A lot of people talk about morning routines and their different benefits. I agree with most of them. I wrote in “Reclaim Your me-time” that the morning is the perfect time for a morning routine and do the things you love.
However, a lot of people ignore the evening routine. In this post I’d like to share with you some of the stuff I’ve learned, since I implemented an evening routine.
Normally, when people get home, what do they do? Maybe go workout, heat up some leftovers or even cook a delicious meal. Then it’s maybe some time with the family and watching TV.
Some then fall asleep in front of the TV, wake up, brush their teeth and go to bed.
See, I’m a big believer in starting the day off right, meaning the morning routine will rule your day. But what if you can’t get up in the morning or if your morning routine feels off?
It all starts in the evening, folks! You have to make that investment a day before, so that you can reap the benefits of a good morning routine.
The evening before determines the morning after
And no, this sentence has not been taken from an Alcoholics Anonymous brochure.
When I oversleep in the morning I can almost every time pinpoint the exact time I should have gone to sleep the day before. I then get angry or disappointed that I can’t do my routine and the day just feels off.
If productivity and good energy levels are what you’re striving for, then you need to make sure that you implement or rather collect small wins along the way, to gain momentum.
That’s why they tell you in school, that you should always start with the easiest exam questions, to gain momentum for the more difficult questions.
Starting out the day is very similar. You start by getting up (small win), you do some exercise (bigger win) and you sit down to meditate (biggest win).
But if we look at the first item on the above list, we can see that the start of the dominos is in getting up early and for that we need the evening routine.
Think about your ideal evening
Take a few seconds and think about your ideal evening during a workweek. How does it look, what do you do? What do you eat and who do you spend it with?
These are all questions that are quite important, if you’d like to plan the ideal evening routine.
Timing-wise, when does your evening routine start?
I think you should look at the time of when you’re actually coming home and take that as a starting point. So if you come home from work at 6pm and go to the gym again, that’s not part of the evening routine, but part of your day still.
So let’s determine the start of the evening routine as the start when you come home for that day.
I recommend to a lot of people to meditate just after they come home from work, because mentally and physically, it’s a perfect split between the two parts in a day. A 10 minute session is just enough to reset your mind and get you calm and relaxed for the evening.
Then I’d start cooking. When you have significant other cooking often times means quality time, if you split up the work. For your productivity and energy levels, that also means that you can cook some healthy stuff (because you’re during the workweek, so cheat meals should be limited) for the next day to bring with you.
When it comes to cooking with your partner in the kitchen, I think you should know where your strengths and weaknesses are and split the work accordingly. E.g. I hate preparing salad, so my girlfriend is always doing the salads. If you’re about the same in every area of cooking, the better, just communicate on who does what and start cooking!
Now is also a great time to talk about your day, what went down, who you’ve met, what annoyed you. That way you can use the time to close up the day and prepare yourself for your evening routine and to calm down (not that you’re annoyed or excited, but closing off the day means focusing on different thoughts and relaxing).
After you’ve prepared your food, make sure to eat at a table and don’t let the TV run in the background. You’re here to enjoy your food, with a loved one, focus on him/her and your plate. How does your food smell? What does it look like? What kind of herbs and spices do you taste?
Also, listen to your partner, a conversation is always two-sided, so make sure that you listen and appreciate your partner.
The eating part is mostly very relaxing and a great part of your evening routine, but most of the time you will have to clean the kitchen afterwards. If you’re alone, this can be a drag, but refer to the article I wrote about enjoying the desserts of life. A few hacks should make cleaning up really easy.
When you have a partner, cleaning up doesn’t take longer than 10 minutes and afterwards you can focus on the next part of the routine.
A lot of people would argue that watching TV or playing on your smartphone just before going to sleep is unhealthy and more importantly messes with your sleep. Let me explain.
The lights or rather background lights in your TV or your smartphone are very bright and are so-called blue lights. Blue lights cause your eyes to tell the brain, “hey, something is happening here, stay attentive” and causes your sleep hormones to get released afterwards.
The body produces a hormone called melatonin, which induces sleep. But this hormone only gets released once your body is ready for sleep, or rather has fallen asleep. Now if you’re up watching TV and playing with your smartphone or tablet, chances are your body won’t release the melatonin for quite some time, causing you to sleep badly.
That’s why I generally recommend people to shut off the electronic devices at least one hour before sleeping (bonus points if you can do two hours!). That way your body can calm down and relax and prepare itself for sleep.
A kindle or a book is fine, because although you’re reading, your eyes are way more relaxed and it’s not emitting blue light.
So after cleaning your kitchen, now would be the time to watch a series or something on YouTube, because time-wise we’re around 8pm and if we plan to go to sleep by 10pm, that gives us one full hour.
Since you already worked this day on the things you love and are passionate about, the evening time is a great time to shut off the mind and just watch something.
Reading is also fine, although I’d suggest that later on.
Before bed, I’d suggest dimming all the lights you have in the house, because lights tend to cause the same reaction as blue light emitting devices.
I personally prefer to read fiction before going to sleep, alternatively biographies are fine too. I wouldn’t propose non-fiction, because your mind tends to do connections with other topics and starts racing. We want to avoid that!
Fiction interestingly has the notion to calm the body and the mind down, even though it might be an exciting story.
Don’t forget to brush your teeth and prepare everything else!
Now is the time to finish up with the reading and close your eyes.
Some people also prefer partner-time during that time, so whatever works for you 🙂
I always quote the famous strength coach Charles Poliquin, when people ask me why 10pm and not later.
“Every hour you sleep before midnight is greater than every hour you sleep after midnight” (paraphrased)
I don’t know what it is exactly and I haven’t found any studies about it, but it seems like our bodies sleep better before midnight than after. I had similar experiences myself and with my clients. Also: Nothing good ever happens after midnight.
My suggestion is, if you don’t believe it, try it out!
Oh and of course it also helps that it makes getting up at 6am easier, because you sleep a full 8 hours.
I think morning routines are a great way to start off your day, however the morning starts only after a good evening! Planning your evening a bit ahead and then doing all the things that you like to do in the evening and calming the body and the mind really helps with the quality of your sleep.
If your goal is to be productive throughout the day, you have to make sure that your sleeping well and starting the day off right. The above mentioned evening routine can help you with exactly that.
I prepared a document with a bunch of evening routine examples you can check out.
Let me know how your evening routine looks!