We often hear about the morning routines of successful people and for good reason: the morning has a tendency to set the tone for the rest of the day. If you can win the morning, you can win the day, so they say.
But what about your evenings? Is it possible to have an evening routine that improves your life?
Of course, it is!
Having a solid evening routine may not seem like much of a big deal, but it is an important part of the time management puzzle.
Granted, evening routines can feel a bit more difficult to implement than morning routines, simply because it’s the end of the day and you’re more likely to feel tired and less motivated than when you first wake up.
For most of us, the end of the day is a chance to unwind and relax. Unless you’re a parent of young children, in which case you can forget about that, for a few years, at least!
But chores and parental obligations aside, the way you structure your evenings can have a huge influence on your life and well-being.
The most obvious one is the impact on the quality of your sleep that night.
And that is probably the most important reason to develop a good evening routine, because if you can get a good night’s sleep, the knock-on effect tends to be that you wake up feeling more refreshed and can usually have a more productive day as a consequence.
Get more out of your day and prepare for a good night of quality sleep, so you feel great the next day.
Developing a good evening routine
The evening is an opportunity to do things you have been unable to fit in in the morning or during the day. It’s a chance to spend time with your family and/or friends and for personal pursuits, e.g. exercise, learning, hobbies, etc.
Exactly what activities you do will be personal to you.
However, something that applies to everyone, is that an evening routine needs to include a transition from the day’s work into a state ready for a good night’s sleep.
If you have kids, you will know how important evening routines are for them to ensure that they get to bed with the minimum of hassle, fall asleep quickly and have a good night’s sleep.
The same is also actually true for adults.
Routine can train the brain to wind down and activities performed at the same time each evening can act as a cue for your body to get itself into the right state in preparation for sleep.
In the same way that a good morning routine can set the tone for the day, a good evening routine can set the tone not only for a good night’s sleep, but can also help to set you up for success the next day.
After a busy day, the temptation might be to crash in front of the TV, order in takeaway and crack open a bottle of wine or two. While that may seem appealing, you’re better off disciplining yourself to stick to a more productive routine. It may seem tedious at first, but that is probably true when it comes to forming most good habits.
Stick with it – it will be worth it, I promise.
If you’re an employee, be firm on what time your workday finishes and do not take work home.
Technology makes it is so easy for work-life to spill into home life these days, but don’t be afraid to turn off your laptop and (cue: 1970’s slasher movie style scream) phone.
If your boss, colleagues or clients have a problem with this, you explain that it is all in the name of being more productive during work hours. There aren’t that many jobs that genuinely require you to be on standby and available 24/7. Remember, you’re an employee, not a frickin’ slave.
Check out this post: >> (opens in a new tab)”>How To Set Boundaries At Work >>>
Structuring your evening may seem a bit rigid, but hey, you came here for answers. And in the words of the Coldplay song, “Nobody said it was easy.“
Having your activities scheduled will make you more likely to implement them and will help habits and routines form more quickly.
Consider also that not every evening needs to be super-productive, so don’t feel guilty about scheduling a night or two for a drink or just slobbing out on the sofa in front of the TV.
The key though is not to do this too often.
Check out this post: Why You Should Schedule You Free Time >>>
What to include in your evening routine
As mentioned before, exactly how you spend your evenings will be personal to you, but when it comes to the transition stage pre-bed, I’ve got a few suggestions that might be useful. So read on . . .
Reflect on the day’s achievements. Think about the good stuff you did today, what you achieved, who you helped. Some people like to keep a gratitude journal, although this is not something I have tried myself yet.
Going to bed with positive thoughts can help you relax and sleep well.
2. Planning ahead
Writing down goals for the following day (i.e. a To-Do list) is a good way to end the day and prepare for the next. There are even studies like this one that suggests writing a To-Do list before bed helps you to fall asleep faster.
Check out this post: How To Write A To-Do List – Properly! >>>
If you want to go a step further than simply listing your tasks, you can also take a few minutes to determine your priorities using the Eisenhower Box.
Decide which frog to eat. If you have never heard of the “frog-eating” method of prioritizing tasks, you can read about it in this post.
Check out this post: Eat That Frog! Book Review >>>
Prepare your clothes, paperwork, etc.
Doing this kind of activity not only creates a ritual which your brain associates with preparing for sleep, but also ensures you are organized and ready to get straight into your day when you wake up the next morning.
3. Reading versus TV
Some people say that you should not watch TV or use devices emitting blue light before you sleep and that you should read instead.
I agree that reading a book is possibly more relaxing and there are studies to demonstrate the relaxing effect of reading, but I have never had any problems sleeping after watching an episode of a TV series. I am not sure if the whole blue light thing really carries any weight, but I guess it will come down to the individual.
4. Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a commonly-used term now for pre-sleep preparation. Things like maintaining an ambient temperature, keeping the room free of clutter, making sure the room is dark enough and quiet enough, not using your bedroom for anything else other than sleep, etc., are all habits that will help you sleep better.
5. Other Ideas
There are numerous activities you can build into your pre-bed evening routine. It depends on your personal preferences and what is available to you.
Author and Podcaster, Tim Ferriss, talks about his routine here and is worth checking out.
This is definitely a #goals kind of routine and I am not convinced that this level of luxury and zen is achievable for most of us more Average Joes and Janes with ordinary incomes and a house full of kids, but you might be able to pull a couple of ideas from him.
Some activities you may want to consider:
~ Warm bath
~ Healthy dinner
~ Herbal tea
~ Meditation, prayer, music
~ Tidy up so that you wake in a clean environment
How to stick to your evening routine
As with the development of all habits, consistency is the key.
The actions you perform send messages to the brain about what is about to follow.
And with the evening routine, be clear on what you are trying to achieve by doing it. Otherwise, there is nothing to distinguish a routine carried out with thought and intention and just random stuff you might do each night.
Start with one or two changes and get used to doing those first. We’re looking to form habits here, remember. Taking on too much, too soon, is a sure-fire way to scupper your plans.
But as with any habit, it can take time to develop and you will definitely get off to a few false starts before you’ve got the routine down.
Tracking may help, so try recording your progress using a medium you’re comfortable with, e.g. bullet journal, app, spreadsheet, etc.
It’s all in your head.
It’s just a mindset and you can adopt a great evening routine – if you really want to.
Time Hack Hero Takeaway
At the end of a working day, a natural tendency may be to just to slob out in front of the TV in order to wind down from the day’s trials and tribulations. I think this may be justifiable on occasion, but it shouldn’t be the default setting when it comes to an evening routine, especially if you want to be more in control of your time and lead a more productive life.
By all means, schedule in some TV time if you think that it benefits you, but make sure also that you allocate time to the more valuable stuff, such as time with family and friends, exercise, self-development and getting yourself into a relaxed state in preparation for a solid night’s sleep.
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