An evening routine is a ritual that helps to be mindful of work and to relax at the end of the day. It helps to reduce stress, leave work where it belongs, and to recharge at the end of the day. It can be composed of multiple stages and steps, and be as simple or as complicated as you need. Routines are personal, and you can define them as you like.
In this article, I'll tell you why you need an evening routine to improve your well-being, and how to define one.
Clearly defined daily routines bring clarity. They make it easy to do the right thing. For instance, morning routines are great to start the day energized, with a fresh mind and a clear focus. Similarly, a shutdown routine can make the difference between a relaxing evening and a stressful one.
Why do I need an evening routine?
At the end of the workday, we're often still in the middle of something. It's rare to be able to finish everything in a day. There's always one more task to complete, one more mail to reply to, etc. It can be overwhelming. Especially when you feel under pressure. This can lead to unhealthy situations where you keep pushing until the very last minute. We've all been there, rushing and hoping to complete just one more task. Believe me, it's not healthy to do that, and should be avoided as much as possible. It's better to take a step back and let your mind settle before leaving work.
If you leave work at the very last minute or event too late, you'll feel stressed and anxious. That last task will stay on your mind, and you'll be frustrated about not completing it. You'll worry about it, and you won't feel satisfied with your day. You'll keep open loops, and you'll bring work issues together with you back home. In turn, that will ruin precious moments. But if you have a clear evening routine, you'll avoid that pitfall.
Benefits of the evening routine
With a well-defined evening routine, you'll be able to leave work where it belongs: at work! Before leaving work, you'll bring your workday to a clean conclusion. You'll also shed some light on what you've achieved and what comes next. This clarity will leave you more relaxed. It will prevent you from thinking about work when you don't need to. It'll also allow you to start the next workday with a clear focus, improving your productivity.
At the end of the day, you'll also be able to get rid of accumulated tensions, relax and recharge your batteries.
In the rest of the article, I'll share my personal evening routine.
Evening routine stages
I define my evening routine as a series of stages. Those stages help me end the workday well, reflect, prepare for the next, and recharge.
The goal of the first stage is to let me bring the current workday to a clean conclusion. The second one helps me reflect on the day. The third one helps me prepare for the next day. The fourth helps me evacuate tensions and help my body stay in a good state. Finally, the last stage is all about relaxing and recharging my mind as well as my body.
Stage 1: Conclude the workday
Throughout the day, I pay close attention to time using a time timer. This helps me remain productive and focused on the task at hand. It also helps me avoid working for too long on something.
Towards the end of the workday, I reserve some time for the first stage of my evening routine. The goal of that stage is to finish what I can without inducing stress and to clear my head.
I start by writing down everything I have in mind about work. I write down what I'm busy doing, why, other tasks I need to work on next, etc. I also review my calendar for the coming week. The goal is to have a clear overview of what's in progress, and what's coming next.
I focus on the tasks I can still complete without putting myself under needless pressure.
This simple routine is a great way to end the workday. It removes noise from my head, calms down the frenzy, and helps me avoid keeping work in the back of my mind. This is a simple routine, yet very effective and impactful for well-being.
Stage 2: Reflect on the day
The next stage consists in reviewing what I've accomplished. What was challenging, where did I lose time, etc. This usually takes less than two minutes. As I'm going through the exercise, I take note of the key points. This helps me continually improve, and to be mindful of my productivity. While doing so, I avoid blaming myself. I'm human, and it's okay to be less productive from time to time. All that matters to me is that I'm aware of my progress and that I try to improve over time.
Stage 3: Prepare for the next day
Once I've reviewed my day, I list the things I want to achieve on the next workday. This brings clarity into my work life. I never start a workday without knowing what I need to achieve.
I then pick one task and mark it as my main focus for that day. This is a crucial step as it forces me to define what matters most next. This is something I've picked from a wonderful book called Make Time by Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky.
Thanks to that small ritual, I know exactly what to do when a workday starts. There's no doubt, no need to check slack/e-mail. No need to waste time and energy figuring out what to do next.
As an added benefit, if my main goal is complete, anything else I manage to achieve is a bonus. I'm happy about my workday as long as I've done my best to achieve my main focus. This is a great way to be more positive about work reach a better work/life balance.
Stage 4: Exercise
I like exercising a bit almost every day. I do so twice a day. Early in the morning, and at the end of the day. Sometimes I do long sessions, sometimes very short ones, but I like to keep momentum.
My goal is two-fold: make sure I keep myself alive 😂, and evacuate tensions accumulated throughout the day.
Stage 5: Relax
The final stage of my evening routine comes right before I sleep. That is, after my second "work" day at home (e.g., fetching the kids at school, driving them to their activities, preparing dinner, taking care of our little zoo, reading bedtime stories, etc).
My main objective by then is to relax and enjoy myself. I start by writing down a few things I'm grateful for. Those can be small details. Anything that brought me joy during the day counts. It may sound cheesy, but whenever I'm down, I go back to my gratitude notes and quickly feel better.
After a good shower, I read a few pages and meditate. It doesn't have to be a long meditation session. Even ten minutes do wonders for me. Admittedly, I often fall asleep soon after my meditation session 😂.
Having a clear evening routine helps to avoid accumulating stress and anxiety. It helps to keep things in perspective, reflect on work, plan ahead, and recharge. Without my evening routine, I wouldn't be able to remain productive over long periods of time.
So, do yourself a favor and craft your own evening routine ❤ Keep in mind that routines are never perfect. Don't hesitate to tweak yours from time to time. By all means, experiment 🧪
That's it for today! ✨
Hello everyone! I'm Sébastien Dubois. I'm an author, founder, and CTO. I write books and articles about software development & IT, personal knowledge management, personal organization, and productivity. I also craft lovely digital products 🚀
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