Keep your freelance business running smoothly by creating an end-of-day ritual that gives you time to finish up one day and prepare for the next day.
When I finish my last to-do item and the workday officially ends, I can’t wait to leave my office behind and spend quality time with family and friends, pursue hobbies, relax and unwind, and get a great night of sleep. Unfortunately, for many freelancers, however, that’s not exactly what typical evenings and weekends look like.
When I begin working with freelancers, solopreneuers, and micro agency owners to stabilize and systematize their businesses, they are usually stuck in one of two scenarios:
- They are tied to their computers, feverishly multitasking through nights and weekends to meet all obligations, and struggling with worry, stress, and even fear that they may run out of time, not get everything done, miss a deadline, or drop one of the many balls they are currently juggling.
- They leave their office at the end of the day or week, yet aren’t fully present for activities because they are too busy worrying about work that needs to get done and thinking that if they just put in a few more hours, it will make a difference.
While it’s a tough spot to be in, the good news is that it’s fixable.
While I can’t magically reduce your workload, I can share the solution that eliminated the anxiety I felt about my work outside of work and allowed me to truly take nights and weekends off, take vacations, and leave my freelance business behind. All I needed to do was make a small change to my schedule…
Create An End-Of-Day Ritual
For years, as soon as I finished the last item that needed to get done, I’d save everything, close out all open programs, and walk out of my office. Then throughout the evening, I’d run through outstanding to-dos in my head repeatedly, worrying about what I didn’t get done or what I needed to do the next day. I had a hard time falling asleep at night and often tossed and turned due to stress from an unmanageable to-do list and no plan of attack.
That all went away when I created a new productivity habit — an end-of-day ritual that closed out my day and put “next day” action plans in place.
Rather than planning my day and outlining my to-dos each morning, I shifted my efforts to the end of the day and began scheduling a “wrap-up session” as the last 30 minutes of each workday. It makes sense when you think about it: Just as every article, report, whitepaper, book, video, movie, or play has a conclusion, your workday needs a conclusion too.
My daily wrap-up sessions quickly became a relished end-of-day ritual — time set aside to finish up one day and prepare for the next day.
As a freelancer, my daily conclusion period looks a little something like this:
- Closeout everything in progress.
Save and close out all open files and programs, clean up files for projects in process, and document the status of each project and what needs to happen next.
- Manage the to-do list.
Review the daily to-do list and assess what got done and what didn’t. Create a new, fresh to-do list for the next day and throw the old one away.
- Prepare for the next day.
Check your voicemail and review your calendar. Make sure you have a clear picture of your schedule for the day and exactly what needs to get done.
- Check email one last time.
Delete, delegate, or respond quickly to all emails — depending on the time, write and schedule emails that need to be sent the following morning.
- Clean up your office space.
Tidy up the desk, get rid of any trash or dishes, consolidate loose notes and papers, water plants, turn off equipment and lights, and ensure the workspace is ready to welcome a new workday.
When my agency grew to five people, each day began with a stand-up that ran through the status of every project, what each person was working on, pending deadlines, and the like. The problem is that the daily stand-up interrupted the most creative and focused part of the day and often prevented team members from getting started.
Moving our daily stand-up to the end of the day was a game-changer.
It brought our team together to review how the day went, assess what work got done and what didn’t get done, overcome obstacles, and outline tasks for the next day. This switch also allowed early-bird team members to hit the ground running in the morning, which resulted in greater productivity and better work with fewer mistakes.
If you have a team — whether in-house, contractors, on-site, or remote — the daily wrap-up may include tasks such as:
- Review the project management system.
Review each team member’s workload, tasks, and progress. Review the status of each project and briefly read through the project notes to keep a pulse on what’s happening.
- Check-in with team members.
Ask how their day went, find out if they got everything on their to-do list done, inquire about obstacles, and outline tasks for the following day. This is also a great time to see if any support is needed to accomplish their tasks or goals.
An End-Of-Day Ritual Reduces Stress
As a freelancer, it’s hard to not be constantly worrying about productivity and thinking about your business. Luckily, by adding a dedicated wrap-up session to the end of every workday, you can reduce or even eliminate the stress that comes from a bulging to-do list, no defined plan of attack, and uncertainty about what’s on your plate.
Setting aside even 30 minutes to properly close out one day and prepare for the next, provides the peace of mind needed to relax, detach from your freelance business, and get a good night of sleep. Why? Because…
- You know the status of every project and what’s happening in the business
- You have a clear picture of what is coming the next day
- You know exactly what you have to get done
And that’s a pretty amazing feeling.