You rush to shut down your computer, grab your keys, and head out the door, desperate to get your few hours of respite before you return and do the same exact thing all over again tomorrow.
Sound familiar? You're not alone. Many of us wrap up our workdays feeling stressed and frazzled.
In fact, many of us don't ever wrap them up at all -- considering the fact that a reported 45% of workers complete work outside of normal working hours, and another 49% check or answer emails after they've left the office.
But, here's the thing: Unless you're superhuman, you can only keep up with that pace for a certain amount of time before you're teetering on the edge of burnout. We all need a little time to breathe and recharge.
Fortunately, taking a minute to pause and reflect at the end of your workday can not only help to cap your day off on the right note (and encourage you to actually check out for the evening!), it can also improve your mental state. One study even found that reflection can boost future learning.
So, how exactly should you finish up your workday? Taking a quiet moment to think through your answers to these four questions is a great place to start.
1. What went well for me today?
Your day gets busy. You have emails to answer, meetings to attend, and fires to put out.
With all of that constant chaos, it becomes tough to find any time to celebrate your wins -- meaning they can sometimes fly totally under the radar.
However, taking the time to think about the positive things you managed to accomplish in the past eight or so hours is important -- whether it was a new client you landed, a project you finished up, or something else entirely.
Not only will this give you that much-needed time to recognize your progress and achievements, but it will also put you in a much more positive and confident state of mind for the next workday.
2. What can I improve tomorrow?
Of course, there's always room for improvement. Very rarely do people clock out for the day and think, "Wow, everything was absolutely flawless today!" (and, if you do, consider yourself very lucky).
As you already know, you can't fix a problem if you're unwilling to acknowledge the fact that it exists. Does this mean that you need to beat yourself up over the blunders you made that day? Absolutely not. However, there's nothing wrong with identifying some areas where you can do better.
Did you feel somewhat foggy and unfocused all day and are hoping to really zone in tomorrow? Or, did you let something totally slip through the cracks because you had too much on your to-do list?
Zone in on one -- or even a few -- areas where you'd like to step up your game the next day, and you're sure to see constant progress in your productivity levels, work relationships, and overall outlook.
3. What's the first thing I want to do tomorrow morning?
You have a lot on your plate -- there's no denying that. And, having a to-do list that's constantly a mile long can make it all the more difficult to know where you should get started when you come into the office each day.
To get some much-needed clarity, think through your current workload and pick the one key thing that you want to work on when you get to the office in the morning. That way, you can sit down at your desk with a clear head and a targeted plan in place.
In fact, zoning in on just one task at a time will help to increase your focus while simultaneously decreasing your stress levels.
4. What was my favorite part of today?
You could receive ten thousand compliments throughout the day. But, what will you remember when you lay down at night? The one tiny piece of criticism you received.
It's human nature -- our brains are practically programmed to process negative things better than positive ones. However, festering in negativity is a surefire way to end your workday in a funk -- which is an emotional state that will likely only tumble over into the next day.
So, as your final question of the evening, ask yourself what your very favorite part of that day was. Whether you received a great compliment from a superior or you got to indulge in a delicious piece of ice cream cake during a birthday celebration for a co-worker, thinking about something that makes you crack a smile will cap off your workday on a high note.
You could leave the office feeling frazzled, or you could end it feeling composed and level-headed. If you'd like to fall into that latter camp (and I can only imagine you do!), take a minute to ask yourself these four questions before leaving the office.