First Class Magic: The Power of an Evening Routine
A lot of attention has been given to the importance of a morning routine – specifically an early morning routine. With so many people joining the “5 a.m. club” and singing its praises, the morning routine has (rightfully) become the latest and greatest habit of highly successful people.
However, the idea of an evening routine doesn’t get as much attention. In my experience, an evening routine may be just as important or even more important than the holy grail of the morning routine. Before you barbecue me, let me explain five benefits of evening routines and share my routine, then you can be the judge.
An evening routine helps get you to bed on time so that when 5 a.m. (or whenever) comes you will be more likely to rise and shine. When you give yourself a set of tasks and a schedule that you stick to in the evening hours you are less likely to get sidetracked by work or that new series on Netflix and end up staying up too late. Getting to bed earlier is one of the big challenges that many people experience when implementing a morning routine that includes early rising. Creating a routine that puts you on track to funnel you right into bed at the ideal time increases the odds of actually getting to bed at the right time. It helps you fall asleep faster as your body becomes accustomed to the pre-bed ritual, giving you sufficient sleep. That will help put you in the right frame of mind for that crack of dawn wake up call.
An evening routine makes your transition from wake up to morning routine faster and smoother. When I first started an early morning routine one of the things that frustrated me was how long it took to actually get to the good stuff: the meditation, the goal review, the affirmations, etc. It seemed that the first half hour I was stumbling around finding caffeine, getting dressed and locating my journal. But when I added an evening routine part of that task list was preparing for my morning. Anything that you can do in advance to shorten the distance between your wake up and getting to business can and should be part of your evening routine. Can you make your breakfast and lunch ahead of time? Put together your outfit for the next day? Prep the coffee maker and set it to start brewing so it’s fresh and ready when you get up? Assemble all the tools you use for your morning routine in the place you will be using them? Do it. Your morning self will thank your evening self.
An evening routine helps you implement self-care tasks. Life is often so busy, especially for those of us with children, that taking care of ourselves often gets pushed by the wayside. When you develop an evening routine and include specific self-care tasks, having them on your schedule increases the chances of you actually doing them. I found that I was always so busy I never seemed to have time for doing facial masks or other beauty care tasks I considered “extra.” But when I designated one night per week as “spa night” and actually put seaweed masks or full body exfoliation on my schedule I actually started doing those things. Because it is literally on my calendar I feel responsible for checking it off. This is a to-do list that will really make you feel good and look good.
An evening routine makes more sense for certain daily tasks. Part of many morning routines is the practice of journaling. I love journaling and many great minds through history were avid journalers. However, I found journaling in the morning to feel a bit off. I’d already forgotten things from the previous day that I may have wanted to remember. Sometimes I rushed through it to get to the rest of my routine because I didn’t want to sit there and think about the prior day. The practice of creating your day as a scripting technique may work well in the morning as a journaling practice, but if you are interested in recording the events of your life, journaling as part of an evening routine makes much more sense. Also, practices such as meditation and repeating affirmations are often recommended to be done twice a day. If you have an evening routine, it’s a natural time to do that. And since you have created a routine and a schedule, it’s more difficult to “forget” to do them.
An evening routine mentally completes your day. When you consistently do the same things each night, it gives your brain a chance to calm down and decompress from the events of the day. You can contemplate how your day went in your journal, purging any anxiety or regret and celebrating your wins. That way when you lay down in bed there is a reduced chance of monkey mind, where your thoughts bounce around in your brain like a monkey with a sack of bananas. You can smoothly transition into sleep without planning the next day or rehashing the one that just finished. An evening ritual gives you an outlet for those thoughts and feeling and then tells your brain, “I’m done! It’s okay to shut off now.”
Everyone’s evening routine will look different, but here is what works for me. After I get my son to bed I’ll wrap up any remaining household tasks (dishes, cleaning counters, etc.) so I can feel finished. I do morning prep by choosing clothes, setting out my cup and tea and filling the kettle with water. If it’s a spa night I do some form of self-care task that bridges the gap between “work” because I’m still doing something and “rest” because I’m doing something enjoyable for myself.
Then I make myself a cup of chamomile tea or even better, make some kava (I love this brand), to help release the day’s stresses and put me in a calm state. I do an entry for the day in my gratitude journal, then record the day’s events, thoughts, dreams and plans in my regular journal. This is followed by a period of meditation and visualization. At this point I am so peaceful it can be the most beautiful moment of my day. This is a time where I can think clearly and with inspiration about what needs to be done the next day and determine the three to five things I need to complete the following day as well as any other side tasks in my daily planner.
Depending on how much time I have I may read or watch some uplifting videos from my favorite YouTubers (I love Aaron Doughty, Ralph Smart and Leeor Alexandra.) At 10pm it’s time for teeth and hair brushing, setting up my bedside diffuser with a sleep blend or straight lavender, and sliding into bed. I drift off to sleep listening to my affirmations so I can take advantage of that in-between space right before sleep where your subconscious mind is wide open to suggestion.
When I am able to do the whole routine, it is truly a thing of beauty and a glorious way to end the day. This is real life, however, and the full routine can take me up to two hours. (I know that sounds ridiculously long but that also includes things you do anyway like showering and teeth brushing.) Sometimes I can’t do the whole thing and do an abbreviated version. Some nights none of it gets done and I just go to sleep listening to affirmations. You can only do what you can do. But I can clearly see the difference the next day when I make the effort to at least do a partial routine.
I highly recommend trying out a few variations on a routine that works for you. It doesn’t have to be two hours. It can be twenty minutes, but if done consistently it can make a huge difference in the quality of sleep, stress reduction and productivity in your first class life.