21 Day “Shut Down” Challenge

21 day shut down challenge

Over the past 3 months of working from home I have found it more difficult than I have in the past to leave work off my mind once it is time to “sign off” for the day. I found the physical act of leaving the office and riding my bike home to be an incredible transition from the working state of mind to some down time. 

Research outlined in Cal Newport’s Deep Work shows that downtime actually aids insights: 

The scientific literature has emphasized the benefit of conscious deliberation in decision making for hundreds of years…. The question addressed here is whether this view is justified. We hypothesize that it is not. 

The research goes on to explain that letting your subconscious mind do it’s work is of critical importance when it comes to creative and critical thinking. Put another way, if you don’t give yourself downtime you aren’t diversifying the type of work your brian is capable of. 

Cal goes on to explain the what behind a the “shut down”:

This ritual should ensure that every incomplete task, goal, or project has been reviewed and that for each you have confirmed that either 1) you have a plan you trust for its completion, or 2) it is captured in a place where it will be revisited when the time is right. The process should be an algorithm: a series of steps you always conduct one after another.


The challenge for myself, and you, is to try implementing a shut down ritual for at least 21 days and to record the results on your performance at work and your mental well being. 

Here is my plan for my shut down ritual:

  • Take a final look at the e-mail inbox to ensure there is nothing urgent needed for the end of the day.
  • Transfer any tasks that are on my mind onto my official task list.
  • Skim every task on the list, pick the first one to work on for the next day. 
  • Review the calendar for the upcoming days. 
  • Say something cheesy out-loud such as: “All set”.
  • Close the computer, go for a short walk. 
  • Keep a “score card” next to my desk with 21 boxes. Check 1 box for each day the shut down ritual is implemented.


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