It’s really easy to end the day with one eye on the clock.
Sometimes you’ll rush that final task in order to get out the door early.
Sometimes you’ll spend the last hour skimming through email and half working, half killing time.
Sometimes you’ll cut corners to hit that milestone that you really wanted to achieve today.
Ultimately, it means ending the day with low quality work.
The end defines the next beginning
In his first podcast with Tim Ferriss (link and further information in the useful links section at the bottom), Josh Waitzkin pointed out the importance of ending the day with high quality work.
To illustrate the importance, I’ll re-use an example question that Josh used in the podcast.
Which 3 turns of a ski run are the most important?
The answer (at least in Josh’s opinion) is that the 3 most important turns are the last 3 turns.
If you’re a skier you might well disagree – surely the last 3 turns are relatively easy, as the terrain is starting to level off?
The reason that he suggests that the last 3 are the most important is that they are the 3 turns that will be clearest in your mind as your travel back up on the ski lift.
In general terms, this means that your last actions are the ones that will remain clearest in your memory and will have the biggest affect on forming habits.
So if you take it easy on the last 3 turns and have poor form, your mind will internalise that poor form as you travel up in the ski lift.
Applying this to work
Returning to the working day, it’s easy to see the similarities between the skiing analogy and the common habits many of us have with work.
The last hour (like the last 3 turns) seems relatively insignificant – it’s a small portion of the whole day and may sometimes feel easier than the rest of the day. It’s easy to end the day with low quality.
You might well be questioning how significant an affect this actually has on your work – I certainly did. Surely the internalisation that occurs between each of our working days is pretty insignificant, particularly if we spend the majority of the day creating high quality work?
Test it out!
Make an effort to finish your working day with high quality work and observe how you feel the next morning when you start back up.
I found that I noticed a significant change when I was picking up mid-way through a task from the previous day. I’d feel like I was picking back up from my previous day’s thought process and could really notice when that thought process was of low or high quality.
Give it a go yourself and come back here to let us know how it went in the comments!
If you’ve got any interest in methods for learning and developing expertise in a field then you’ll find those two podcasts an absolute gold mine.
★ Highly recommended
✓ Insight on learning based on Waitzkin’s experiences as a child chess prodigy (he became an international master at age 16) and world class martial artist (competing in Tai Chi Push Hands)
✓ Goes into great depth about Waitzkin’s own learning process, providing insight into how he became a master of his arts
✓ Includes methods for finding the zone
✓ Provides both a compelling narrative and plenty of actionable recommendations for anyone looking to become an expert in any field
Please note that the one or more of the links in this post is an affiliate link. If you click on it and eventually buy something, Find A Spark will get a small commission. Thanks!
Also published on Medium.