Experiment 5: Shut Down Your Day results!

Greetings fellow experimenters,

I have results for you!

As you hopefully remember, the Shut Down Your Day experiment involved taking two very simple actions at the end of every workday.

The first was completing the statement: “Today I made progress on ….”

Second, you had to identify the most important thing you wanted to work on the following day by completing the sentence: “If I get X done tomorrow, it will be a great day.” 

All up, this activity should have taken no longer than a handful of minutes.

In my own life, I was successful in sticking to this routine about 50% of the time.

And my success was largely dependent on whether I had my daughter with me or not (she is with me 50% of the time). On days where I had Frankie, the afternoon and evening period tended to be pretty loose. And my trigger for remembering to complete the task sometimes didn’t happen because I was distracted by Frankie and her routine.

On the mornings where I had Shut Down my day the night before, I felt a huge difference. These mornings started effortlessly. I knew what I was doing and I got into flow pretty quickly. However, when I started my day without a specific focus or goal in mind, it became easy to get lost in “shallow work” such as getting stuck in an inbox black hole and generally working inefficiently. It surprised me (although perhaps it shouldn’t have) the difference between starting my day with a clear focus versus not.

One learning I am taking from this experiment is that I need to identify a trigger that is constant (whether I have Frankie or not), so I remember to Shut Down my day 100% of the time. I also found that using a physical notepad and pen or post-it notes was helpful, especially in terms of identifying the big thing I wanted to achieve the following day. If I wrote it on a post-it note and left it on my laptop, my focus for the day was blindingly obvious and tangible the following morning.

Enough about me. Let’s get to the results.

The sample size for this experiment was a bit smaller than usual - a bit under one hundred people completed BOTH pre and post-experiment surveys (remember folks, if you complete the pre-survey, please, please, please remember to do the post-survey too). But still, statistically speaking, it was still a very decent sample size.

The majority of you were like me and didn’t stick to the Shut Down ritual every day. But guess what? It still worked!

Those of you who Shut Down your day at least once or twice a week in the two-week long experiment experienced a 46% increase in productivity. And you also experienced a 23% increase in wellbeing (that is, you experienced more positive than negative feelings).

To be honest, these results blew me away. The fact that such a simple routine could impact our productivity and psychological wellbeing so dramatically is pretty awesome.

It was great to hear from quite a few of you on your personal reflections. Here are a few snippets in case you are interested in other people’s experiences.

“This experiment was the best one yet. I've never been so productive and felt so accomplished in my work as I have the past week. As someone who works in a role where there aren't defined 'ends' of projects or work, it was really satisfying to finally have that sense of finishing what I planned to.”

“I have loved the last two weeks!! This activity has provided me with both a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and direction and structure for the next. I'm keeping this going as a daily practice for sure. I've been telling all my colleagues about it and we've been adding it to organisation resources as a suggestion.”

“This experiment could not have come at a better time for me.  I was at my lowest and being able to see what I had actually achieved in my day gave me the lift I needed to come back to the desk the next day.  I can’t thank you enough for this amazing tool which I will be continuing to use even after we go back to the office.”

“Loved this one. I ended up with a little table in my weekly planner, one column for each question, a row for each day. Then I can easily compare what I said I would do with what I did. I also started adding a little smiley face if I felt good about what I had completed. It really helped me to focus on achieving one thing, so that even in the really chaotic days I would still make sure I got something done on the thing I’d noted.”

“I love the simplicity of it: 2 sentences that you get to control depending on your energy levels. I have had THE best week at work this week that I can remember in a very long time and I can look back on my notes and see what I have achieved – it was a lot! I did a lot of work this week and I really enjoyed it!”

“It has helped me to realise that I’m not really being fair with myself in that, I take my unproductive, mucking around time as indicative of the whole day, when it’s really only part of the day.  Focusing on the positive things that have happened and the progress I have made has actually helped me to look at unproductive time in a less anxious way – I feel better able to see it for what it really is rather than a terrible thing I don’t really want to look at.”

So that’s it for this experiment. If you didn’t get the chance to try it out, perhaps these results and reflections will motivate you to give it a go.

If you have friends that you think would be interested in joining our gang of experimenters, you can share My Year of Better with them using the button below:

Share My Year of Better

And I’ll be in touch in a few days time with the next experiment…