How to Feel Better at the End of the Workday

How to Feel Better at the End of the Workday Mother Nurture

Do you ever have those mornings where you are on your way to work and you can just feel that it's going to be a productive day? The weather is perfect, your song just came on the radio, and you feel like you can conquer the world...or at least your to-do list.

I have had several of these mornings lately. On any given "conquer-the-world day", I walk into the office, prepare my desk - full water bottle, hot coffee, awesome playlist - and sit down to knock out my to-do list with time and energy to spare.

But somehow the clock strikes 4:30pm (my close of business) and before I rush out the door, I take stock of that ambitious list and realize that I only crossed off a third of the tasks on it.

I head out the door to pick up my son and feel completely different than I did walking in that morning: a complete 180.

I feel defeated, frustrated and a bit angry with myself. I spend my drive home brooding over all that I didn't accomplish and thinking about whether I should log on tonight or try to squeeze my leftover to-do list into tomorrow's to-do list. I'm distracted during the time with my son and if I'm honest with myself, probably not the most fun mom on these evenings either. This is not how I want to spend those precious evening hours of family time after a long day at the office.

Disappointment and frustration in daily life comes from unrealistic expectations Mother Nurture

So I decided to try something new as an experiment. After a couple of months, I can already appreciate how these small tweaks are helping me adjust my outlook at the office and subsequently my mood for the rest of the evening.

Here is how I feel better about my workday and more present during evening family time:

Prioritize 3 to 5 Items

In the morning, I think about what project or task would make me feel accomplished at the end of the day and I put it on my to-do list. Then I tackle 2 to 4 other items that have a pressing deadline, will move me closer to a bigger goal or have just been on my mind (or in my inbox) for too long. These are the items I must get through first before I can do anything else (scheduled meetings and calls aside). It may seem like I'm doing less work, but the truth is, my output is better and my outlook is better.

Be Realistic About How Long Something Will Take

I know that coordinating meetings, making phone calls and writing recap emails takes me longer than I think. Even on those mornings when I feel like I can conquer the world, these tasks don't move any faster than a normal day. Don't plan a to-do list that takes 10 hours to complete when you only have 8 hours at the office.

Plan for Interruptions By Creating Space

Even with headphones and your do-not-disturb-me-face on, colleagues will still find an excuse to interrupt your most productive mornings. I work in an open-office environment, so if someone isn't stopping by my desk, they are pinging, calling or emailing me. These are just the work interruptions and don't account for the texts from my husband, mom and sitter throughout the day to check-in on plans for the evening or weekend ahead. The truth is, I distract others as much as they distract me and that's just part of getting things done both at work and at home. Distractions only become annoying when you don't have any "space" in your day for them. When you've packed your schedule so full and created your to-do list so long, those distractions become a nuisance rather than a welcome break or a means to accomplishing more.

Tackle Something From Your Long-Term List

Try to put something in your priority list that breaks down a larger project or sets you up well in advance for a later deadline. I've learned that I can avoid the last-minute panic attacks and stress if I start larger projects a week or so in advance rather than just spending my days reacting to emails and crossing little tasks off my list. {Check out this podcast episode on spending time everyday on something for the long-term.}

Create a 'Ta-Da List'

Lastly, and most importantly, I create a ta-da list! I used to work up until the very last minute of the day, frantically shut down my computer and rush out the door. Now I have a reminder on my calendar that pops up 15 minutes before the end of my day. I finish whatever it is I'm doing, shut down my email, and take a look at my list from the morning. If I've been realistic with myself, I should have crossed off my 3-5 priority items and maybe even 1 or 2 additional smaller tasks. But those are just icing on the cake because I accomplished what I set out to accomplish for the day. I spend a few minutes looking at my ta-da list and allow myself to feel proud of the work I did. Then I think about my priorities for the next day, creating a cycle...

To-Do ~ Ta-Da ~ To-Do ~ Ta-Da!

My output is better because my outlook is better Mother Nurture

Since I've started following these guidelines and taking time to feel good about my work day, I leave the office with energy and satisfaction rather than frustration and anger.

I am able to fully focus on my son and my husband in the evenings and appreciate both the time I spend at work and the time I spend with them.

Are these massive shifts in what I do each day at the office? Not at all. It's more about setting myself up with realistic expectations. So much of my disappointment and frustration in daily life comes from unrealistic expectations. Instead of thinking I can accomplish 25 things and then being disappointed when I fall short, I instead expect that I can accomplish 5 things and feel proud when I do JUST THAT!

If you'd like to try following these guidelines for your work day, I've created a quick cheat sheet that you can download, print and keep at your desk as a visual reminder.

Everyone's responsibilities at work are different depending on your job, but I hope there is something here that is applicable to your work day so that you can make the most of your time away from your baby and finish each day feeling accomplished rather than defeated.