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I started shutting down my computer like it's 1999. Here's why.

How shutting down my computer after work helps me start fresh every morning

By Lindsay Smith · May 17, 2021
Hero image of a MacBook closed on a wooden desk

When's the last time you actually turned your computer off instead of putting it to sleep? I'm not sure I have since the '90s—that is, until a few weeks ago. Now I turn it off every night, and it's been life-changing. 

I've been on a path of productivity improvements recently, and one of the things I've been doing is reflecting on how things are right now. I have a fantastic work journal that I use to log wins, lessons, and improvements I make each week.

A few weeks ago, I had a long weekend. I randomly decided to shut my computer off before I left work one Friday. When I came in on Tuesday, I noticed a different feeling starting up my day. I felt fresher and clearer than I had in weeks. I sat and reflected with my journal on why that was. It could have been my longer break, but I really felt like it was the fresh start on my computer. No apps open from last week, no open tab chaos in Chrome, no Slack messages lingering, no baggage. 

It was my incredible coach, Latesha Byrd, who taught me that starting my day playing catch-up was likely affecting my mood and productivity. The first thing I used to do at the start of my day was catch up on Slack. This made me feel behind before I even started. I couldn't help but wonder: did shutting my computer down help offset that feeling? So I tried it again that night. Before I left my desk at the end of the day, I closed all of my apps and shut down my computer. 

The next day, I had the same feeling. That fresh start, anything is possible, clear headspace. It was magic. I wasn't starting my day exactly where I left it; instead, I was starting the day with a new perspective and a blank canvas of endless possibilities. 

I did it for the whole week. I was so productive.

Why it worked

I'm a morning productivity person. Shutting down my computer meant I was no longer wasting my burst of AM energy on catch-up and yesterday's problems. Instead, I was riding that energy to complete a new task or think on a new problem. 

I also noticed that shutting down my computer feels a bit like shutting down my work brain. If my computer is on and everything is open, I might be tempted to pop in and check on work after hours. Shutting it down gives me permission not to think about work until tomorrow, when I turn that computer on again.

Automating the habit

This is a new habit I'll definitely keep doing, so I created some workflows to make it easier. I use an Alfred workflow to quickly close all of my open apps (if you shut down a Mac with your apps open, they'll be there the next day to haunt you still) and shut down my computer.

Alfred workflows to quit apps and shut the computer down

I also created a workflow to start up my day with all the essential apps I need to get going.

Alfred workflow to start the day with essential apps

Shut it down

When I was a kid, I remember my mum yelling at me to shut down the family computer and come and eat dinner. You'd never leave the computer switched on—it would be a shocking waste of electricity. Much the same as leaving the TV on without watching it. Plus, the computer would probably blow up if you left it on too long (or at least the noisy fans in the PC tower would make you feel like it would). 

When I was older and at college, I might leave my computer on overnight so I could quickly start work in the morning or download a film while I was asleep.  Even so, after a while, I'd have to shut it down or it would start getting slow. Something about the magic of turning the computer off would give everything a reset, and your computer would get back up to speed.

Now, in a world of 24/7 internet access, technology convergence, and an on-demand culture, we rarely turn off our devices. At the movies, we switch our phones to silent; on flights, we turn on airplane mode; and at night, we put our laptops to sleep. 

But just because you can leave your computer turned on doesn't mean you should. Remember: your computer is a tool. Shutting mine down every day reminds me of that and allows me to stop working when it's time. Try it out yourself. 

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