On the Job

5 ways to be productive at the end of your day

Back in the day there were time clocks.

Workers took a time card, inserted it in the clock, heard a very satisfying CHING! sound, and replaced the card back on the wall. This ritual meant that work was o-v-e-r.

Done. Buh-bye.

I’m not suggesting that we all need to return to the good ole days, but there are elements to the time clock routine that were psychologically beneficial to the worker.

First, the ritual was predictable. Predictable can be comforting.

Second, the experience of ending the work day was visual, auditory, and tactile. It appealed to multiple ways of engaging with the world on a sensory level.

Lastly, it delineated a transition from one world to another, in this instance, work to home.

In prior articles, you learned how to effectively open your work day  and how to leave work at work . The purpose of this post is to help you establish and follow a productive Closing Ritual that helps you be a more effective worker and happier human being.

Many of my clients say that their current workday Closing Ritual involves any or all of the following:

  • Making one last phone call
  • Sending one last email
  • Doing one last task
  • Having one last conversation

Except…all of these “one lasts” are rarely the last one. Good Technology found that more than 80% of people work an additional seven hours a week after leaving the office. There are fewer and fewer boundaries between work and home.

Also by Melissa Gratias on WorkWell:

So, what can we learn from the time clock ritual and apply to the modern worker?

Here are some tips for an effective Closing Ritual to end the work day:

  1. Stop before you stop. If your goal is to leave work at 5:30 every day, then you need to stop your task-based work about 15 – 20 minutes prior to your departure time. Create a calendar appointment with an auditory notification to signify that your Closing Ritual is about to begin.
  2. Acknowledge what you got done. Review your to-do list and delete/check off what you completed. Yay! You actually did accomplish something today.
  3. Note new tasks and next steps. Download your brain onto your to-do list. Don’t sleep on un-inventoried tasks. Update existing to-dos with their next steps. Your to-do list is never empty – find peace in progress.
  4. Clear the decks…I mean desks. Avoid leaving loose files and paper on your desk surface if you can help it. There are often action items hiding in those stacks.
  5. Minimize morning surprises. Review your calendar for the next day to note any changes that may have happened throughout the current day.

Although the ba-dong-ba-dong sound that Outlook makes when reminding you of your Closing Ritual is not as fun and exciting as a CHING! sound from a time clock, the benefits can be the same.

Give yourself permission to end the day. Find comfort in the predictability of the routine and get some daily closure. You may even feel more accomplished, less stressed, and motivated for tomorrow.


Norman’s desk wasn’t perfect, but his staff person down the hall was much worse. Stacks of paper everywhere! In this video, Dr. Melissa Gratias describes how she advised her client when he should worry about his team member’s desk habits. Things to consider are: (1) if the person handles confidential information, (2) proximity to clients, and (3) other signs of disorganization.