After a busy day, it’s tough to unwind and prepare for a good night sleep. Before I started having an evening ritual, I would stay up late for no good reason at all. When it came time for bed, I found it difficult to sleep since my mind would constantly wander like a nomad in no man’s land.
According to the National Institute of Health, sleep deficiency can lead to negative effects in brain function, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and daytime performance.
Why is the evening so important? Because evening is the first step before tomorrow happens. No matter how well you have planned out your next day, if you lack energy from evening mismanagement, you’re not going to be at your best tomorrow.
Over the past few years, I’ve experimented with different combinations of morning rituals, but none of them ever stuck. That’s because I was missing a crucial part of the recipe: the evening ritual. After mastering the evening ritual, the morning ritual was easy.
We all know to get at least 7 hours of sleep per day. But life gets in the way, and unless we fight back, it will continue to get in the way.
The following evening ritual has brought consistency into my evening, and the benefits have permeated to every other aspect of my life.
Surrender Phone/Laptop for the night
This first step is the most important, and probably the most difficult to do.
There will always be new notifications coming in. They never stop. But at some point, we need to put down the phone and ask our lovely friends to be patient. Be at peace knowing that you can fully unplug, and that nothing is urgent enough to demand your attention until the next day.
Just because something is important doesn’t mean it is urgent. Stephen Covey—author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People—reminds us that just because something is important (contributes to our goals) doesn’t mean it is urgent (requires immediate attention). I’ve written a summary of the book here.
My cutoff initiates the remainder of my evening ritual. With all possible distractions out of the way, I can focus on getting ready on the final destination: bed.
Prepare the Morning Basket
Now that I’ve given up my distractions, I move on to preparing what I need for tomorrow. I have a morning basket where I place all my prepared items. This helps keep things predictable so I can spend less time thinking and more time doing.
I like to drink water in the morning to hydrate after a good night sleep, so I will make sure my water bottle is topped off and placed on my morning basket.
Next, I prepare 2 sets of clothes: 1 set for workout, and 1 set for regular. The workout clothes will be worn after I take a shower tonight, and the regular clothes will be for after I workout the next morning.
The key is to consistently place these things at the same place, so nothing is unpredictable the next morning. By doing these steps now, we save ourselves from fumbling and scrambling when tomorrow comes.
Each day is an eventful one, so now it’s time to reward myself with a nice cleaning. I start with oral hygiene, which involves brushing my teeth, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. Then I take a nice hot shower, and wear my workout clothes that I already prepared in the previous step.
Get Cozy in Bed With My iPad
Climbing into bed confines my evening to the bed. Once I get on, I cannot leave until the next evening.
You may be wondering why I allow myself to carry my iPad to bed.
I treat my iPad like a notebook. Even though it can have all the functionality of an iPhone, I consciously choose not to use it that way. This is the reason I have both an iPhone and an iPad. Even though the iPhone can do most things the iPad can, the layer of separation isolate the roles of both devices.
The iPhone is for use during the day and used for communication; the iPad is used for deep work.
Record Today’s Data
I use this step as a checkpoint to capture all the things that has my attention. David Allen—author of Getting Things Done—recommends gathering 100 percent of the incompletes in our mind so we free ourselves from any anxiety that we might have missed something. I’ve written a summary of the book here.
In addition, I take this time to gather data on myself for my Personal Scoreboard. More posts on this in the future, but a few examples include checking off my daily habits, filling in my food/exercise stats, and recording my calendar. The benefit is that over time, I can see patterns and keep myself accountable to my goals.
Plan The Next Day
Now that I’ve moved on from today, I can get a head start on tomorrow. This involves two things:
- Planning My Time. This is when I fill out my calendar for tomorrow.
- Planning My Tasks. This is when I fill out my to-do list for tomorrow.
When it comes to planning, we simply predict, knowing full well that things may not be exact. But that’s okay, because at least I have something to go off of by default.
We often take so many aspects of life for granted. Therefore, it’s important to slow down and express gratitude for all the good things in life.
Since I’m a Christian, for me, this involves praying to God and giving thanks to Him.
Regardless of your belief though, know that scientific research also proves that expressing gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness. So you really can’t lose by expressing gratitude.
The penultimate step of my evening ritual is to write. Writing is equivalent to structured thinking.
I don’t restrict myself on what I’m allowed to write about. Some days I write about the events of my day while other days I write about my musings. I’ll also note down what I’m grateful for from the step above.
And finally, I’ve reached the end. I got through the day, went through my evening ritual, and am now prepared to sleep in peace with nothing unaccounted for. Inner peace.
An evening ritual adds structure and consistency to an otherwise busy and chaotic day. The evening ritual is especially powerful once you start doing it on auto-pilot because you can save your decision making bandwidth for other things. It takes a huge burden off my back and gives me control over my day.
I believe everybody should have an evening ritual. There’s just simply too much chaos without one. My evening ritual helps me calm down after a busy day, and easy myself into sleep. I swear—I had insomnia before I started practicing my evening ritual. My mind just wouldn’t stop wandering, and I would end up staying awake late even while in bed. Now, I sleep like a baby.
Overall, I prefer to keep things simple. Complicated is hard to do well. Having this evening routine in place relieves my mind from having to think about what to do. I can simply just do it.
What do you think of my evening ritual? What evening rituals do you have? Let me know in the comments below!
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