Work Shutdown Ritual

Due to a quirk with the Supply department at my new job, I have a laptop with no lock. This presented a small quandary, as there was no way to secure my laptop to my desk. Not ideal in an office of over seven hundred people in an industry (finance) that is highly regulated. There is secure information on my laptop and access to a host of copyrighted training resources. While I trust my coworkers, I would not be following best practices for security by leaving my laptop unsecured for sixteen hours a day.

Because of this, I agreed with my boss when she asked me to lock my laptop in one of my desk drawers when I left for the day, and to do that until Supply provided a suitable locking mechanism.

First and second weeks - no problem.

Third week? I chafed against this minuscule task at the end of my working day. Why had no lock been provided to me? Then I had a moment of realization that reframed this clunky security precaution.

Years ago, not long after starting work at US Lacrosse, I listened to a course on Time Management by Dave Crenshaw on what is now LinkedIn Learning. I came back to parts of this course again and again to refresh my skills, and to periodically clean up how I approached tasks and projects that were added to my plate since the last time I cleaned.

After I put my irritation at locking my laptop to the side, I realized that I could pair that action with Crenshaw’s excellent tip of a Work Shutdown Ritual. This is a very low-tech way to apply some behavioral psychology to your day. Here is how I end my day:

  1. Check tomorrow’s calendar and note any meetings.

  2. Check that there are no messages that require an urgent reply.

  3. Close every program.

  4. Unplug my laptop from the docking station.

  5. Place my laptop into my top desk drawer.

  6. Lock the drawer.

  7. Leave work.

What joy I found in reframing a previously irritating obligation! Now work is left at work. Quite literally - I make it a point to never put work email applications on my smartphone, and I make it very clear to my direct reports that I do not expect calls or texts from them after they, or I leave. Even in the event of a work emergency.

There is no such thing as a work emergency.

There is an emergency at work - big difference. I will deal with any emergencies at work when I am also at work.

Locking my laptop away also means I have a pre-built ritual to start my working day, as I must unlock and re-dock my laptop. Work does not start for me until that happens. These two rituals create a delicious symmetry in my day, and I reap the benefits. While at work I am more focused, I get more done, and I can work deeper. Combining these three benefits gives me an edge that makes me better at what I enjoy.

I invite you to consider establishing a shut down ritual at work. It does not need to be as extensive as mine. You can simply turn your computer off at the end of your work day. Or, if you do not work on a computer, then you could add a shutdown phrase such as: “I am finished with work for today.” Statements in the affirmative “I am” resonate at a deeper level in our minds. For example, I told myself that: “I will be a morning person,” for years. Always had a difficult time getting out of bed. When I morphed that into: “I am a morning person,” I found it much easier to be one.

By creating a shutdown ritual for the end of your working day, be it physical, verbal, or both, you move your mind and allow for better future work. Plus, you can actually enjoy the rest of your day.