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Use This Effective Routine to Wrap Up Work for the Weekend

Use This Effective Routine to Wrap Up Work for the Weekend
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Routines help us move efficiently from one area of life to another. The end of a workweek is a transition that can leave us stressed and overwhelmed, and handling it poorly can make for a really unpleasant start to the next workweek.

Here’s an effective routine you can customize and use to wrap up work for a relaxing weekend and a great start to the next week.

1. Start the routine at lunch time on Friday with one very important question.

Here’s the question: What will I feel GREAT about getting done before the weekend?

Your answer should be only one or two items, not a whole bucket list full. You only have an afternoon left, but if you focus, you can get through some good work before it’s quitting time.

To help yourself do so, though, limit your work socializing on Friday. Everybody wants to move into weekend-mode, and that’s understandable; but it’s much better to stay focused at work for a few hours than to fritter the afternoon away on unproductive shuffling. You’ll still be at work, anyway; you might as well get some stuff done and enter the weekend feeling great about what you’ve accomplished.

2. Work hard on the answer to that question for the next few hours.

Stay as focused as you can and avoid distractions as much as possible. Remind yourself that you are prepping for a great weekend, and you’re going to enjoy it. You’ll enjoy it even more by focusing and using your hours at work well.

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3. About an hour before quitting time, wrap up the task you’ve been working on.

Wherever you are on that task, find a stopping point, even if the task or project you’re working to accomplish is not yet complete.

Many, many tasks and projects are going to span multiple days and even weeks of work. What you should do right now is note the progress you’ve made on this particular task and any ideas or bits of info you’ll want when it’s time to start working on it again.

If you have finished up the task you assigned yourself for the afternoon, great! Wrap up the bits and pieces: papers, open files, and other related items. Don’t leave evidence strewn about or a mess to pick up on Monday.

4. Once you’ve wrapped up your task, update your task list.

Clear or mark off all the tasks you’ve accomplished in the workweek.

Delete any tasks that are no longer relevant; no point in allowing them to take up space on your list.

Delegate any tasks that don’t belong to you, or make a note to do so on Monday.

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Move, migrate, or re-assign tasks that still need to be done, depending on how your task management system works.

5. Take a look at your calendar.

Once you’ve update your task list, you need to take five minutes to look at your calendar for the weekend and upcoming workweek.

The first purpose is just to get a quick overview of what’s coming up for you.

The second purpose is to notice anything big looming on Monday or Tuesday that you want to be prepared to handle. There’s nothing more unpleasant than coming in Monday morning only to be surprised by that report that’s due by Monday afternoon, or the big meeting you forgot about.

If you must, assign yourself one or two tasks to do over the weekend to prepare for your Monday events and workload. Clarify exactly what you need to do, and think about what weekend time you can use for those tasks; put it on your weekend calendar, and don’t worry about it until you get to the assigned time. Then focus, get through the tasks, and then get back to enjoying your weekend.

6. Give yourself notes and reminders for starting the next week.

When you’re in the middle of a project, everything is present and fresh. It doesn’t seem like you could forget the ideas and information coursing through your brain when you’re in the midst of the work.

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But weekends come and new information and ideas take up that brain space. Part of why Monday is so difficult is that our brains are working to rewire themselves back to the “work-related” bits of information that are still hanging out in there but not as accessible because they’re buried by all the “weekend-related” stuff.

Do yourself a favor and leave yourself a breadcrumb trail to follow when you get back to work.

  • For open projects: leave notes of some kind (physical or digital, whichever works best for the project) regarding the task you were doing, your thoughts on it, where you want to pick up, what you were thinking.
  • For calendar items and events: leave information, ideas, reminders, and event details entered into the calendar item so you don’t have to go hunting for them. Set reminders before the calendar event to give yourself a heads up with enough time to do any preparation needed.

7. Wrap up any open communication.

Check your inbox for emails that need to be answered, and answer them quickly. If you need to take time to form your reply, start a response with your initial thoughts, save it as a draft, and mark it in your inbox as a priority so you don’t forget it next week.

Respond to other modes of communication – phone calls, texts, social media messages, and the like – as appropriate.

8. Back up your files and computer.

Run an back-up program to make sure your week’s work is saved and will be waiting for you when you come back on Monday.

9. Straighten up your physical space.

Throw away waste paper. Put your supplies and pens back in the drawer. Stack up books. File away papers.

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Don’t leave yourself a mess. You don’t have to create a haven of perfection, but you can create order.

Your brain will thank you later.

10. Decompress as you move to the weekend.

Transitions are difficult, and routines help with that. Make a decompressing activity the last part of your routine. Exercise is probably the best method; even something as simple as a walk around the block or a set of jumping jacks can help you shake off the work and get energized for the weekend.

Other ideas?

  • Listen to music on your commute home.
  • Spend 10 minutes meditating.
  • Go for a quick bicycle or car ride (if you work from home, you might need to give yourself a “commute” so you have some transition time).
  • Turn the music up and dance!
  • Lay down for a 15-minute power nap.

Now you’re ready for the weekend. You can relax and enjoy your time, knowing that you’ve left things in order and set yourself up for a great week when you get back to work.

Featured photo credit: Jackal1 via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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