“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

– Emerson

If only it were that easy. Usually, I end my days thinking about what’s on the to-do list for the following day.

Recently, though, I learned a little trick for putting the day behind me, leaving myself fresh for the evening and ready to tackle the following day once the sun rises.

I just started a 6-credit internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group, and much like I have syllabi for my classes, I have a schedule with due dates for articles, blog postings, and other various projects for my internship.

On my first day, I was overwhelmed with it all. I did manage to write out was due first and start working through, but most of the items took more than a day at the internship to complete, especially because other unscheduled items cropped up throughout the day, requiring my attention, and many of my articles had to be reviewed and edited several times by other people, which meant I was relying on other peoples’ schedules.

This is my first experience in the “working world” with deadlines, approvals from others, and being responsible for tasks as they come up. For my fiancé, however, it’s not new. He’s worked as a financial analyst for over two years and experiences the same type of workload headache on a day-to-day basis. He had the perfect advice: take a half hour before you leave to write down what you’ll need to get done the following day. Write out what must get done first; then focus on what could or should get done, time permitting.

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And it really was that easy. Was something due the following day? Add it to the must-get-done column. Was something due in the following week? Remember to get started on it soon.

Having a must-do and should-do list allows room for the various tasks that pop up throughout the day. I know not to panic if I don’t start on the should-do list, but I know that I’ll need to put in extra time if the must-do list isn’t completely scratched out.

Getting all my thoughts about the following day together before leaving the office allows me to drive home in peace and happily sing along to the radio rather than thinking about what tomorrow will bring. Something as simple as writing it all down helps me relax in the evening, leaving the day’s work behind.

Maybe you’re like my fiancé and have already figured this out, but if you’re new to the “working world,” this tip could save you some grief.

Don’t let your job or internship overwhelm your outside life. Put things in their place at the end of the workday and leave them there until the following.