What time did you start work today …and I mean really start work, not just when you took your seat with a cuppa at your desk? If you sat down, turned on your computer, and reached immediately for the folder containing the most important business of the day then well done! Was that not quite you? Was it more a case of: Getting to your desk, reaching over paper stacks to switch on your computer, and then staring blankly as you shifted stuff around trying to remember what you were working on yesterday? Stop and think, what did the physical sight of your desk do to your energy level this morning? Did you feel motivated and prepared? Or stuck and exasperated knowing you were behind before you even started?
Now, rewind to close of business yesterday. Was it a harried attempt to shut down and just get out of there? You may have thought to yourself, “I’ll just finish that tomorrow”. At the end of the work day it is natural to simply want to stop work, shut down and leave. Maybe you have plans for the evening, or want to get home to family. But think of the daily effect this has every morning on your mood and productivity. Is there hope? Of course! As with many things, a small change in habit can produce dramatic improvements.
So here is a small change you can make …and you can start it today: Start your workday at the close of business by building in a few minutes of valuable prep time. A few minutes spent planning at the end of play will set you up for a day of productivity tomorrow. When you arrive the next morning, you won’t be wasting valuable business time backtracking. You won’t be swimming in yesterday’s piles. Your mind won’t be a dull whir. Instead you’ll have clarity on the the most important tasks at hand and your workday can begin calmly, focused and with confidence.
What to do:
- First of all, set some form of timer – on Outlook, your mobile phone, etc. – to alert you 15 minutes before quitting time.
- When the alarm sounds, take a deep breath and start focusing on what you want to accomplish tomorrow and where you will begin.
- If you need to continue something you are presently working on, create a form of “bookmark” to indicate where you left off and include the next step. Normally I do not promote the use of sticky notes, but in this case they can be helpful, especially if you are dealing with paperwork. For example, if you are proofing a 14-page contract you could place a sticky note on top that reads: Finish proofing from Section 6 on page 8. That way you won’t waste time having to go back and figure out where you left off.
- Take this time to identify specifically what you want/need to get done, write it down and prioritize the list. These few minutes eliminate the morning scramble of what-to-do-first.
- Tidy and clear your desk of everything except what you will be working on tomorrow.
- Then leave on time, enjoy your evening and look forward to tomorrow morning.
This will take practice and a bit of discipline at the beginning, especially if you are not accustomed to this type of planning. But you’ll soon notice the increase in your productivity levels, making your efforts well worth it.
Here’s how some of my clients use this time: One client decided she would play a few favourite tunes during her 15 minutes, knowing it would motivate her to take the time to plan and refresh her thinking for the next day. Another client takes this time to arrange the next morning’s folders and paperwork in a cascading vertical row on her desktop. She likes how this looks and feels at the end of the day, and how easy it is to get started the next morning. Everything is in order; she simply picks up the first item and promptly sets to work. Everyone is different, so experiment with what works for you.
Get a head start on tomorrow; set your 15-minute alarm today!