What’s the best way to end your workday and start your personal time?

An office worker may head to the gym or grab some happy hour drinks on the way home from work.

A stripper may might head over to grab some late-night Taco Bell once the shift ends (I have no idea, but that’s what I’d do).

But a remote worker that works from home might stay in the same room, sit in the same chair, and not have any clear physical or mental separation from where they were just doing their job. That’s what too often happens to me, and why I’m writing this blog post — to explore ways to effectively “shut down” after working a full day and enjoy the personal time I have for the rest of the evening.

My Personal Shut Down Routine…from YESTERDAY

I’m going to start with my shut down “routine” from YESTERDAY (which is a terrible example of shut down routine):

  • 3:00pmlull in work…thought about taking the remainder of the day off because I had some internet problems that I had to fix. 50% checked out
  • 4:00pmsnapped out of my daze and began cranking out some email replies to clients
  • 4:45pmOOOOOOO Amazon package arrived – new tennis racket that I can’t even use because I injured my knee over the weekend…oh yeah, I’m still “working”.
  • 5:15pmback to email and Slack responses and preparing for a 6pm meeting that I have on Monday nights with a worker in Asia
  • 6:20pmdone with meeting and head out to eat a big unhealthy dinner at Chipotle

If I were to develop a Shut Down Routine based on how I ended work yesterday in 3 steps it would be:

  1. Half-assedly start winding down the day early with a concoction of emails and browsing career advice on Reddit
  2. Get distracted an Amazon delivery before remembering I’m still working
  3. Hit the shut-off button right after meeting and before more emails flood into my life

My Personal Shut Down Routine…The PERFECT First Draft One

Time to craft my personal Shut Down Routine…better make it damn good as well since I wrote the word “PERFECT” in the above H2.

  • 5:00pmbe finished with all phone calls and spend the next 20 minutes responding to emails, internal messages, and any remaining daily to-dos
  • 5:20pmspend 10 minutes reviewing tomorrow’s schedule – make necessary adjustments, fire off a brief email before a meeting the next day, and start closing down tabs/browser
  • 5:30pm having closed all tabs and work-related screens audibly speak the words “shut down complete” in a soothingly robotic voice (somewhat like Alexa, but with more soul). After that, sit there and meditate for 5 to 10 minutes. Once done – stand up, stretch, and go about my personal life.

Boiling the above schedule into 3 easy steps:

  1. Finish all conversations with clients by 5pm and spend the next 20 minutes “housekeeping” – emails, internal messages, etc.
  2. Review tomorrow’s schedule and close all work-related screens
  3. Perform Shut Down Routine – speak the words “shut down complete”, meditate for 5-10 minutes, then stand up and leave

Shut Down Routines from People Smarter than Me

The concept of a Shut Down Routine was recently introduced to me when reading the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. The idea itself isn’t some groundbreaking discovery, but I hadn’t really focused on trying to systematize the process for a Shut Down Routine before so the book made me think about it.

  • Review calendar and tasks at the end of the workday and come up with a smart plan for the remainder of the week to complete everything
  • Once satisfied with the plan, say a mantra that indicated he was done with the day (his words are “Schedule Shut Down Complete”)
  • After the shut down routine is complete, have another phrase ready to “shut down” any additional work rumination that your mind spawns

Here are the exact words he uses to shut down any additional work-related thoughts after he’s completed his routine:

I completed my schedule shutdown ritual today. I wouldn’t have allowed myself to complete the process if I didn’t trust that my plan makes sense. Therefore, I’m not worried.” (source)

One additional step that Cal has compared to mine is a plan for combating the work-related thoughts that are still sure to come up after work has been completed. This is definitely going to be added to my plan.


The Latest Version of my Shut Down Routine

  1. Review calendar and tasks for the rest of the week and come up with a plan to finish everything
  2. Say “Shut Down Mantra” to signify the end of the work day
  3. Be prepared to reject all work-related thoughts after shutting down with another phrase