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What does your typical evening routine look like? If you’re like many people, the hours between dinner and bedtime usually get filled up binge-watching shows on Netflix, checking work emails, and scrolling through various social media feeds.
But here’s the problem. None of that will help you wind down for healthy sleep or prepare you to slay the day tomorrow. To lay the foundation for a happier, more efficient workday, rethink the habits that make up your evening routine.
We can hear the protests over this tip already. And we get it. At the end of the day, all you want to do is collapse on the sofa and figure out what you’re going to Postmate for dinner. But here’s something the most successful people among us have already realized. Namely, that spending time on a purposeful activity in the evening has a positive effect on our mood and behavior while at work.
“A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away.” — Phyllis McGinley
A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that when employees spent their evenings doing activities that require mastery, like playing sports, learning a new language, practicing an instrument, etc., they felt more motivated and capable at work the next day.
Set aside time each night to focus on personal development that’s unrelated to work. Those extracurricular outlets improve your overall wellbeing and can make you more productive on the job.
Plan Your Tomorrow
Countless executives consider this basic evening routine essential for success. Every night, entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis makes a quick list of the things he knows he must deal with the next day. Then, he tries to get those To-Do list items knocked out before noon. “Because from noon on, it’s kind of like the Wild, Wild West,” Lemonis says. You never know what’s going to crop up.
“If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”
Likewise, author Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame swears by the power of the nightly list. First, because it provides a clear road map of what you need to accomplish the next day. Otherwise, you can get waylaid responding to other people’s needs and demands.
Also, that nightly list forces you to schedule what you’re going to do at what time and for how long, Canfield says. Incidentally, many consider this technique, also known as timeboxing, the number-one productivity tool.
Reflect on Today
Benjamin Franklin, a model of productivity if there ever was one, incorporated this question into his evening routine: What good have I done today? You don’t need to think in terms of virtuous acts. Just write down what went well, or not so well, during the day.
This is a way of processing what you learn, recognizing moments that deserve your gratitude and acknowledging any challenges you encountered. Taking time to reflect on your day allows you to focus on areas where you can improve.
Finally, consider keeping a gratitude journal. Many studies show that feeling and expressing gratitude helps reduce stress and anxiety. As Zig Zigler said, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
If your evening routine includes taking a few minutes to write down what you’re grateful for, you go to bed with your brain trained on positive thoughts. As a result, the mood you go to sleep in is often your mood when you wake up.
Try making these simple yet powerful tweaks to your evening routine, and see if you don’t enjoy more successful tomorrows.
Did you enjoy this post about the importance of having a meaningful evening routine? It originally appeared on the Blacklight, our weekly newsletter for professionals. At the Blacklight, we aim to illuminate with every dispatch that lands in your inbox. If you’re thirsty for guidance to help you slay it at work or as a student and move your goalposts closer, sign up today!