How to end your workday with a shutdown ritual.

Many sources are dedicated to morning habits to start the day right. Books, articles, videos that talk about Power Hour, awakening rituals. Some people exercise, some meditate, some fill in a journal with daily intentions. 

On the other hand, few resources are dedicated to effectively ending the working day, an equally important topic.

Cal Newport, an American writer who advocates digital minimalism, introduces the concept of “shutdown ritual”  in his book “Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”.

What is a shutdown ritual?

It is a series of actions to be carried out in the evening to end the working day clearly and definitively so that you can turn the page and dedicate yourself to other activities with your mind free from worries.

The ritual described by Cal Newport is very simple:

1.Final check of e-mail inbox to ensure that all urgent matters are answered

2.Update the tasks list with what came up during the day 

3.Review the calendar for the next few days

4.Make a plan for the next day

5.Pronounce the phrase “shutdown complete”

Why is it important to have a shutdown ritual?

Do you find yourself checking emails while watching your favorite Tv show? Do you work on your computer after dinner despite the tiredness?

How really productive are those moments? Or do they only appease a sense of guilt?

Newport is an advocate of “Deep Work” a state of concentration free from distractions that allows you to perform complex activities.

Working in a distracted way, working when tired, is useless, is not productive, and increases frustration.

Might as well, at the end of the day, devote yourself to something else.

Here are 3 reasons why it is important to end your workday and not think about work until the next day:

  1. Let the unconscious work: it is proven that some problems need to settle in order to be solved, not those that require active concentration but situations that require more information to be processed. In this case, it is important to let the brain rest for the unconscious part to work on finding solutions.
  2. Recharge energies: attention is not infinite, it needs to recharge. Getting away from work to do other things is important to find the energy you need to start again the next day.
  3. Stimulate creativity: creativity is the ability to connect two apparently disconnected ideas. Carving out moments dedicated to other activities allows you to activate this type of mental connection. Watching a movie, devoting oneself to a hobby, it is in these moments that the best ideas come.

My ritual

Since I like to experiment with all the tools I discover, I have also tried my own personal shutdown ritual which consists of a few simple steps:

  1. Review the day
  2. Make a list of the results achieved
  3. Prepare the next day’s agenda: write down the timetables on paper, block the slots dedicated to meetings, sessions, fixed appointments, and assign targets to the free slots.
  4. Shut down the computer and leave it in another room

And you, do you have a ritual to end your working day?