Closing Your Day the Right Way

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 1:44 PM EST


In football, coaches direct players to "finish off the play." This means they should go all out in running their route, blocking an opposing blitzer, or whatever their assignment entails, until the referee blows his whistle, signaling the official end to the play. If you stop before the whistle, you can easily get injured or be caught off guard by an unexpected development on the field, such as a fumble.

At work, I confess, sometimes I don't finish off the play. As it gets closer to leaving time I can become distracted thinking about the evening's chores at home or how quickly I can make it over to the shop to pick up my car. Is there a productive way to use the final minutes of the day?

This very subject is answered quite well by management consultant Peter Bregman's blog post, The Best Way to Use the Last Five Minutes of Your Day. His prescriptions can help managers close out their day in a way that sets up success for tomorrow. Here is what he writes:

"Every day, before leaving the office, save a few minutes to think about what just happened. Look at your calendar and compare what actually happened -- the meetings you attended, the work you got done, the conversations you had, the people with whom you interacted, even the breaks you took -- with your plan for what you wanted to have happen. Then ask yourself three sets of questions:

  • How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges did I endure?
  • What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do -- differently or the same -- tomorrow?
  • Who did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question? Share feedback?"
For me, who usually does daily planning first thing when I arrive in the morning, Bregman's practice has a nice symmetry about it. It also means I have to to less preparation to do when I return to work the next morning.

Do you use your final minutes at work productively?

(Photo by Flickr user alancleaver_2000, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.