Republished from my answer to this question on Quora.
“How Can I Stay Productive After Work? What do you do to be productive after work hours, assuming your work hours are time spent in office of big corporation and you dream of starting your own venture. What actions, steps you take to be productive?”
I work at a “big corporation” with a 3 hour daily commute. I love my job but need a few side projects to stay mentally stimulated outside the office, so I deal with this issue every day. I’ve found that staying productive after work isn’t just about what you do when you get home, but what you do before, during, and after work.
After much trial and error, here’s what works for me:
- Make your day job run as smooth as possible. This DOES NOT mean “phoning it in” — this means putting more time and thought into planning your day. To transform your day, commit to doing pre-work, automating where you can, and avoiding the dreaded “fire drill”. If you spend all your time reacting to last-minute crises, your mental energy and willpower are gone by the end of the day. Here’s a few tactics that help me take the stress out of my workday:
a. Checklists: You should maintain two types of checklists.
- For the repeatable tasks that you can automate, create a process checklist and USE IT. It’ll prevent rework, make tasks faster, and you’ll look like a super-organized, plate-spinning genius.
- For the daily to-dos that pop up on the fly, document specific and actionable tasks AS THEY COME UP. If you wait, you’ll forget all about them (seems like simple advice but it’s crucial). When you get to the office in the morning, make a checklist for the day . When you’re ready to leave, perform a “shut down” ritual by updating a status sheet and checklist. That way, your mind is at ease when you leave the office, and you have the next day’s plan ready to go.
b. Visible Status, Calendar, and Data Point Sheets: All jobs have some form of project, relationship, and people management — you will, from time to time, have a sudden request from your boss’s boss’s boss.You’ll reduce your stress level and time spent digging things up if relevant status, calendars, dates, and data points are at your fingertips.
c. Mindset: I’ve seen many people in the corporate world who are stress addicts. Some people don’t feel needed or valued unless they are running around like the building is on fire. If this describes you, a proactive stress management tool like meditation, tapping, or yoga will prove helpful. You’ll need remind yourself that “calm = success” and “stress = failure”.
2. Turn your commutes into a “energy positive” experiences. “But my commute sucks!” Yes, it does. They all do, but not everyone gets home feeling like a sack of stressed-out potatoes.
AM: Even though you’re on your way to the office, you can create a calm environment that sets the tone for the day. How can you fill your commute with something that prepares you for the day, but doesn’t stress you out? Here are some ideas:
- Get Mentored: Find inspiration in the words of people who’ve modeled the kind of success you’d like to emulate. This can come in the form of an audio book or a podcast .
- Get Grateful: Use this time to reframe your thinking about the day. Mentally list everything you’re grateful for. Remember to reflect on the people you love and the ones who love you.
PM: The evening commute is critical because you are decompressing from the office and about to start your second shift.
- Get Grateful, Again: List at 3 accomplishments from today’s work day (And not throttling that annoying deskmate who won’t stop clicking his pen doesn’t count).
- Get Quiet: Maintain silence for the majority of your ride home. It will allow you to let go of the day and move forward.
3. Now that you’re home, it’s time to shut “work you” off and become “side gig” you with a separation ritual. The best way to make a break between the two worlds? You guessed it — exercise.
I suggest going outside to exercise, for two reasons. First, you shake up your external stimuli and get some much needed fresh air and sunshine. Second, by going outside you’re clearing from your mind all the fire drills that your pre-planning didn’t anticipate. Exercising outside will make you feel creative, stimulated, and ready to sit down and tackle my next project.
In addition to exercise, you can also try meditation, tapping, journaling, or yoga. My ritual includes tapping in the car before leaving work, then walking my dog for a half hour or so when I get home.
To Sum It All Up:
- Manage your workday like a boss.
- Engineer your commute so it’s an energy positive experience.
- Create a separation ritual to get your mind right when you walk in the door.
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