We all want to be that person that strolls out of the office with a wide smile and not a care in the world. Those people tend to sail in the next morning wearing the same rosy glasses. What’s their secret? How can you, too, design your life so you’re not just stressed and frazzled when you leave your desk—or really, any time you’re near your desk?
You need to be strategic about how you end your days. Rather than realizing it’s five minutes past quitting time, grabbing your dirty Tupperware and coffee mug from the morning, and jetting home with your desk in disarray, try a few of these tips to leave work happy and at ease. Then, you’ll know you can arrive in the morning calm and ready to face the day ahead.
1. Wrap up everything you possibly can.
Set yourself an alarm or a notification to make an assessment of your workload hour before you’re scheduled to leave, and use that last hour to wrap up any lingering tasks—especially the little annoying ones left over from the day before. Clear your inbox, and fill in that pesky form or expense report you’ve been putting off. De-clutter your to-do list so you can cross off as many tasks as possible to leave a clean slate for the morning.
2. Straighten up your space.
Do a five minute tidy of your workspace. Put your loose papers (or desktop files) away in the appropriate files, drawers, and folders. Clean your coffee mug, and take out your trash. You’ll be surprised at what an impact a nice clean space will make on your mood the next day.
3. Plan for tomorrow.
Spend the last five or ten minutes or so before you head out the door making your to-do list for the next day. Start fresh with a blank sheet of paper and make sure to note tasks that have persisted for a while, tasks that are immediate and easy to accomplish, and ongoing future projects so you can triage when you arrive and get straight to it.
4. Reflect on your day.
What went well today? What went poorly? Give yourself the appropriate pats on the back and pep talks you’ll need to move forward. Are there any resources you need to complete a project that you can work on collecting in the coming days? What challenges did you face, and how might you neutralize those tomorrow to be more productive? Taking a moment to assess will help you clear your mind and help you focus on anything that might be standing in your way.
5. Truly unplug for the evening.
Disconnect with a clear conscience. Don’t bring your work home with you unless you have to. Actually recharge. Turn off your computer and your work phone and concentrate on your non-work life for a precious few hours. You’ll find this makes you a much better worker the next day.
6. Reward yourself.
Make sure you have something to look forward to outside the office to help differentiate the different segments of your day. Meet up with a friend, see family, or plan a fun night for yourself. Take a class or join a book club, or just block off a few hours for Netflix and takeout. Treat yourself for a day well done and you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready for another one.