How To Finish Your Workday (or anything) Well

La Jolla | California

Other Articles In This Series:
Morning Routines
Mid-day Reset
Evening Routines

Picture this, it’s 4:30 and you are pretty worn out from the day. Your mind is a bit tired, physically you are starting to feel drained as well, but you do have a few things to get done before you leave.

You have three options here:

  1. You can lazily mope through your last remaining items haphazardly to simply check them off your list.
  1. You can procrastinate by wasting the last few minutes of the day doing something inconsequential to let your mind rest (what I used to do).
  1. You can Finish Well.

I am going to make a case for the latter, as there are more important reasons to this concept rather than simply checking another box, let’s discuss.

When you see a good marathon runner or sprinter, what have they been taught to do at the end of a race?

Exactly, they “run through the tape” and do not let up until the tape has been broken or the line crossed. Why do you think that is?

Well in this instance the answer is pretty simple, right? If they let their foot off the gas or slow down for even an instant, it can make the difference between winning and losing. Between first place and 3rd. Between breaking a record or not.

I have found the same to be true for life and business.

In one of my favorite motivational speeches from a movie, Al Pacino delivers his famous “Peace By Inches” speech in the movie Any Given Sunday.

 

What is so powerful about this speech and why it and every other good motivational speech works, is because it resonates with us on a deep personal level and we start drawing parallels in our own lives.

We start to think how close we have been to success or happiness, marriage or divorce, going public, making that million or losing it all…

“You know, when you get old in life things start get taken from you. 

That’s… that’s part of life.  But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.  You find out that life’s a game of inches. So’s football. 

Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small.  I mean one half step too late or to early you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it.

The inches we need are everywhere around us. Theyre’ in ever break of the game, every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch.  On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch.  We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.

Cause we know, when we add up all those inches that’s going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.

I’ll tell you this, in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch, and I know if I am going to have any life anymore it’s because, I am still willing to fight, and die, for that inch, because that’s what LIVING is.

The six inches in front of your face.”

-Al Pachino (Any Given Sunday)

A bit dramatic, maybe.  Zen? Probably not, but this is where the analogy of finishing well comes into play.

It is a simple concept that can be applied every day to form a habit and gain that few inches in your life every day.

It can also give you the mental edge that you need to stay engaged at work and be able to relax at home.

Finishing well is programming another checkpoint in your day and helps to “close the loops” on open ideas allowing you to truly relax. We will discuss these in greater detail below.

So how do you do it?

As you begin to approach the end of your day (about the last hour or so) you will now be doing it consciously. Here is how it works.

About an hour before you wrap up your day, you transition onto the plan and it looks like this.

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STEP 1 (ACKNOWLEDGE) –  

Acknowledge that you have X amount of time left in your working day and write down the tasks that you absolutely must finish today. Other non-critical items can be moved to tomorrow.

I actually do this on my to-do list app (I use things by culture code) so the only things remaining on the list are the mission critical items that I must run through the tape on.

I like to change my physical/mental state because often I have been sitting for awhile, so I will stand up, do some air squats, maybe some pushups, and just get the blood flowing and use this as a transition point mentally. Drink some water and get ready.

 

STEP 2 (THE LAST REP)-

Close down email, any messaging apps and put away your phone.  Focus on nothing but the essential items you need to complete for the day.

Take the next 45 minutes or so to close out your day doing really good work. The trick is letting yourself know that you only have 45 minutes left then you can be done. You will find a well-spring of energy that is left and you know you can do anything for that short amount of time.   The benefit is obvious, you finish your tasks right?  Yes, but it doesn’t stop there.

Physical Trainers will often talk about the last rep. You need to perform the last rep with perfect precision and intensity, really focusing on the rep, because that is the rep that will stay ingrained in your muscle memory & subconscious until the next time.

If you slack on the last rep or use bad form, that is what you remember.  BUT, if you tell yourself just one more rep, do it right, then you will not only find the energy, you will also ingrain the proper technique and form.

The same is true here, complete your last task(s) for the day with proper energy, technique and form and then you’re done, its the last rep and will ingrain in you how to finish well, so over time, it just becomes second nature.

 

STEP 3 (HOUSEKEEPING) –

Now that you have completed the last rep, and your to do list is clear, It’s time to wrap up some house cleaning items.

  • On your to do list, move everything else to tomorrow so you get a clean slate today. It’s a mental thing, try it, it feels good to end clean. It allows you to relax and enjoy the rest of your day.
  • Clean your workspace. I know it sounds dumb but clean workspace equals a clean mind. Put everything away, spray down your desktop, shut down computers, put books back on shelf, remove trash, papers and debris.
    • When you walk into your office or space in the morning, how will it feel if its dirty or cluttered? How will it feel if it’s clean and professional?
    • Exactly, you want to come into your day with a clean space, ready for a productive, relaxed day. If you are like me, you may even want to consider cleaning your desktop nightly. File, put away or trash whatever is there to keep that space (read:headspace) clean as well.

OPTIONAL: 

Grab your journal or write down the one problem or item that you are looking for new ideas on. Pick one. Maybe it is an answer to a marketing question, or how to structure compensation, or a hiring decision. Take a moment and write that down in your journal and think about it for a minute.

  • Internally say to yourself, “This is my question, I would like my subconscious to come up with new ideas or thoughts surrounding this question.”

    Basically, you are giving your subconscious a problem to work on tonight while you are resting. Tomorrow morning during your morning journaling, you can pull out those new ideas and see what comes of it.

    This technique is used by a lot of high performers and is one taught by Josh Waitzken, International Chess Grandmaster, Tai Chi world Champion, and productivity expert to some of the most powerful men in finance.

 

That’s it. You ran through the tape.

You can apply variations of this technique to a variety of situations, not just work.  How about running, the gym, family time, cooking or even a meeting or conversation?  You can apply aspects of this technique to most everything you do.

Now the trick is to make a habit out of it. You’re not adding anything time consuming to your day, in fact, more than anything you are making the time you do have more useful and allowing yourself to enjoy the downtime away from work more.

Schedule it in your calendar.  Most people can force themselves to do anything for a week and then once you really sit down and realize the differences it’s making you are energized to keep going.

Keep in mind, you may have to FORCE yourself to do this for a week or so at first.  Schedule it, make it happen to start building momentum and notice the differences in your mental state both at evening as you leave work and in the morning when you begin work again.

So start there, shoot for a week and go from there.

Let me know how the plan works for you and what modifications you made in the comments below.

talk soon,

Mat

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