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How To Put Work Down For The Day

A ritual for the modern age

person in kitchen on laptop drinking a glass of milk
person in kitchen on laptop drinking a glass of milk

One of the many challenges knowledge-workers are experiencing with working from home is the mindfulness and willpower needed to stop work each day.

Many people don't have dedicated workspaces. We all have powerful computing devices in our pockets. These two factors combined mean that there are no barriers to dealing with 'one more work thing'.

So we allow ourselves to do that one quick thing.

Except, one quick thing becomes a check of the inbox or clearing those unread messages in Slack. Which reminds you of that note you didn't make and that doc you need to adjust the sharing access on and on and on....

And before you know it, there is only, sleeping, showering and working. What happened to working out? Or watching a movie? Or playing a game? Or cleaning the kitchen? 🍿👩🏿‍🍳🎮🎲

And then for some of us, we stop work physically but mentally we are still at work. More and more I find myself watching TV or cooking and drifting into thoughts of how to respond to situation or changes to make to the website etc. In these moments, I try to notice and be kind to myself. If needed, I'll write it down and then return to the present.


At PeopleStorming, we help teams to introduce and expand on agile methods, mindsets and in particular, agile rituals. Head's up - you don't need to know anything about agile to understand or use the ideas in this article.

One of the simplest agile rituals is the stand-up, which for most teams gets scheduled in the morning, though it doesn't have to be. In fact, it's more important to choose a time that works for everyone.

The process for these snappy daily meetings is as follows. Each person shares...

  1. What they achieved yesterday.
  2. What they plan to do today.
  3. Anything they need help with (or unblocking on).

In practice, the stand-up can include different or extra prompts - but you get the gist.

Stand-ups are great for accountability and for generally showing up in real-time. They help people stay connected to one another and to the work itself.

When I've led stand-ups in the past, I usually start with a check-in question. Sometimes it's as simple as a traffic light prompt 🚦. Other times I focus on something lighthearted to set the tone for creativity.


What does this have to do with putting work down?

As a facilitator, I use check-outs (same as a check-in) for every workshop, retreat and many of the meetings I design. The check-out is a powerful way to tie a bow around the session and help people transition to the next part of their day.

This got me thinking: what about a daily check-out. It's like the daily stand-up from agile combined with the check-out concept.

The daily check-out can act as a closing process for each day of work.

A short, reflective and mindful ritual.🙏🏼

person walking through a maze made of pebbles on beach
person walking through a maze made of pebbles on beach

Why? 🤔

It acts as a nudge to people who find it hard to stop, that it's time to do so.

It gives 'permission' to people who otherwise might feel guilty putting work down

It reminds people that your team / company is prioritizing people's rest time, family time and wellbeing.

How?

Gather together on your chosen video call at the agreed time or meet in your virtual chat room (slack, teams etc).

What?

This ritual will take less than five minutes. It can be done via video call or in an online chat.


For a video call 👨🏽‍💻

To begin, everyone numbers themselves in the video conferencing tool (use the rename feature, if available). Or go in alphabetical order, reverse alphabetical.

Then ask everyone to take a collective breath (everyone breathes in five, hold for two, breath out for five).

Then, each person says the line next to their number. Each person should feel free to deliver the words in whichever tone feels good - joyfully, assertively, affirmatively, whatever.

  1. The day is over.
  2. I worked hard.
  3. I did my best.
  4. There is always more I'd like to do.
  5. And that's okay.
  6. I'm excited to return to work tomorrow with fresh eyes and energy.
  7. Now it's time to nourish my body with exercise, food and sleep.
  8. Now it's time to be present with family, friends and pets.
  9. Now it's time to enjoy other aspects of my life.
  10. Now it's time to rest my mind.

To close, conduct a one-word check-out. Starting with anyone who didn't already take part in the affirmations listed above...

"What's one word that describes how you'll show up in the world tomorrow?"


For online chat (Slack, Teams etc)💬

The facilitator can...

  1. paste in the instructions for the mindful breath
  2. then paste in the affirmations - instructing people to read them aloud if they can
  3. and, lastly, type in the check-out question
  4. have everyone answer without hitting send - then ask them to hit send simultaneously - creating a waterfall in the chat.
  5. take a moment to review each others words. Then add the 👋🏼 emoji and leave.

Logistics

People may be working different hours to each other. One way to handle that might be to schedule a few end-of-day check-outs for each time zone. For example, 5pm, 5.30pm and 6pm.

You'll need a few people who are into this to facilitate it each day (rotating).

Support 💌

If you're curious about how this might look and feel for your team, I'd be delighted to facilitate your first video-call daily check-out (time zone depending).


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.