I’ve often struggled with establishing a consistent evening routine. Several years of undergrad and grad school made it hard to have any type of reliable schedule—you never know when you might be up late studying. Then, that lack of nighttime planning carried over when I started a more traditional 9-6 job. But, after reading about the benefits of properly unwinding and prepping for the next day, I decided to try implementing some type of evening routine.
Having now had a set evening routine for a couple years, I must say, those lauded benefits are no joke. Not only do I feel more prepared when I wake up, but I typically have an easier time falling asleep at night, too. And, on the nights when I don’t stick to my routine, well, let’s just say I can definitely tell.
The most important part of establishing a nightly routine is sticking with it. Given that, it may be best to start out with a short one and add from there (as time allows). Also, create one that works with your schedule. If you only have 20 free minutes every night, that’s okay—just make the most of them. If you can spare a good hour or hour and a half to unwind and prepare, make the most of that, too. It’s all about designing something that works for you. Well, that and turning off your cell phone—that thing can distract you and waste your entire night away.
So, what all practices should you consider building into your PM routine?
A messy home is the opposite of relaxing, and few people want to spend precious weekend hours cleaning everything that was scattered around the home during the week. That’s why you should add 10-15 minutes of tidying up to your nightly routine. Put everything in its proper place, wash the dishes, sweep the floor. You just need to do enough to keep things looking nice—plus you never know when a friend might stop over, so why not keep your place presentable?
One of the most dependable ways to ensure an easy morning is prepping for it the night before. Figure out what you want to wear the next day and lay out the outfit. Decide what you’re eating for breakfast and lunch tomorrow, and I’d highly recommend getting your lunch ready and packed so you can grab it on your way out of the house in the AM. Finally, make a list of goals for the following day—write out everything you hope to accomplish and organize it so you know what’s the most important.
While you’re at it, now’s a great time to take care of your pre-sleep routines, like washing your face, brushing your teeth, and applying lotions or night creams.
To me, the most important part of an evening routine is reflecting on the day. I like to do this after I’ve gotten everything ready for tomorrow because I can start unwinding. If you only have a few free minutes, sit down in a quiet place and think over how the day went: What went well, what do you want to differently, how do you feel overall?
Gratitude journaling can also be super rewarding—and it’s supposed to make you happier, too! If you process your thoughts best through writing, definitely give this a try. Free writing notes about your day can also help you think through things that might be causing stress.
Reflecting may be the most beneficial part of an evening routine, but my favorite part is relaxing. This can take many different forms. It could be a refreshing bath. 20 minutes of a calming yoga practice (just avoid anything too strenuous). A tranquil meditation where you clear your mind for several minutes. Sitting with a warm cup of tea (caffeine free, of course). Or, my personal go-to, reading a chapter or two of a book.
Now, don’t take a solid nightly routine as an excuse to slack on your mindful morning routine. It’s more like a wine-and-cheese paring—good on their own but better together. When figuring out how to set up your evening routine, choose one that will be easy to stick with because it won’t do any good if you don’t keep it up—that’s the whole point of a routine, right?