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Don’t Waste the Last 15 Minutes of Your Day—Do These 4 Things Instead

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For many of us, the last 15 minutes of the workday are difficult. After a long, busy day, it can be tempting to take it easy during the final countdown. Buthe most successful people have a few healthy habits to maximize those last few minutes, which are crucial to finishing tasks, preparing for the next day, building relationships, keeping work at the office, meeting your goals, and setting yourself up for success. Here’s how successful people end their days—it’s up to you to follow suit.

1. Clear out your inbox.

For many office workers, email is the first thing they look at in the morning and the last thing they see before they leave at night. With so much important communication taking place via email in today’s business environment, it’s essential to stay on top of your inbox. Sometimes emails that seem tedious or difficult to answer sit unopened in our inboxes all day, but the end of the day is the time to push through and make sure nothing important is left unread. On top of that, there’s a satisfying feeling that comes with looking at a message that says there’s nothing left in your inbox.

2. Plan first steps for the morning.

Mornings can be almost as challenging for productivity as the end of the day, so if you can use some time each day to plan out the first tasks you’ll do the next morning, you won’t have to waste time at the day’s start getting your thoughts in order. Megan Robinson, an editor at personal finance site DollarSprout, says she likes to make a daily to-do list to reset mentally and set herself up for success. This has a few benefits: First, it makes the next morning easier; as Robinson says, “[In the] morning when I come to work, I hit the ground running because I know exactly what to focus on.”

The other major benefit is that it helps make sure your professional concerns don’t bleed into your personal life. Robinson says having a to-do list as part of her daily routine helps her avoid stress at home. “This helps me relax in the evenings because I’m not thinking about what I need to do the next day or if there’s something I forgot,” she says.

3. Strengthen relationships.

The end of the day is also a good time to connect with coworkers about something other than work. Is there a local restaurant you want to try? Suggest a lunch out of the office sometime. Just started a new TV series? Ask if anyone has seen it yet. It’s also a perfect time to find out more about your coworkers’ lives. Take a minute or two to ask what they’re doing that evening and take a genuine interest in their answer.

Beyond simple small talk, you can connect with coworkers in a deeper way in those last few minutes. As a leader in her office, Lee McEnany Caraher, the CEO of the communications agency Double Forte, says she looks to see who else is still in the office and asks them how she can help them get to a place that allows them to leave for the night. By doing this, she shows the people she works with that she values their time and is willing to give up some of hers for their sake.

4. Officially end the day.

So many of us take our work home in the evenings, but that can be a bad practice for our stress levels and relationships outside of the office. So in order to maintain that work-life balance, take a note from an article in the Harvard Business Review by Jackie Coleman and John Coleman: “Make a rule to work from home only in exceptional circumstances, and keep work folders, computers, and notebooks at your desk.”

To help separate your mind from the stresses of the workday, take a few minutes before you leave to practice some thoughtful disengagement. Laura Maille, the co-founder and chief design officer at graphic design service Deputy Rabbit, says that her end-of-day meditation is “the most important part of my day” and that it helps her “transition into the personal part of my day without bringing home all the stress of managing a team and a company.” Taking those few minutes to disengage can help you go home feeling refreshed and avoid workplace stress outside the office.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.

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