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13 Evening Routine Habits and Ideas to Perfectly End Your Day

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Let me know if your mornings sound like this: You wake up an hour before you have to leave the house, rush around to get ready, swear up and down you’re forgetting something, grab a protein bar and run out the door. 

Once you get to work, you’re a chaotic mess and already overwhelmed before you’ve even gotten to your desk. You’re burned out and can’t focus.

If this sounds familiar, you’re in good company. 

The remedy? 

Every good day starts with a great night. It’s only when you’re rested and you’ve tied up all of your loose ends from the prior day that you can really tackle each new day.

People’s professional and home lives are becoming increasingly intertwined, which makes the boundaries that create a work/life balance pretty blurred. Many people are working from home, switching back and forth between letting the dog out to joining a conference call to grabbing Amazon packages off their front porch all in the same timeframe, as we’ve constructed a culture of being available 24/7. 

While there are a lot of strategies for recreating necessary boundaries, having an evening routine after work is among the most effective. So in this article, we are going to look at 13 evening routine habits that you can adopt to end your day that will set you up for a better tomorrow. 

Let’s get going.

1. Establish a “Shut Down” Ritual

You know when you try to turn your computer off and you have a lot of tabs and programs running, and you get a ton of pop-ups asking if you’re sure you want to exit? Think of your brain in this same way. You can’t just shut it down with a simple click before closing some loops because it will still be trying to run the programs and find solutions to ongoing issues. 

Your “shut down” ritual should take about 5 or 10 minutes, and once you’re finished, you will have a grasp on what you got accomplished that day and what needs to be done the next so you can defer all work-related issues until the next day.

To shut down your mind and allow yourself to have a restful night’s sleep, do a brain dump every night to close down any pending demands, or at least have them out of your brain and onto paper so you can address them at another time. Look at your calendar and tasks and do a quick check-in on where you stand with your projects, then come up with a plan to address these things for the rest of the week. Write down everything that is weighing on you, from overdue doctors’ visits to big projects you have in process at work. 

Then have some kind of signal that your work is finished for the day. For me, this is closing my laptop. Once it’s closed, it doesn’t get reopened until the next day and I stop thinking about anything that’s on it. You could also say something out loud to yourself like, “My work is done today” or anything else that firmly signals that it’s time to switch gears.

2. Plan for the Next Day 

As mentioned, part of your “shut down” routine should be planning what and how you’re going to address ongoing issues and projects. This will involve prioritizing everything that’s on your plate (the Eisenhower Matrix can help you with this) and deciding what you can reasonably accomplish tomorrow.

Remember what Benjamin Franklin said: Failing to plan is planning to fail. 

Determining your plan for the coming day allows you to identify your most important tasks in advance—before the pressures of the day start coming at you. In the best scenario, the first few hours of your day would be spent handling your most challenging, yet important, tasks–your MITs.

The morning will be the calmest part of your day, so being able to focus all of your attention on a task that will have the greatest positive impact on your life is best done during this time. And, once your MITs have been completed, you can consider your day to be a success because you’ve done three things that will bring you closer to achieving your long-term vision.

These are the tasks that, amidst your busy schedule, may otherwise be put off.  But by committing to getting your MITs done ASAP, you will ensure these necessary duties get accomplished. 

3. Pack for the Next Day 

Packing up the night before is like doing your future self a favor– and you will thank yourself for it. Sure, it doesn’t take long to throw some leftovers from the fridge into your lunchbox in the morning, but just grabbing the lunchbox itself and running out of the door is even faster. And, if you prepare yourself as much as possible, the time will add up and your mornings will be a breeze.

What can you take off your plate in the morning? If you go to the gym after work, pack your gym bag (and even put it in your car), set your clothes out for work, pack your lunch (and your kids’ lunches and school supplies as well), and set the coffee maker on a timer so it starts brewing as soon as you wake up.

Taking these steps will decrease your chances of forgetting something the next day, and it will prevent you from experiencing decision fatigue before you even get to work. Waking up will feel less like a chore if you’ve set yourself up the night before.

4. Spend Time with Your Family 

Those with lofty goals and high-achieving entrepreneurs often get so focused on continuing their success that they forget about the reason they probably work so hard in the first place–their families.

It’s easy to get lost in planning, executing, and making your goals become a reality and forget to take a look at the bigger picture of life and enjoy what your success is actually doing for you.

But you’re supposed to work to live, not live to work. 

Set aside time every night to spend with your family. Sit down to dinner, help your kids with their homework, play a game with the family, participate in whatever your family does at night.

Reward yourself with this luxury and it will pay off in the long run when you look back on your life.

5. Get a Full Night’s Sleep 

You’re probably thinking that’s easier said than done, but once you get into the routine of it, it’s simple to do. 

Sleeping well directly impacts your mental and physical health, and your overall quality of life. Without exercising healthy sleep hygiene, your energy during the day can go downhill, taking your productivity, motivation, and emotions along with it. 

You’re in good company with 50-70 million other Americans if you spend your evenings tossing and turning. But, you can make some changes to your lifestyle to help fix this problem. Check out these resources for some help:

You may think you can get by on less sleep than what is recommended for you, but here is a whole TED talk on why it doesn’t work like that.

6. Clean and Organize 

Waking up to laundry on the floor and dishes in the sink will only start your day off by facing obstacles. However, if you spend 20 minutes every night doing a quick tidy-up ritual, you will find your morning much easier to navigate as you’re trying to get out of the door. By putting things away, you will avoid the slippery slope of living in a disaster area and feeling distracted in the morning. 

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If you spend 20 minutes every night doing a quick tidy-up ritual, you will find your morning much easier to navigate as you’re trying to get out of the door.

What’s more, walking into a frenzied work environment first thing in the morning sets your day up for chaos. Clear your digital space before closing up for the day to avoid being confronted with endless tabs and programs that aren’t relevant to the work you’re doing the next day. Working and living in an organized environment is an absolute must if you want to feel in control of your life.

7. Use the 10-3-2-1-0 Formula

This simple technique suggested by fitness coach Craig Ballantyne will help you wake up feeling rested so you can get more done in the early hours of the morning. Not only will you get to bed earlier by following this formula, you will sleep better as well. 

10 hours before bed: No more caffeine

3 hours before bed: Stop consuming food and alcohol

2 hours before bed: Stop working

1 hour before bed: Turn off all screens including your phone, TV, and laptop 

0: The number of times you hit “snooze” in the morning

It takes about 10 hours for your body to eliminate itself of caffeine and get rid of its stimulatory effects.

Finishing your meals and alcohol three hours before bed will help prevent you from experiencing heartburn, which can interrupt your sleep. While alcohol might make you tired at first, it disturbs your natural sleep cycle and can rob you of valuable deep sleep.

Complete your “shut down” ritual at least two hours before bed so you can have uninterrupted time with your family and put work problems aside.  

Shut down your electronics an hour before bed because the blue light will disturb your sleep. You can read instead, meditate, take a bath, or spend time talking with your spouse.

Finally, don’t give into the temptation to hit the snooze button in the morning. Doing so will make you late for your planned day and make your morning routine rushed. Plus, going back to sleep can ultimately make you wake up even more tired than you would have been if you just got up as planned. 

8. Practice a Spiritual Habit 

A lot of people use the word “spirituality” these days– especially those in the younger generations. In fact, a survey conducted by Pew Research found that millennials are less religious than those who are two generations above them. However, they feel an equally strong sense of spirituality and gratitude.

Here are a few ways you can practice spirituality:

Write in a journal: Doing some reflection and processing the events from the day can help you on your journey to self-discovery. As one of the most ancient forms of self-help, journaling gives you more insight as you explore your ideas, impulses, feelings, memories, goals, and wishes through writing. 

Journaling is a practice that is often suggested by spiritual mentors as being an effective way to gain a heightened sense of self-understanding and compassion. Finally, journaling will help you find inner stability and identify (and put an end to) self-destructive behaviors. 

Pray: Communicating with the higher power that you have connected with can further influence how you perceive that power. For some, this may be talking to God, while others may look toward Allah, Brahma, the Tao, or a variety of other forms. 

Practice Gratitude: Practicing gratitude has been said to be a form of spirituality in its own right. Deepak Chopra, a prominent figure in gratitude, meditation, and spirituality, shows a powerful connection between gratitude and spirituality in this article. He notes that the origin of the word “gratitude” comes from the Latin root gratus, meaning to please and welcome. Chopra argues that “gratus” is the root of many words that signify celebration and being in contact with a higher power such as grace and gratification. This root word signifies seeing value and benefit, which can be considered to be a remedy for suffering. Therefore, it could also be considered to be a form of spirituality.

Meditate: Meditation is also essentially a spiritual practice of its own. Meditation is the process of concentrating on your own consciousness, which eventually leads you to discover that your consciousness is infinite. When you’re meditating, you’re getting in tune with your most inner self and developing yourself spiritually. According to spiritual practices, people’s ultimate goal is to merge their mind with Infinite Consciousness (which is the ultimate reality) and the only way to do this is through meditation.

9. Read

You might assume that in order to be a great achiever, you need to focus your reading on business or self-improvement books. And while continuous learning is important, focusing on these things right before bed will get your wheels turning and your mind moving, which can prevent you from being able to sleep.

You may end up staying awake, ruminating over new ideas or a business strategy you want to try, which is not a great beginning to a healthy night’s sleep. 

Instead, read a fiction book or a biography that allows you to escape into someone else’s world. Read a book that is relaxing–even if it has an educational twist to it. This will keep you focused on the story you’re reading instead of taking your mind to the variety of things you need to do to improve your life. 

Reading a relaxing book for 30 minutes before turning off the lights will help you fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling creative and rested.  

10. Practice Something You Enjoy

Your free in the evening is completely controlled by you. If you have a hobby you enjoy, this may be the time to engage in that. Or maybe you’re working on a project that will move you closer to achieving your dreams, or you want to focus on learning a new skill. The evenings are a great time to use to try out new experiences or improve upon your current abilities. 

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If you have a hobby you enjoy, the evening may be the time to engage in that.

Instead of passively sitting around on the couch, engage in something that is meaningful to you in some way, whether that’s learning a new language, practicing playing an instrument, creating art, or working on a collection. Check out these popular hobbies for men and hobbies for women if you’re looking for something to try.

Spending time doing things you enjoy will impact your daily attitude, which can increase your productivity. So spend 30 minutes pursuing something meaningful to you at night, and you will notice a big difference in your overall well being and sense of self-worth.

11. Reflect 

You probably spend a lot of time thinking about the future, and maybe significantly less time reflecting on where you’ve been. And while it’s good to focus on moving forward instead of regretting past mistakes, this tendency also prevents people from doing some solid reflection.

Take some time every night to reflect on your day, thinking about what went well and what could have gone better. Did you face any unexpected challenges? If so, how did you handle them? How might you handle similar situations in the future? What can you do to prevent the problem from happening again?

Doing some reflection at night will help you gain insight into your performance and increase your self-awareness regarding your ability to problem-solve. With this insight, you can make those small improvements that are needed to end up with major results in the long run. 

12. Think of One Thing That Excites You About Tomorrow

This is an effective and powerful way to ensure you will get up earlier than necessary and jumpstart your day.

Thinking about the things that tomorrow could bring–seizing new opportunities, seeing more results, meeting new people, making new decisions–will feel both motivating and empowering. Having these things at the front of your mind will inspire you to jump out of bed when the time comes. 

13. Acceptance

Accept your day for what it was, no matter how it went. Remind yourself that you did your best and that is something you can feel good about. There’s nothing you can change about today–you made all of the best decisions that you could at the time with the information you had.

Don’t carry any burdens of the day with you into tomorrow because this will only keep you living in the past. If necessary, you can choose to be twice as productive tomorrow by making accepting and letting go one of your evening routine habits.

Final Thoughts on Ending Your Day Perfectly

It can be hard to build routines into your life. But with a little discipline, sticking to these routines will set you up for success. 

The good thing about routines and habits is the more you practice them, the more natural they become. They eventually become so ingrained in your day that it’s harder to not do them.

So end your day on purpose and stick with it. You will find your days to be much more productive when you have a high-quality night. 

Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.

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