If you have kids, then you’re likely familiar with time outs. However, have you ever considered taking one for yourself?

According to new research in a paper titled “Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance,” taking time out at the end of the workday to reflect on what you’ve done leads to a host of benefits.

  • For instance, researchers found that groups that reflected and wrote notes about what they’d learned throughout the day performed 18% better and felt more competent and effective than people who didn’t.
  • Likewise, they found individual employees who spent the last 15 minutes of each day writing and reflecting on the lessons they learned that day performed 23% better than others. That number increased if they explained their notes to a fellow employee.

“Now more than ever we seem to be living lives where we’re busy and overworked, and our research shows that if we’d take some time out for reflection, we might be better off,” says Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino, who co-wrote the paper.

According to researchers, taking time at the end of each day to reflect on the day – and ask yourself “Have I performed well today?” – can help you leave the office feeling more accomplished and motivated. If the answer is “no,” it can also help you delve into any issues or problems you faced throughout the day so you can overcome them going forward.

The lesson here? When the work day ends, don’t run out the door the second you can. Take time to reflect instead.

Other research has also seen value in writing down key accomplishments from the day as a way to boost long-term happiness. So don’t just think about your accomplishments; actually write them down.

In addition to reflecting about your day’s progress, consider the following tips for ending your day well:

  • Tie up loose ends so you feel like you can truly disconnect when you walk out the door. If something can be quickly taken care of, do it so you don’t have any tasks hanging over your head first thing in the morning.
  • Make a new to-do list for the next day. Identify what you must accomplish and plan out how you will use your time throughout the day.
  • Review your schedule for the next day. Make sure you’re aware of all meetings and appointments.
  • Check in with your team. Ask about progress and see if anyone has any questions or concerns. Also, double check on deadlines and confirm everyone is on the same page.
  • Take a few minutes to tidy up your office so the next day you don’t feel like you’re walking into a mess. This extends to your electronic files as well, such as your email.

When you’re frazzled from everything that’s left to do, it’s easy to forget the fact that your work should be meaningful and fulfilling. Instead, take the steps above to end your workday on a positive note and stay more productive going forward.

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