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A bookend to my day

English: An anxious person

English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



As someone who works a lot from home with an awesome (but mostly distributed) team, I have often felt as if the work day really has no end.  I don’t have a set time I stop working, although my wife will often stop me, and my work will often flow right into the night.  Even when I stop, no matter how many todo items crossed off my list, I have great anxiety of not doing enough.  This anxiety has nothing to do with the amount of work I do or did, and everything to do with how I end my days…I  don’t.  But I’m working on it…

On the recommendation of Jay, I read the quick (and surprisingly easy read) book: “18 Minutes,” by Peter Bregman.  There are lots of useful productivity thoughts and tips in here, but one thing in particular stuck for me.  I can’t say it was anything new, but for some reason it made more sense to me.  In the book he talks about his approach to an end of day review.  It’s basically something you schedule (so it happens), where you take 15 minutes to review the day and plan for tomorrow. This is a routine that I’ve tried before with limited success.  But this time it made much more sense to me.  Why?  Because of the questions he suggested you ask yourself during this review process.  Here are a few:
  • How was my day?  What successes did I experience?  What challenges did I endure?
  • What did I learn today?  About me?  About others?
  • What do I plan to do differently tomorrow?
  • Who did I interact with?  Anyone to update? To thank?
You might be thinking, “whoa, that seems like a lot to do in 15 minutes.”  It’s not really, and the answers to the questions are very helpful in both reviewing your day, and setting you up for the next day.  So what does my process look like?
  • I set a daily calendar reminder for 5pm – 515pm for my daily review period.  This is not the end of my day, but it’s often a good time to do this process.  I have enough time after to tie up some loose ends, but I’m deep enough into my day to truly do a review.
  • I have an Evernote notebook for “daily todos,” where I keep a separate note for each day.  At the top of the note I have the following questions:
  • How was your day?  This is just a quick review, a place where I can write about things that impact me in a particular way.
  • What did I learn today?
  • Anyone to update or thank?
  • What can I do differently tomorrow to be more effective and productive?
I then copy that note to a new note with the day’s date.  I update and edit my todos for the next day.  The following morning, I’ll do a quick glance at the todos and pay particular attention to my answer to the question: “What can I do tomorrow to be more effective and productive?” when planning my day.

I’ll be honest and say I still have many days where the only time I check the todo notebook is in the morning and in the evening, but I’ve found that just the process really does help my days in a number of ways.  The most important is that my anxiety about still having more to do has lessened significantly.  It seems that by going through this process, I have a clear ending to the day.  It’s almost as if I’m telling my brain “OK, you’ve concluded the day in an organized way with the loose ends at least accounted for.  Relax.”   It really is a great bookend to my work day.


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