How to Make the Last Hour of Your Workday the Most Productive
by Chico Orange
The important thing to remember about productivity is that it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. If you’re super-productive for one hour but slack off the next two, you haven’t been productive. (Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.)
Some people are blessed with the power of concentration. But most of us aren’t. Our willpower is a finite resource and steadily decreases as we make choices. By the time the workday is winding down, our reserve of willpower badly needs replenishing. That’s why it’s so hard to finish the day as strong as you started it — your brain literally can’t handle it.
Luckily, forming habits helps preserve willpower. For example, many executives and leaders wear the same outfits every day so they’re not wasting precious headspace on relatively trivial choices. (Barack Obama, Elizabeth Holmes, and Steve Jobs all do this.)
And while you can’t ensure that the last hour of your day is always going to be the same, by following a specific routine you’ll be able to get the most out of your last hour in the workday without thinking about it too much. The eight strategies below might seem like a lot to master, but in a few days you’ll have it down pat.
Before the Last Hour
About 20-30 minutes before you hit the last hour of your workday, take some time to get your affairs in order so you can spend your remaining time powering through important tasks.
1) Check your email.
Review all your unread messages quickly, then respond to the ones that absolutely need to be addressed before the end of the day.
Move the remaining emails requiring a response into a “Send later” folder, or mark them as unread so you remember to deal with them later. Any messages you don’t need to respond to should be deleted or archived.
2) Check your drafts folder.
During the day, distractions often pull us away from emails that aren’t 100% crucial to finish, and we leave them for later. Now is the time to tackle these messages. Finish them up and send them on their way — and if you’re worried they’ll get lost in your recipients’ inboxes because of the late hour, schedule them for tomorrow morning using a tool like Sidekick.
3) Leave your inbox and other communication channels.
This one’s really important. Closing out of your inbox, removing other distractions as much as you can by setting yourself “Away” on messaging apps, and leaving Facebook and Twitter are crucial to keeping your concentration. Even if you’re one of those people who is completely comfortable with 9,378 unread notifications, they say “ignorance is bliss” for a reason. If you can’t see your notifications, you can’t wonder what they’re about and be distracted. So shut them off!
4) Take a quick break.
Take two to five minutes to get water, grab a healthy snack, go to the bathroom, or do anything that’s not work-related. Just make sure you get out of your chair and stretch your legs, because you’ll want to stay put to ensure your last hour is as productive as possible.