In the last few weeks, I've been setting myself up for success by creating an awesome morning routine… then I found out that I could get even more out of this by creating an evening routine.
I know it might seem silly to have all these routines, but the less you have to think about and make decisions about in your day, the more you'll actually achieve.
I know, it sounds counter-intuitive and kind of a bit silly, but if you can create a whole bunch of routines that govern your mornings and evenings, muscle memory will kick in and you'll just do what needs to get done, rather than spending half an hour trying to get yourself back on track because you were distracted by some cute cat video… no? just me?
You get the drift…
If you want your day to be a success, you need a solid morning routine that sets it up that way, that's a given.
But before that can take place, you need to end the night before with a successful evening routine too. Otherwise you're kinda doing things back to front and not making the most of your best results.
Before you get started, grab a pen and paper so that you can write down everything I'm about to share with you below. It will help you create your evening routine from scratch and provide you with notes to refer back to if you need to change it.
Step 1: How much sleep?
You need to reverse engineer how much sleep you need to function at your optimal level.
Generally, most people need 7-8 hours sleep, but you might be like me and function best on 6 hours.
Use an app like Sleep Time: Sleep Cycle Smart Alarm Clock to figure this out. You'll need to track this for a few nights to make sure you've got enough data to make a decision. Note that each REM cycle lasts 90 minutes, so you should factor in 2-3 REM cycles at least to get the best sleep.
Once you know the number of hours sleep you need, now you know what time your head needs to be hitting the pillow based on the time you're wanting to wake up.
For me, my head needs to be on the pillow by 10:30pm, as I'm up at 5am.
Step 2: What do you need to do at night?
The success of an evening routine comes down to figuring out everything you want to achieve before you go to bed. This doesn't include watching Netflix!
Some things you might like to do in your evening routine could include:
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- making sure kitchen is clean
- putting your washing away
- reviewing your goals (short-term, long-term etc)
- getting lunches sorted for the next day
- what you're grateful for
- reviewing your plans for the next day
- what your number one task is for tomorrow
This will be completely personal to you, but you should include reviewing your plans for tomorrow and gratitude as a minimum.
The reason why I'm including things like a ‘clean kitchen' or ‘putting washing away', is that it can be distracting in the morning to wake up to a home that isn't tidy and clean. Rather than trying to fit this in during the day or on the weekends, try doing a little each night to get it out of the way.
You should always review your goals and then review whats happening tomorrow. This allows your mind to prepare and doesn't leave any chance for surprises the next day either.
By doing this the night before, you're able to catch any clashes or things you might have forgotten.
Step 3: Your boundary
What is a boundary? It's the time of night that you set a reminder that lets you know that you've got 1-2 hours to complete all your work, goals etc before you need to be in bed and going to sleep.
It's also a time that you should turn off all electronics and start your evening routine.
If you continue to watch TV or browse your smartphone or tablet, you're only going to signal your brain that it's not time for sleeping or winding down.
If you struggle to get to sleep at night, think about what the last thing is that you do before going to sleep… for me, it used to be scrolling through my Facebook feed on my iPhone… no wonder I couldn't sleep, the backlight on my phone was telling my brain that it wasn't night time, so the much needed melatonin that is normally released into your system as the day continues (that helps you sleep), get's all messed up. You feel sleepy because of that melatonin.
Set a boundary based on your evening routine timeframe. If you've got a lot of stuff to get done, then a 2 hour boundary is probably best.
For me, my boundary is 9pm, with my head on the pillow by 10:30pm. This gives me an hour and a half to complete my evening routine.
Step 4: What's the last thing you're doing before going to sleep?
Depending on what you're doing just before you go to sleep, you could be sabotaging your morning routine before your head touches the pillow.
What am I talking about? Well remember how I mentioned about looking at my iPhone before going to sleep? That's definitely something you want to avoid.
Basically any type of artificial bright light is best avoided. Even though the new smartphones have a night mode now, it's still best to avoid this 30 minutes out from your scheduled sleep time.
So what should you do instead?
You should do things like write in your journal, write down things that you're grateful for, write a list of everything you've got to do tomorrow so it's not rattling around inside your head…
I like to write in my journal and then read a chapter in a fiction book. Non-fiction before bed has a tendency to keep me awake, particularly when I'm reading books like “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert… that type of book always stimulates my mind rather than entertains it.
Fiction is best just before bed, so if you struggle to fall asleep, try picking up a fiction book and see how quickly you feel sleepy. I normally read for a good 30 minutes because I fight sleep, particularly when I'm reading a great story like the Shadowhunter books!
Step 5: Heating
If you want to help yourself fall asleep quicker, make sure your bedroom temperature is around 20 degrees. The cooler your bedroom is, the better, although you obviously don't want it to be freezing cold, otherwise you will spend the night shivering.
Fresh air is also a good idea, so if you can leave a window or sliding door open a few inches, this will also help.
My Evening Routine
Wondering what my routine looks like?
Well, as I said, it starts at 9pm and looks like this:
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- Put clean clothes away
- Put dishwasher on
- Have a shower
- Stretch for 5 minutes
- Write in my journal (gratitude for the day)
- Review tasks for tomorrow
- Read one or more chapters in my fiction book
Since implementing my evening routine, I've felt far more rested, less stressed and able to hit the ground running the next morning because I know exactly what I'm meant to be doing and when.
The whole point of your evening routine is to be intentional and to help ensure that your morning routine sets the next day up for success.
Designing the right evening routine is all about working out what you want to achieve, coupled with what you need to get done. Combine that with the right amount of sleep and you're guaranteeing your morning routine to kick off on the right foot.
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