 4, 2nd graf.” There! When you open up the doc, you don’t have to hunt around for your last edit, or fret that you missed a page… you can jump right back in.
- Organize your list into A and B priorities. The As are the appointments and deadlines; the Bs are the upcoming projects that will soon become As that should be broken up into smaller tasks so they don’t overwhelm. Add ONE C. What about the rest of the Cs?
- Create a separate list for Cs. These are the things that someday have to be done, but don’t have a deadline on them; whether it’s filing, or updating your address book, or trashing old emails or making a dentist appointment.
Without a deadline you know what happens to these: they never get done. By putting them on a separate list, you are not forgetting about them, but they are not cluttering up your daily priority task list.
Choose one each day to add to your A/B list. If it’s a short one, great, you’re done. If it’s a long one, commit to 15 minutes of it and then keep adding it to your list until you are finished! Never thought you’d get that filing done, did you?!
3) Make a Small Start for EACH Project You Will Be Working on Tomorrow
This is a killer, but you will thank me later. Say your to-do list includes a project update, an internal email to schedule a brainstorm for a new client and a budget review.
Take 5 minutes (or 10 or however long you can spare) and start each one of these items. The goal is to capture the general theme of the document or project: you are free associating and putting as much detail as you can to each one in a short amount of time.
A blank page and a blinking cursor can kill anyone’s morning. But, opening a document and seeing an outline, a structure and/or a few details gets your brain firing and provides the pathway to finish it up, polish it and send it off.
Or, it can make you go, “What was I thinking?! I don’t want to say that; I want to say this!” and revise it.
Try this… if only for one week. You will be amazed how much more productive your mornings feel when you realize the project is already started!
There! You’re done! Off you go… for a relaxing and enjoyable evening. You’ve earned it!
by Cathie Ericson