Much like a morning routine, we all have an evening routine. Oftentimes, this means setting out clothes for tomorrow or getting the kids to bed. I do those as well, but I’ve also found satisfaction in reflecting on the day to put it into perspective.
I think we all know why it’s important to pack your lunch and set out clothes for tomorrow. It makes the morning go smoothly. It’s a forward-looking action that preps you for the next day. But we’re typically bad at looking back on what already happened.
How do you know if the day was successful? Did you make progress on things that are important to you? Do you need to stop a habit or add a new one? This is why I take 5 minutes at night to review the day before I start the usual prep for tomorrow.
Most nights, I work for about an hour after the kids have gone to bed at 7:30. I do my best not to start a task that will be too challenging as I know I won’t be able to turn it off. There is some risk involved with doing this (like the time I couldn’t fall asleep for 3 hours because I couldn’t stop thinking through an issue at work), but it seems to work well for me most of the time.
At about 8pm, I try to stop checking email. That’s my first step to winding down for the night. I’ll work for another 30 minutes, but I avoid any new inputs from others. At about 8:30, I start the following routine:
The first thing I do is reflect on the day using a template in Evernote. (You can see how I organize these writings here). I have a TextExpander snippet that creates the questions for me as opposed to copying a note each time.
Review Weekly Goals
I set three goals each week based on my monthly goals. I won’t hit them if I don’t review them regularly and I want them in mind when I start the next step.
Plan Tomorrow’s Tasks
I run through each of my contexts and flag items that need to be done tomorrow. I want this list as short as possible so I can get past the “treading water” stage and on to meeting bigger goals.
Clear to Neutral
This is a term I stole from Asian Efficiency. The goal is to bring everything back to neutral. I clean off my desk, set out things for breakfast in the morning, set out clothes for the morning, and so on. The goal is to have everything ready to go for another day.
Once I’m set for tomorrow and have myself ready for bed, I read. It’s usually nonfiction and I’ll read for about 10-15 minutes before lights out.
I try my best to avoid email after 8pm. I know I mentioned that earlier, but it’s crucial to my sleep. Email is good at gearing up my mind and that’s the last thing I want before bed.
When I travel for work, I find this routine is key. It helps me prepare for my meetings the next day and keeps me grounded.
Having this routine and following it every night tells my body that it’s time for bed. On a typical night, that means I’m asleep within 5-10 minutes.
I said this in my morning routine article as well, but this routine is relaxed and fluid. I don’t worry about it if I miss a night or two. As long as I’m doing this most of the time, I’m happy. The next day doesn’t usually go as well when I miss it, but I’m ok with that. The point is to set myself up for a smooth day tomorrow. I don’t want to stress about an evening routine if I’m having a great conversation with my wife or we’re up late with friends.