Focus On This Podcast

151. Level-Up Your Workday Shutdown Ritual



As high achievers, it can be difficult to stop the work you’re doing and start a Workday Shutdown. In the short run, pushing through and finishing the work can feel like it makes a lot of sense, because you finish more things on your to-do list. However, in the long run, not shutting down your workday can start to grind your productivity to a halt.

Today, Courtney and Verbs describe two different elements that will help you end your workday on the right foot. They also answer a question from the Full Focus Planner Community about the Quarterly Preview being too business-sounding.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Concrete ways you can end your workday and reset for the start of the next day
  • How to manage the loose ends that will undoubtedly come up through your day
  • The benefits of simply utilizing your Workday Shutdown Ritual
  • New ways to think about your Quarterly Preview

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To talk to other productivity and success-minded people, visit the Full Focus Planner Community at

Episode Transcript

Verbs Boyer: All right, Courtney, I know you’ve spoken about this numerous times in previous episodes, but what in your opinion makes the workday shutdown ritual so helpful?

Courtney Baker: Well, I think for one, it is a hard stop to your workday. I think a lot of times… Again, I think I talked about this a couple episodes ago where it’s just like if you are a to doer… Is that a thing?

Verbs Boyer: It is now.

Courtney Baker: You just like to get things done. You like to check off lists. I think your mindset may say, “I’m going to work up until the very last second, and then I’m going to run out of this office.”
And in reality, that’s not the best way to transition into your evening because most likely you didn’t get the low leverage task, work, out of the way, and you probably didn’t set yourself up well for the next day. And so for me, what happens is all night, I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t actually check my email before I left,” or, “I didn’t check Slack. Was there something somebody was needing for me before the day ended that I didn’t know about? I haven’t even looked at my calendar for the next day.” So then those questions creep in, like “What’s actually even happening?”
And so rather than being able to transition to your evening and having success at whatever’s happening at that time of the day, you’re allowing your work to take up mental space in your brain that could be used to fully focus on whatever you’re doing that evening. And so I think that’s why it’s so helpful for me, and I think why, for a lot of people in the community, it’s been a really helpful tool.

Verbs Boyer: I like that. So today we’re actually going to be talking about two ways that we can level up the workday shutdown process, so let’s get into it.
Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs here with Courtney Baker. Happy Monday to you, Courtney. Happy birthday to you, Nick.
I don’t even know why I said happy birthday because really it’s just happy Monday. I guess it’s a celebratory one.

Courtney Baker: We’ll keep that one in. I just wish… I’m waiting for Nick to really put together a bunch of our bloopers. I wish sometimes-

Verbs Boyer: Blooper reel.

Courtney Baker: They just stayed in because there’s some funny ones in there.

Verbs Boyer: It’s happy birthday.

Nick Jaworski: It’s not my birthday, but it is my birthday. It’s always… Time is a flat circle, right? It’s always happening, and it’s never happening, so thank you for the birthday wishes.

Courtney Baker: I don’t know what you’re saying, but I’m going to go with it. Happy birthday, Nick.

Verbs Boyer: Happy future birthday.

Courtney Baker: We appreciate you.

Verbs Boyer: So let’s start with element number one: power it down your workspace. Now, depending on the level of technology you may have in your workspace, or just even the more analog version of that, a lot of people do a lot of different things to make sure that they’re making themselves aware that, hey, it’s time to begin to stop work, and as you said, Courtney earlier, transitioning into the evening time, or transitioning into what’s next.
Do you have any tips, maybe some hacks, maybe some cheat codes, on things that we could do to really power down that space?

Courtney Baker: Yeah. Well, first of all, I don’t know who out there needs to hear this, but one thing you could do is your workday shutdown is close out all those tabs. Am I speaking to the choir here?

Verbs Boyer: Hold on, hold on, hold on. Do you really have to close all the tabs?

Courtney Baker: All the tabs. Here’s a little hack for you. There is a, if you use Chrome, an extension called OneTab, and it will just automatically take all your tabs and make a listing of them for you.

Nick Jaworski: Look, I’m a tab… I’m a four. I have things I’m thinking about. I got so many tabs open. Those tab management systems for Chrome, all it does is now I have tabs of other tabs in Chrome. It’s not, it’s like-

Courtney Baker: No, no-

Nick Jaworski: It’s a bandaid.

Courtney Baker: It’s just going to collect them all in one tab, but… Or one tab? Is that right?

Nick Jaworski: Yeah.

Courtney Baker: Tab?

Nick Jaworski: At least the ones I’m familiar with, yeah.

Courtney Baker: One tab. But honestly, you just got to close those out. You’re going to find it again. It’s really a pseudo to do list a little bit. It’s like, “Oh, these are all things that I need to do,” so it’s another form of a never-ending to do list. So just make it part of your shutdown. If you keep up with it, you’re not going to have six million tabs.

Nick Jaworski: Verbs, how many tabs do you have open right now?

Verbs Boyer: Man, that’s a trick question because I actually closed down… Well, let me correct that. I actually hide my tabs when we’re recording this podcast, but I can access them very quickly. But for sure it is at least 15, 20 right now-

Nick Jaworski: Oh-

Verbs Boyer: As we speak.

Nick Jaworski: Guys, you have no idea how many tabs I have. That’s not even… I had to restart my computer for this recording, but I can tell you before that I probably had 40 tabs on various windows.

Verbs Boyer: Which could have been why you had Courtney-

Nick Jaworski: For those who are not watching, Courtney is…

Courtney Baker: 39.

Nick Jaworski: Oh see, there you go. Now are you going to close all of those?

Verbs Boyer: That’s my question.

Courtney Baker: Listen guys, I started this out by saying who is speaking to the choir right now, and I was being authentic in that I have a tab problem.
Now I’m like Verbs when I start the episode. I open new windows, so all I’m looking at is y’all and our show notes. But I’ve got all the tabs over here just waiting for me to do something about them.
But it does feel really good. I’m like y’all. I’m like, “I need to get back to that thing,” but honestly I never do. It’s so too many. So this is a good one for me. I’m speaking to the choir, but we probably all need to hear it. Let’s just make you a part of our workday shutdown. Get rid of those tabs, and come in tomorrow with a clean workspace.

Verbs Boyer: What if I had a friend who wanted to justify it as saying, “Hey, this is actually helping me prepare for the next workday because all I have to do is I don’t have to look for it. I just go straight to that tab cache and then boom, there it is.”

Courtney Baker: You know what I just write it in your planner to do it and clean the… It’s like cleaning your workspace. Make it clean, or just pin it and get rid of all the rest of them.

Verbs Boyer: Touche.

Courtney Baker: So next step is shut down your computer.
No, thank you. I’m not doing this one.

Verbs Boyer: Because it means-

Courtney Baker: Why would we shut down our computers? Why are we going to do that?

Verbs Boyer: In case you want to access that tab.

Nick Jaworski: Yeah, I think the idea here is to just have a clean slate. Your computer does perform better once it’s restarted.

Courtney Baker: I haven’t shut down my computer in, I don’t know, 12 years?

Nick Jaworski: As the producer of this show, I need you to restart your computer at some point.

Courtney Baker: So really this is an intervention for Nick to get me to shut down my computer.

Verbs Boyer: Clearly. Clearly.

Nick Jaworski: Yes, I need… Your computer will be so much zippier.

Courtney Baker: Okay. All right, you know what? I needed this episode. Okay, so right now we got close your internet tabs, shut down your computer, straighten your desk. This one… I’m pretty good at this one. We actually did a whole episode. Do you remember that episode, Verbs, about the Full Focus workspace and all about your surroundings? Being prepared?

Verbs Boyer: Yes [inaudible 00:07:47]

Courtney Baker: It’s been a hot second since we did that one. Really the idea here is I think a lot of times we think physically clean your desk, but really so much of our desk, quote unquote, is the computer screen and what you’re coming into.
I will not name names, but we have a wonderful coworker who I love whose desktop, every time I see it, I really do twitch big time. It is just so much. And so if that’s you, maybe thinking of, “Okay, how can I come in tomorrow?”
Actually, I’ve talked about this on a few episodes back about how I like to think about resetting my home for the next day. This is really the same idea. How do you reset your workspace so that when you come in the next day, you’re not like, “Ugh, this is such a mess,” overwhelmed out of the gate. You’re ready to go.

Verbs Boyer: Those are all good components of how to power down your workspace. Let’s move on to element number two which is write down loose ends, which is something you alluded to with the whole tabs thing and then transferring those down into your planner. But how far can we take this, write down loose ends?
Sometimes it could take the shape of maybe you’re exiting a meeting, you’ve jotted down notes, action items that you’ll have to tend to for the proceeding days, so it’s always good to write those down. Maybe turn those into action items or tasks in your planner as well. That way you can set your mind free from having to remember, again, all these extra things going on.
And I like what Courtney said. The phrase she used was to transition into your evening well. Maybe you need to ask, or maybe you can ask yourself, “Well, how do I want to feel going into the evening as I taper down my workday?” But how do you want to go into that next moment? Because all of these things, all of these elements and these components, are going to help you actually do that successfully.

Courtney Baker: I’ve said this so many times, but anytime I have somebody on our staff that comes to me and just says, “I feel really overwhelmed. Things are a little crazy right now.” One of the questions I ask them is, “Hey, how is your workday shutdown going?” And nine times out of 10, the work day shutdown is not… It’s fallen off their radar. Things got busy, and they’ve put it on the back burner.
And I think there’s a real cause and effect here because overwhelm, that’s really just a feeling. That’s not a… We can’t be like, “Oh, Verbs has so many tasks. He is officially overwhelmed.” That’s just a feeling that we experience. And so I find that these things, even if we have a lot to do, because we just do.
I don’t know about y’all, but it just keeps coming. And so rather than allowing just to have that feeling of overwhelm, it’s looking at it and saying, “Okay, what can I do to set myself up well for the next day, for the next thing, resetting and getting clarity for what’s ahead?” And I find for me that it really helps fight against that overwhelm, especially in the evening when, frankly, I don’t want to be working. You don’t want to be thinking about other things.

Verbs Boyer: So just to recap, element number one was power down your workspace. Element number two was to write down any loose ends that have accumulated throughout the day. And Nick, I believe we now have a question from a listener.

Nick Jaworski: Well, I don’t know if they listen to be fair, but they are a member of the Full Focus Planner community. Matt, if you’re out there-

Verbs Boyer: Listening.

Nick Jaworski: We’re here for you. This is directly for you. And I thought this was interesting because… Well, you’ll hear why here in a second. I thought this was very interesting.
“I’m an avid user of the planner,” writes Matt. “The daily pages that is. I fill those up. Any advice for taking the weekly preview seriously? Most of mine are blank. Also, the word quarterly sounds very corporate to this ministry guy, so I ignore most of those pages, too. I’d like to change that. Thanks for your advice.” And to be clear, there’s a lot… People are responding.

Courtney Baker: Yeah.

Nick Jaworski: There’s 20 comments on this post. You can go in there, but I thought I would give you two an option, an opportunity, to respond as well.

Courtney Baker: Well, can we work backwards Verbs on this one?

Verbs Boyer: Sure.

Courtney Baker: Because quarterly, I guess it is business-ish.

Verbs Boyer: Is it?

Courtney Baker: How I always think of quarterly as like collegiate. No, like… I don’t know. Is that wrong, too?

Nick Jaworski: It makes me think of school.

Courtney Baker: I guess those were semesters.

Nick Jaworski: Yeah, but you have quarters and semesters in school.

Verbs Boyer: Yeah, collegiate would be… Yeah, semesters. So I guess in a way we’ve already grown up being familiar with that, those time segments, whether it’s semesters, quarterly… To be honest, I could never remember what the semester was. Nick, how many months is a semester? Is it three months?

Nick Jaworski: It’s about, yeah, like three and a half months give or take-

Verbs Boyer: So

Nick: Quarterlies are shorter.

Verbs Boyer: Yeah, sure.

Courtney Baker: Okay, I got an idea for this ministry guy. Okay, I’m married to one of these, so maybe this will help.
I want you to open up your planner. Everywhere you found the word quarter just put in season, and so it’ll be your seasonal preview. You just finished winter, and then so you got your winter season. Then you get your spring season, your fall season, and then season.

Nick Jaworski: I think that’s great.

Courtney Baker: Yeah, that is… Well, I don’t know, that’s my idea out of the gate.

Nick Jaworski: What about the weekly preview?

Verbs Boyer: Weekly preview?

Courtney Baker: That’s Verbs.

Verbs Boyer: Do you have something?

Courtney Baker: Turn that over to Verbs.

Verbs Boyer: Okay, so first of all, that was brilliant, Courtney. Change those, cross out quarterly, right in whatever season it needs to go into because obviously there’s programming and all that stuff that you probably adhere to as a ministry.
But your weekly preview, all right, again, what we call the secret sauce of the planner, is not only good for what the week is behind you but also for the week coming up. Chances are, if you’re in a ministry environment, there’s things that pop up on the fly that happen during the week, so this is your moment to account for what you know currently is going to happen on that Friday or that Sunday evening, whenever it is you would designate to do your weekly preview.
It starts to account for those things. That way, when you get to a new season that is coming up where you’re approaching your quarterly… Or sorry, when you’re approaching your season, you’ll be able to track and see how much work that you’ve done, or how much work that hasn’t been done, to get you set up for a successful season that’s coming up.
So just remembering those daily pages, you’re already doing the work of putting the daily pages in. All you’re really doing is capturing those in one bucket during your weekly preview, and those will build up to really set you up for your quarterly preview.
But the benefit of this is you’re being a great steward of your time. Not only for what you’ve already done and held yourself accountable for, but for the time that you have ahead of you. Because I’m assuming there’s already an annual planning event that’s already happened, so to be able to stay on track with that, those can drop into your weekly preview process. And then you can see what you were able to accomplish once you get to that quarterly preview.
So at the end of the day, they’ll all fold into one seamless system that’s really going to help you start to go into your seasons and come out of those seasons in a healthy way.

Courtney Baker: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. And I would just add my gut says if you’re not doing the weekly preview is… Since he didn’t say anything about his goals, I’m going to assume he is writing goals. I’m going to assume since he didn’t say anything of his goals, he’s doing his goals, and he is doing his daily pages.
And there is some traction. It’s like you’ve got two pieces of the Full Focus system. You’ve got the vision element, and you’ve got the execution side of it, but what you’re missing is aligning each week those daily tasks to your goals. And so I think there probably is some progress that you’re making on your goals, but you’re not getting the full effect. And so if you have goals…
The best way I can sell you on this is if you have goals that you really want to achieve, you’re passionate about them, what the person that you will become when you achieve those goals is important and desirable. Then the best advice I can give you to achieve those is to add that one missing… You just got that missing component in the middle of weekly previews and quarterly previews. Leverage that, and you’re off to the races.

Verbs Boyer: Yes. I think for the fact that he’s doing… He’s saying he does those weekly, I’m sorry, does those daily pages consistently, he’s 80% of the way there.
And I would even say, look, don’t even worry about the quarterly preview. Just add the weekly preview in, and then by the time you really get settled in and get into a good rhythm, you’re going to want to do the quarterly preview because you realize that you’re living in the benefit of doing that weekly preview as well.

Courtney Baker: Last thing, because I feel like we can talk about this forever, the thing that really helped me on board a quarterly preview was making it a fun day.
I took a day off. I think I went to a spa the first day time. I know this was so extra. I had a place to eat lunch and work on some things. I think I went to the library that afternoon. It was just a whole day that I had planned for myself to make sure that I would do it. I would be excited about doing it.
And so I would really leverage that, get it on the calendar, start thinking about what you could do that would be fun. And there’s certainly tons of things that you could do that would be totally free and still fun for you to get that quarterly preview going.

Nick Jaworski: So I think that that seasonal preview in some ways that might even work better for me. Like just emotionally, I really… It feels so… You can feel the time past in an interesting way.
But if you love those answers, I do want to highlight that there’s 20 responses to this post in the community. So if you have your own questions, or you have an answer for this one, you should go to the Full Focus Planner community and just get… These are people who love to achieve. Go be one of them.

Courtney Baker: They’re amazing.

Nick Jaworski: You’re listening to this podcast right now. What are you doing? You could be in the Facebook group, too.

Courtney Baker: Yes. It’s such a great group, and truly I love… I read so many of their answers and think, “That’s a brilliant idea.” There’s-

Verbs Boyer: Absolutely.

Courtney Baker: Brilliant people in that community.

Verbs Boyer: All right, so today’s tip to level up your focus is track your completion of your workday shutdowns this week by marking that little circle right there in the top right hand corner of your daily pages to ensure the fact that you’ve done it. Hopefully that’ll help you out.
Thanks for joining us on Focus on This.

Courtney Baker: This is the most productive podcast on the internet, so share it with your friends, and come join us in the Full Focus Planner community.
This week we want to know… And don’t cheat y’all. I was very vulnerable and told you how many tabs I had open. Come tell us how many tabs you have open at any given moment, and share it with us.
This is a safe space, okay, so don’t… There’s some anxiety. I can fill it building in the community.
And we’ll be back next week with another great episode until then stay focused.

Verbs Boyer: Stay focused.