Ask anyone and they’ll tell you — I am all about rhythms and routines.
I love my organization, I love my systems, and though I fully recognize that not all things can be solved with systems, I do believe there are a lot of things that can be made significantly less stressful when systems are put in place and followed — including the start and end of your workday.
Before we get too far into this, let me say this about systems and routines — they are not here to squash your creativity or put your life and business into some rigid box.
Systems are actually designed to give you more flexibility and freedom. While a lot of systems deal with the heavy duty, day-to-day work you’re doing in your business — like your client workflows and such — there are other systems in place that keep the backend of your business running smoothly.
They’re things you don’t think about too much, until it’s six months later and all of a sudden these things have piled up and it’s all a hot mess and you’re wondering how on earth things got to this state.
One example of this kind of system is a monthly duty day, but the general idea behind a monthly duty day can be applied as broadly or as minutely as possible… even as minutely as the beginning and end of your workday.
Before we get into the why, let’s start by answering the question that may be rolling around in your mind — what exactly is a start up or shut down routine?
Just like any other routine, they’re a list of steps or tasks you walk through and complete at the start and the end of your workday.
You can keep track of them a ton of different ways — as a checklist in a project management tool like Trello, as a reminder on your phone or in your email, or something even simpler than that. I literally have mine written on post it notes stuck to the bottom of my iMac. The important thing is they’re visible to remind you of what needs to be done so you don’t have to think about it each morning when sit down at your desk or at the end of the day when you’re closing things out.
As Sir Albert Einstein said, “Never memorize something you can look up.” Keep it clear and visible, but keep your brain space free for more important things!
WHY YOU SHOULD START UP AND SHUT DOWN YOUR WORK DAY
Now that we’ve covered the what, let’s get into the why.
You may not think it’s all that important to have a routine for the beginning and end of each workday, but just like other maintenance systems like monthly duty day, there are so many seemingly minute benefits that will run shockwaves of positivity through your business.
IT PROVIDES A CLEAR START AND END TIME
There are a lot of pros to working from home, but there are some cons as well — especially when it comes to work/life boundaries.
Having a defined startup and shutdown routine gives your body and your brain a clear indication that you’re starting work time and you’re finishing work time.
You probably already know that your brain plays the association game really well. Whether it’s a song you associate with a certain memory or a smell you associate with a certain person, we store away those different correlations in our mind.
What you might not know is that your brain also prioritizes repetition. That’s why habits become habits and why they’re so hard to break — your brain literally creates a pathway to the thought or action in question and is naturally inclined to go down the smoothest, most defined pathway because, well, it’s easier.
Creating a routine for the start and end of your workday will help create that repetition your brain prioritizes and it will create an association in your mind — when I go through these steps, it’s time to work and when I go through these steps, it’s time to stop working.
IT KEEPS BOUNDARIES IN PLACE
You know what a clear start and end time are? They’re boundaries.
And if you’ve been doing this whole work-from-home, creative entrepreneur thing for a while, you know that keeping boundaries can be super hard when your office is in your house, and even more so if your office is mobile (looking at you, laptop).
It’s way too easy to find yourself checking email at all hours, on the couch, in your bed, when there’s no defined start or end to your work day.
If there’s no pattern to the start or end of your work day, there’s nothing to tell your brain “this is work time” and “this is life time.” Which is how you end up still working from the couch at 11:30pm.
This is why it’s also important to not complete your shutdown routine until the end of the day. I know that might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how tempting it can be to just knock out those end-of-day tasks so they’re done and get right back to work. This totally defeats the purpose of teaching your brain that when you do these things, it’s time to stop working!
What sort of little things do you struggle to keep up with in your business?
Staying on top of your inbox? Keeping your clients up to date? Filling out your tending list? Cleaning up your desk? Planning your priorities for the next day?
Having a startup and shutdown routine can help with all of these things. Much like a weekly, monthly, or quarterly duty day, it helps you define those little things that can easily fall through the cracks if you aren’t careful, batch them together, and make sure they’re getting done on a regular basis.
This way, instead of stressing out because your desk is a hot mess or having no idea what to do when you start your work day, you set aside time to take care of each of those things every single day, so they don’t get out of control and ultimately leave you feeling overwhelmed.
IT REDUCES STRESS LEVELS
Y’all might think I’m overreaching here, but having a startup and shutdown routine can help so much in reducing your overall stress levels.
If you don’t have systems and routines in your business, you’re probably a whole lot more stressed than you think… even if you don’t feel like it.
Subconscious stress is definitely a thing and it’s amazing how our bodies get used to a certain level of stress or anxiety and we begin to think that’s what’s normal! As someone who deals with high levels of anxiety on a regular basis, it’s super easy for me to get caught in the mental trap that this is just how it is and I’ve just gotta be okay with it.
But adding routines and rhythms into your life and business, especially ones that help keep your boundaries and place and keep you on top of seemingly little things can reduce those subconscious stress levels in sometimes drastic ways.
It’s probably partially because I just know I’m a person who thrives on rhythm and routine, but I’m far more likely to feel super frazzled and discombobulated on any given day if I sit down and just jump into work instead of taking time to ease myself in with my startup routine. (This also goes for days when I skip my morning routine… but that’s a topic for a different post. 😉)
You know that whole association thing I was talking about earlier? Music can help with this too! Beyond just those specific tasks, having a dedicated playlist you listen to while walking through your startup routine each morning can help get you into a productive frame of mind!
If you know me, you know I could talk about the benefits of systems for ages, but these are just a few that make having a defined startup and shutdown routine super valuable!
Have you ever set up a routine for the start and end of your workday? I’d love to hear what it includes!