This post is based on a book that changed my life this year… Deep Work by Cal Newport (I highly recommend you read it if you haven’t yet).
I read this right after Live Your Message LIVE in March when I was experiencing just pure cellular exhaustion.
I couldn’t do it anymore… all of the constant pings… Slack, social media and my phone… were fracturing my attention so much that I couldn’t get in and stay in my zone of genius.
But that all changed after I read Deep Work (so much so that I taught this book as a half-day workshop to both my Momentum students and my team).
And in this post, I’ll be sharing a game-changing takeaway from that workshop with you… all about how to experience deep rejuvenation so you’re ready to take on a new day and produce much better work.
This is especially timely given that we’re right in the thick of the holiday season… meaning lots of distractions and exhaustion as you try to balance business with family and friend time!
So, let’s dive in…
We Have a Relaxation Problem
“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Yet, people still assume that relaxation is what makes them happy when, in reality, so many find that work is much easier to enjoy than their free time.
Because when you’re working, you’re fully engaged, stretched and expanded.
You’re in a state of Flow.
But during your “free time,” that’s usually not the case. And so people tend to return to work over and over again… even though they’re supposed to be relaxing.
Why is this?
Well, traditionally, work has built-in goals, feedback, rules and challenges, which allow you to concentrate fully and lose yourself in the work.
But because free time is unstructured, it requires a lot more effort to actually be shaped into something that can be enjoyed.
And if you’re not finding ways to engage actively in rejuvenation, you’ll often drift back to work where you can be fully engaged… which ends up negatively impacting the work you produce.
Plus, it just doesn’t lead to a full and rewarding life!
Create a Separation Between Work Time and Free Time
Are you familiar with Pigpen from Peanuts?
Just like the cloud of dirt follows him around, so does the work when you decide to stop for the day.
You can’t ever seem to escape it!
And that’s why to stop this from continuing to happen, you need to establish a Daily Shutdown Routine where you completely shut down your consideration of all work issues until the next morning.
This means no after-dinner email check-in, no mental replays of conversations and no scheming about how you’ll handle an upcoming challenge.
But let’s say you have a big deadline and need more time… you can extend your workday. But once you shut down, your mind must be left free to discover the other wonders of the world (outside of work).
So even if these work dashes consume only a tiny amount of time… let’s say you stop work at 5:30 and then you do a 3-minute check-in at 6:30 and another one at 9pm… these quick check-ins prevent you from reaching the levels of deeper relaxation where attention restoration can occur.
And this is super important, especially for online entrepreneurs.
Because you’re NOT just taking a break, you’re actually restoring your attention by differently focusing your time.
So only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day to follow.
Think about all the times you tried to squeeze just a bit more work out of your evening…
Let me just get this one thing done. Let me check this one email.
We’ve all done it countless times!
But when you do this… you’re actually reducing the effectiveness of the next day just enough that you end up getting less done than if you had instead respected the shutdown.
This is how you get stuck in this constant state of distraction, frustration and irritability.
Establish a Strict Shutdown Ritual
So, to succeed with this strategy of having a Daily Shutdown Routine, you must first accept the commitment that once your workday shuts down, you cannot allow even the slightest intrusion of work concerns into your field of attention. This includes checking email, as well as browsing work-related websites.
Because these two activities – however brief – can actually impede the shutdown advantages for a long time to follow. Which is why you need a strict Shutdown Ritual… a ritual you’ll use at the end of each workday to maximize your chances of success.
Your Shutdown Ritual should ensure that every incomplete task, goal or project has been reviewed and that for each, you have confirmed that either:
- You have a plan you trust for its completion
- Or it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited when the time is right.
This process should be a series of steps you always conduct one after another.
And when you’re done, have a set phrase that you say out loud that indicates completion.
Cal Newport’s phrase is Shutdown Complete.
And in his book, he admits this final step may sound cheesy, but it provides a simple cue to your mind that it’s safe to release work-related thoughts for the rest of the day.
Your Shutdown Ritual can be something like Cal Newport’s (but make sure yours suits how you work best):
Step 1: Take a final look at your email inbox to make sure there’s nothing that needs an urgent response
Step 2: Transfer any new tasks on my mind or scribbled on paper to my official task list (you can use a Google doc or whatever you want)
Step 3: Quickly skim each task and then look forward to the next few days on your calendar. These two actions ensure there’s nothing urgent you’re forgetting or important deadlines sneaking up on you.
Step 4: Make a rough plan for the next day.
Step 5: Say your shutdown phrase out loud. And you’re done!
I’ve even added a quick meditation (something like this) that I do right before I say my shutdown phrase. This has been super helpful in clearing my mind of all work considerations.
How Will You Implement This in Your Daily Life?
So I want you to think about how you can start to transition from your work day to the rest of your day.
How can you rest your mind so you know you can come back and take care of what you need to take care of… so you don’t have to keep chipping away at it all night long when you’re not really being effective.
I recommend taking just 5 minutes right now to jot down or type out your daily Shutdown Ritual and commit to practicing it for at least 30 days.
And then come back to this post and let me know in a comment how it went! Did you stick with it? And how did it change things for you?
There’s so much more to Cal Newport’s Equally Deep Rejuvenation process (including actually scheduling your free time) that I want to encourage you to pick up a copy and read it before the end of the year (and be sure to check out my list of 10+ must-read books for every entrepreneur).
I just know it can make a monumental difference in your 2023!
Now go ahead and share in a comment your shutdown phrase (you can always change it 🙂)
But before you go… I wanted to invite you to my FREE Amazing Lead Magnet Challenge!
If you’ve ever struggled to create a Lead Magnet that converts hordes of “lookers” into buyers, then join us for the FREE, 5-Day Amazing Lead Magnet Challenge, happening February 5-9!
I only do this Challenge for FREE once a year so don’t miss it 🙂 Click to save your spot.
Love it? Hate it? Let me know...
Thanks for this, Marisa. My shutdown phrase will be TODAY IS DONE! I needed this post. Thank you!
Thanks for reading, Adenike! Marisa greatly appreciates it 🙂 Love your shutdown phrase… let us know how it works after 30 day!
Hi Marisa, thanks for this post. My shutdown phrase is SHUTDOWN NOW!
Love it! Thanks for sharing… I know Marisa appreciates it so much 🙂