End of Day Ceremonies

How to empty your brain at the end of the day so you’re able to be present in your non-work life.

Remember the last time you couldn’t get something out of your head and you woke up thinking about it in the middle of the night? The last few weeks of quarantine have been one continuous stretch of undifferentiated time and it’s become hard to turn things off. So I’ll share what I did about it in hopes of it helping you too. After putting this self-care routine into practice, I’ve been much more effective and focused during the day. In these times, self care is key.

I had been waking up every night at 2:30am thinking about something going on at work, the industry, my family, or the world we’ll be living in after this passes. It’s not that what’s going on is bad necessarily; it’s that I can’t shut it off.

I hoped if I could take a few minutes at the end of each day to shut my brain down, I’d be able to sleep better. So I came up with an experiment: an End Of Day ceremony where I empty out my head so there’d be room to sleep. Experiment #1: journaling.

Here’s what I write about #

  1. Anything notable from today
  2. How’ve I’ve been feeling
  3. What I’ve been wondering about
  4. What I need to do next

I write about the good, the not so good, the seemingly banal (because that’s the stuff that’s caught in my head in the middle of the night). If it’s in my head, it’s going to become text in this journal entry.

Here’s how to set it up #

Find a journaling tool. #

Invest no more than 20 minutes here. It’s important that your choice of software gets out of your way and makes writing pleasant. I use Day One (but something as simple as Google Docs or Notes could be enough to get you started.

Set up a reminder each day at 5 PM to write. #

Day One, thankfully, handles that for me.

Create a template that includes all the topics you want to cover. #

If you’re a director like me, this could be how your direct reports are doing, or initiatives you need to track. If you aren’t, some ideas could be tracking how you’re feeling, or noting tiny wins you’ve achieved. Just keep it simple.

Ten minutes later, I’ve emptied out my mind, leaving me free to enjoy a more relaxed sleep.

Delightful Surprises #

This approach already yielded a few unexpected gems.

The first is that every morning I can start off knowing exactly what I need to focus on. I don’t spend any time looking for anything to do because Yesterday-Josh already figured that out and kindly set it in front of Today-Josh. It’s a huge boost to my focus.

Another bonus is the record of what I’ve been up to. It’s much easier to recall interesting insights from a project or decisions that I made so I don’t have to backtrack.

And finally, it helps me be more intentional about setting and accomplishing my goals.

In closing #

After two weeks of this End of Day ceremony, my experiment in self-care did exactly what I wanted it to: I sleep much better than before. My brain is a little less frenetic and I’m able to focus more at work. Turns out, just taking time to purge my brain was the key to it all.

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