8 productive things to do during your final hour at work

Late on a Friday afternoon is not the time to dive into that big project

The final hour of your work day is bound to be your least productive—that is, if you try to tackle the wrong projects. 

Instead, consider knocking out at these 8 "soft projects" to make the best use of your final hour at work.

1. Sign off your social media and messaging apps

To make the most of your last hour, HubSpot's Leslie Ye suggests leaving your communication channels and setting yourself as "Away" on your messaging apps. Don't be tempted to log in to Facebook or Twitter, Ye urges.

"Even if you're one of those people who is completely comfortable with 9,378 unread notifications, they say 'ignorance is bliss' for a reason," says Ye. "If you can't see your notifications, you can't wonder what they're about.

2. Take a peek at your drafts folder

It's common to start emails and then forget they exist throughout the course of the day. "Now is the time to tackle these messages," says Ye. If you're worried colleagues won't see your emails, you can consider scheduling them to arrive the following morning.

3. Organize your email inbox

This task is perfect for the end of a long day, says Fast Company's Larry Alton, since "it doesn't take a ton of focus, and it can help cut down on wasted time in the long run."

Alton suggests several methods for organizing your inbox:

  • Unsubscribe from newsletters you don't read;
  • Mark any emails that still require further action;
  • Delete or archive any old messages you no longer need; and
  • Label your emails and move them to folders based on topic and sender.

4. Organize—and clean—your desk

Clutter is proven to distract you, says Alton, and it probably won't reflect well on you when your boss sees your desk's disastrous state.

Alton suggests you consider:

  • Discarding papers you don't need;
  • Washing out that coffee mug you've had sitting there all week; and
  • Taking a disinfectant wipe to your keyboard and desk (a study once concluded that keyboards harbor more germs than toilet seats).

5. Give your TDL some TLC

If you already have a running to-do list, Ye says, you can use your last hour to reassess the remaining items.

Ye suggests asking yourself:

  • Which item is the most important;
  • Whether all the items actually belong there;
  • What can be pushed to tomorrow or next week; and
  • Whether any entities can be removed from your list altogether.

If it's the end of the week, Alton suggests creating a thorough to-do list in which you:

  • Make a task list of everything you want to accomplish in the coming week;
  • Break up large projects into smaller, manageable tasks;
  • Rank the items on your list in terms of priorities; and
  • Make a timetable for when you'll do each task.

6. Prep for your next big project

During your final hour, Alton says, you shouldn't actually be working on a big project, since chances are you won't be all that productive.

But if you start getting your information organized and pinpointing any questions you might have, you can eliminate hold ups once you actually begin the project the next day or week. 

Consider passing along these tips in your next professional development meeting

7. Catch up on industry news

"Being a better professional isn't all about executing tasks and planning projects," says Alton. If you take some time to boost your knowledge, you'll become more of a thought leader in your field.

Share articles you find interesting or innovative on your LinkedIn feed, says Alton, so as to engage and connect with your colleagues and followers.

You should be dedicating time for innovation—and encouraging staff to do the same

8. One last email check

Toward the end of your final hour, Ye adds, be sure to glance at your inbox one last time to make sure you haven't missed anything urgent. Once you're in the clear, Ye says, "walk out door without feeling guilty." Don't check your email again until the morning. "You've already given an entire workday your attention and focus," says Ye (Alton, Fast Company, 2/23; Ye, HubSpot, 2/29/16).

Efficiency is all about prioritization—here's how to do it right


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