The Best Evening Routines

The Best Evening Routines

Joseph Darby

Set yourself up for success with these evening routine ideas

What do you typically do on a usual week evening? If you’re like many people, you probably eat dinner and then watch some television or Netflix.

There’s nothing wrong with chilling on the couch, playing video games, and browsing social media, but 2019 research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that if you want to have a better day tomorrow, you need to do something different tonight.

Changing up your evening routine can improve your outcomes during the day, help you think more creatively or be more productive, improve your relationships, or give you the initiative to ask for a raise or apply for a promotion. By taking a few small, actionable steps, you can help achieve peak performance the following day.

How Your Evening Routine Can Influence Your Productivity

In the study mentioned above, researchers discovered that people who engaged in activities that gave them a sense of proficiency were more motivated to create positive change the next day. They also reported feeling more relaxed, inspired, and joyful than the others.

The study subjects who engaged in activities that helped distance them from their workday, such as meditation or listening to music, felt relaxed but didn’t experience the same take-charge feelings, such as excitement and inspiration, at work the next day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, researchers also discovered that having the freedom to choose what you do in the evening can lead to more proactive behaviors and positive feelings the next day. For example, people who have many obligations to meet, such as caring for an aging parent or young children, are less likely to feel proactive the next day simply because they have less freedom to choose what they do in the evening.

How to Create a More Productive Day, After This Evening

The study illustrates a critical point: being a vegetable in front of the TV or other screen isn’t likely to make you feel positive and inspired at the next day, but doing something productive or physically engaging probably will.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do tonight to have a better workday tomorrow.

1. Go to Bed Early

This one’s a no-brainer. Getting enough sleep is essential to having a productive, energized work life. Yet the United Kingdom’s National Health Service reports that one in three people don’t get enough sleep, which we think would probably apply to New Zealand too.

Persistently poor sleep and sleep deprivation also negatively affect your health, and it’s no surprise that poor sleep has been linked to obesity, heart disease, lowered immune function, decreased fertility, decreased brain functioning, and diabetes. Frequent sleep deprivation might even shorten your life expectancy.

Don’t know where to start? How about change up your bedtime routine

  • Dim the lights and avoid devices. To get the best sleep, doctors recommend avoiding screens and dimming the overhead lights in your home two hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted from phones, tablets, computers, and TVs tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daylight. That reduces the amount of melatonin your brain releases- that’s the sleep hormone that helps you get deep sleep.
  • Cut the Caffeine. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that consuming caffeine six hours and three hours before bedtime both significantly contribute to sleep disruption. So, if you want to be in bed by 9pm, don’t consume any caffeine past 3pm for a better night’s sleep.
  • Get Outside. Exposure to bright outdoor light helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. It can also help reduce feelings of depression and seasonal affective disorder. If you work all day indoors, make time to get outdoors during or after work. Eat lunch outside or go for a walk as soon as your workday is over.
  • Exercise. One of the best ways to ensure you sleep long and well is to get enough exercise.
  • Avoid devices. If possible, keep your distraction devices (cellphones, tablets, and so on) out of the bedroom.

2. Start a Hobby

Engaging in a hobby at the end of the day is one of the best ways to create a more productive day at work tomorrow. Some hobbies can even help you earn more money.

A 2009 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine analysed the leisure activities of over a thousand people. It found that those who participated in more activities had lower cortisol and blood pressure, a lower body mass index and waist circumference, lower levels of depression, and higher levels of positive psychological states.

It might be that a covid-inspired more restricted social life offers you up extra time to have a hobby too. If it’s something creative, even better, as when you’re creative, you can slip into a state of “flow” in which you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing. This positive disconnect can be valuable whether you’re experiencing stress at work or in your personal life. Not sure what might interest you, try the following:

3. Learn a New Skill

The Journal of Applied Psychology study found that any activity that helps give you a sense of proficiency increases the likelihood you’ll take charge at work the next day.

Hobbies fit the bill here. But so does learning any new skill or technique that can better your life and career and give you a greater sense of control over your destiny — whether or not it becomes something you enjoy and do regularly.

So think about the knowledge and skills you regularly use in your career. Which of these skills do you need to work on to do your job better? Which would help further your career down the road? This might mean:

  • Foreign language skills
  • Business writing skills
  • Public speaking skills
  • If you’re unsure where to start, talk to your supervisor, customers, clients, or a trusted colleague. It can also help to think about the important tasks or responsibilities you struggle with in the workplace.

Learning skills that benefit your professional life pays off in two ways: it provides a sense of proficiency that results in positive feelings and a take-charge attitude the next day, and it gives you the tools you need for long-term success. That’s true whether you work with a team at a large corporation, you’re working from home, or you own a small business.

4. Journal

In a column for Inc., organisational psychologist Benjamin Hardy calls writing in a journal nightly a keystone habit — that is, a habit so powerful it leads to numerous positive, transformative behaviors.

Throughout history, many extraordinary people have used journaling to transform their lives.

Journals can also help you identify thoughts and feelings you weren’t consciously aware you had. Use it to identify meaningful goals and create a plan to make them a reality. It might also influence you to look at your life from another perspective and identify things that need to change.

5. Plan Your Day the Night Before

How many times have you lay awake at night thinking about everything you need to do the next day? This type of worry is unproductive, and according to The American Institute of Stress, it can cause stress and anxiety.

Instead of keeping your to-do list in your head, take some time to plan your day right before bed. Identify the top three priorities for tomorrow and make a list of your commitments, such as meetings, projects, or school pickups. Jot them down in your planner so you don’t forget. This gives you a sense of control over your responsibilities and relieves the worry you’ll forget something important.

6. Streamline Your Routine

If you have a long commute or multiple kids to get out the door, streamlining your morning routine is essential. Anything you can do in the evening to prepare for the next day will be well worth the time you spend.

For example, try taking your shower in the evening instead of first thing in the morning. Prepare your brown-bag lunch, work with your kids to get everything they need for school into their backpacks and put your work bag in your car. Transitioning to a capsule wardrobe also makes getting dressed a cinch.

Popular business writer and coach Brian Tracy also suggests writing a to-do list the night before. He theorises that for every minute you spend planning your day, you save 10 minutes in execution.

A streamlined morning routine could make it easier to wake up early and sneak in a workout, meditate, or make a healthy breakfast, which are three activities that can also have a powerfully positive impact on your workday.

The Bottom Line: Creating a Productive Evening Routine

It’s clear, what you do in the evening can significantly affect how good the following day is, including how happy and excited you are in the process. Taking time to engage in a hobby, listen to an inspiring podcast, or learn a career-related skill can give you a sense of proficiency and the feeling you’re in control of your life.

The energy and positive feelings you get from a fulfilling evening can also give you the drive and initiative you need to do your best each following day. Over time, that will help strengthen who you are as a person, and lead to a more fulfilled overall life.

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