I have believed for some time that the way I start the morning determined the direction for the rest of the day. The winding down of the day is just as important to determine the direction of the following day. In my mind, my morning and evening routines are bookends holding and keeping the day in balance. For this purpose of this article, I am going to go forgo discussing morning routines and ask the question: how do you finish your day? Far too many sit in front of a screen right up to the moment they go to bed. Television, computer, and phone screens shine into our faces and it has an effect on our sleep and effectiveness. I am not advocating that you dispatch your T.V. or other electronics. What I am suggesting is that as in all things moderation is the key. Ours is a sleep-deprived culture. There are many factors, eating late into the night, mindless media consumption, no set bedtime, and the list could go on and on.
Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” With all due respect to the great philosopher allow me to adjust this statement slightly: “the unreviewed life is sure to a waste of potential and opportunity.” Productivity and less stress were the results I experienced when I began practicing an evening routine as well as a morning ritual. They truly are partners or in a sense two-sides to the same coin.
As vital as getting the day started properly in the morning, the evening not only allows you to review and evaluate the day, it gives you a head start on the next day.
My evening routine is exactly that, mine. There is no one size fits all. Allow me to tell you the things that are a part of my routine:
- I have the usual time I start getting ready for bed. Many would be better off if they went to bed at a reasonable time. I can still hear my grandmother tell me “nothing much good happens after 11:00.” Weekly I hear someone tell me how they get by with little to no sleep. Color me skeptical! Lethargy, emotional volatility, aimlessness or just a few of the by-products of too little sleep. Good health requires adequate rest and sleep. One of the reasons people are not able to sleep is that they come home lay on the couch and watch 4-5 hours of television! All the while surfing the internet. A shining light in your face and stimulating your senses is a prescription to not being able to sleep.
- Shut things down 40 minutes to an hour before you go to bed. Most Americans are afraid of silence. Noise keeps us from having to be alone with our thoughts. Even God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Notice I rarely say go to bed anymore. Getting ready for bed is what I say acknowledging that it is a process.
- Read. I am a person of faith. So I end the day as I started by reading from the Bible. Anything else I read during this time is something uplifting and positive. (another reason to turn off your electronic devices)
- Pray/meditate. This helps me to remember to keep centered in the One who really matters.
- Review the day. What went well? What could I have done better? What were the wins? These are a few of things I review.
- Prepare for tomorrow. What appointments do I have? What projects am I working on? A part of my preparation is to make sure that I have all the documents and items I need. I find them and put them in the proper place. I will not have to search for them early tomorrow mornng,
- I lay out everything I need. Clothes, gym equipment, shoes, books, and anything else I need. I am never scrambling looking for things in the early hours, because I made provision the night before.
- Determine my most important tasks for the next day. I determine the top three. I have more than three things I will work on tomorrow. I identify the three most crucial and make a promise to myself that I will not go to bed tomorrow evenng until the three MITS (most important tasks) are done!
- Go to bed. It is amazing how much easier it is to go to sleep when you have prepared yourself by getting ready for the next day and how calming it is when you are prepared for the next day.
Try some of these as well as adding items that are important to you. I have found that these things done in the evening make the next day more productive