For many of us, the last 15 minutes of the workday are difficult. After a long, busy day it can be tempting to take it easy during the final countdown. But the most successful people recognize that those last few minutes are crucial to finishing tasks, preparing for the next day, building relationships, and keeping work at the office. Below, you’ll find four things successful people do in the last 15 minutes of each day.
1. Clear out your inbox
For many office workers, email is the first thing they look at in the morning and the last thing they see before they leave at night. With so much important communication taking place via email in today’s business environment, it’s essential to stay on top of your inbox. Sometimes emails that seem tedious or difficult to answer sit unopened in our inboxes all day, but the end of the day is the time to push through and make sure nothing important is left unread. On top of that, there’s a satisfying feeling that comes with looking at a message that says there’s nothing left in your inbox.
2. Plan first steps for the morning
Mornings can be almost as challenging for productivity as the end of the day, so if you can use some time each day to plan out the first tasks you’ll do the next morning, you won’t have to waste time at the day’s start getting your thoughts in order. Megan Robinson, an editor at personal finance site DollarSprout, says she likes to make a to-do list each day to reset mentally. This has a few benefits. First, it makes the next morning easier; as Robinson says, “[In the] morning when I come to work, I hit the ground running because I know exactly what to focus on.”
The other major benefit is that it helps make sure your professional concerns don’t bleed into your personal life. Robinson says making a list helps her avoid stress at home. “This helps me relax in the evenings because I’m not thinking about what I need to do the next day or if there’s something I forgot.”
3. Strengthen relationships
The end of the day is also a good time to connect with coworkers about something other than work. Is there a local restaurant you want to try? Suggest a lunch out of the office sometime. Just started a new TV series? Ask if anyone has seen it yet. It’s also a good time to find out more about your coworkers’ lives. Take a minute or two to ask what they’re doing that evening and take a genuine interest in their answer.
Beyond simple small talk, you can connect with coworkers in a deeper way in those last few minutes. As a leader in her office, Lee McEnany Caraher, the CEO of the communications agency Double Forte, says she looks to see who else is still in the office and asks them how she can help them get to a place that allows them to leave for the night. By doing this, she shows the people she works with that she values their time and is willing to give up some of hers for their sake.
4. Officially end the day
So many of us take our work home in the evenings, but that can be a bad practice for our stress levels and relationships outside of the office. In the Harvard Business Review, Jackie Coleman and John Coleman write, “Make a rule to work from home only in exceptional circumstances, and keep work folders, computers, and notebooks at your desk.”
To help separate your mind from the stresses of the workday, take a few minutes before you leave to practice some thoughtful disengagement. Laura Maille, the co-founder and chief design officer at graphic design service Deputy Rabbit, says that her end-of-day meditation is “the most important part of my day” and that it helps her “transition into the personal part of my day without bringing home all the stress of managing a team and a company.” Taking those few minutes to disengage can help you go home feeling refreshed and avoid workplace stress outside the office.