Easy Evening Routines For Stress-Free Mornings

SUMMARY POINTS

> A good evening routine will make work life easier
> Structured processes save time, reduce stress and promote restful sleep
> Peaceful ends to the day and calm starts to the next is the goal

It’s been a long ass day.

All you want to do when you get home is eat, watch Netflix and go to sleep.

As you lounge in front of the TV, you think about all the things you should be doing.

“I should really make my lunch for tomorrow.”

“I should probably go and wash up.”

Each time you think of something, you tell yourself you’ll do it when the episode ends. But, the cliffhanger is too much to bear and so, you watch the next one.

Eventually, it gets late and what you’re thinking is “I should really go to bed.”

You drag yourself bleary-eyed from your sofa to your bed and crawl in.

And that’s when you start thinking about all the tasks that await you tomorrow.

You toss and turn as your brain flips between berating yourself for what went wrong today and dreading what will most likely go wrong tomorrow.

At some point, you finally fall asleep.

Beep, beep, beep!

You’re startled awake. It’s time to get up already?! Ugh.

After making use of the snooze button more than once, you roll out of bed, get ready in a hurry and make it out the door just in time.

Your day pans out just like your morning; hazy, rushed, and not much fun.

You’ve heard people talk about the value of having a morning routine but you’re most definitely not a morning person.

You’re usually too tired to even dress yourself properly, let alone do crazy things like going for a morning run or doing hot yoga for an hour before you start your day.

So, are you doomed to forever have bad days because you’re unable to get your ass out of bed at 5am and start the day right?

Of course not.

Morning routines are an excellent way to make sure your day gets off on the right note - but an evening routine is what sets it all up.

Preparing for your morning the evening before can not only help you have a more calm start to the day but can also help to close out the end of the day into a restful sleep.

What’s An Evening Routine?

A routine is a set of actions that you complete in a particular order.

When it comes to morning and evening routines, they’re usually completed at the same time each day.

You probably already have some form of both routines without even realizing it.

Your morning routine might be: hear alarm go off, swear, press snooze, roll out of bed 15 minutes later, shower and brush teeth, get dressed, coffee, leave for work.

It’s not necessarily a good routine - but it’s a routine all the same.

Your evening routine might go something like this: change out of work clothes, eat microwave dinner, watch Netflix ‘til late, check locks, put phone on charge, brush teeth, go to sleep.

You may have heard the phrase “we are what we repeatedly do”, in which case forming a morning or evening routine which promotes productivity and reduces stress ain’t a bad idea.

A morning routine obviously takes place once you’ve woken up and can set you up for a good day.

It can take the stress and rush out of mornings to help you arrive at your desk feeling ready for whatever comes your way.

But an evening routine can actually do the same and more.

A good evening routine will help you to release the stresses of the day, prep you for the following day and promote a night of restful sleep.

Done right, it will also help your morning to run more smoothly with fewer mishaps.

You may decide to have both a morning and an evening routine, which should complement each other.

But if you choose to have just one, we believe that the evening routine is the way to go.

Routine vs. Habit

So, is this about forming new habits? Because we all know how hard that is.

A habit is defined as behaviors or actions that we take unconsciously. We don’t think about them, we just do them. They just happen.

For example, brushing your teeth twice a day, biting your nails or scrolling through Instagram before bed.

A routine should eventually become something you do on autopilot too.

It’s a collection of actions and, if done regularly, will become a collection of habits.

A routine is a great way to form new, healthy habits.

One of the keys to sticking to new habits is to have a trigger.

So, for example, if you want to go for a run twice a week, perhaps the trigger is the day of the week, and you go on Mondays and Wednesdays.

If you’re trying to start a meditation habit, maybe the trigger is the time of day.

The great thing about daily routines is that they come with triggers built in.

The first trigger is the time of day. And then once the first action is complete, that triggers the next action, which triggers the next and so on. It can be a chain reaction of great progress.

So building a good morning or evening routine is the perfect way to create healthier habits.

Why Have An Evening Routine?

The benefits of an evening routine go beyond just the awesome new habits you’ll form. A solid routine can have a real positive impact on your life.

It’s part preparation for tomorrow and part wind-down calming time for today. Both of which can improve your overall quality of living.

Here are the main reasons why it’s a good thing to have in your life.

1) Avoid Decision Fatigue

Making decisions takes up energy and brain power.

At certain points in the day, we have a lot of that to spare, whereas at other points in the day we’re running on empty.

Our ability to make good decisions is affected by how tired we are, how hungry we are and how many other decisions we’ve already had to make that day.

Have you ever made it halfway through the day and then stopped and thought “What the fuck am I wearing?!”

Yeah, that was decision fatigue.

Even though you had hardly made any decisions yet, you were probably still half asleep when you got dressed in the morning and didn’t have the energy to put much thought into your outfit choice.

Having an evening routine in place ensures that certain decisions are already made for us - when we’re in a better space and frame of mind to choose wisely.

Knowing in advance things like what we’ll make for dinner, what we’ll prep for tomorrow morning, what time we’ll go to bed and what we’ll do to wind down for the night will inevitably help us avoid bad habits and develop good ones.

2) Get A Good Night’s Sleep

A good evening routine should include a good pre-bedtime process and therefore, promote a restful night’s sleep.

It takes our body about 1-2 hours to wind down for bed.

If we go from watching TV, staring at our phone and basically having our brains on high alert straight into bed, our body will only then start slowing down.

This means it will probably take 1-2 hours for us to fall asleep and we won’t get restful sleep because our body is having to use some of our sleep time to wind down.

You need at least 7-8 hours of solid sleep so that you feel truly refreshed and not frazzled the next day. So, backtrack 7-8 hours from the time when you normally wake up to set the “get in bed by” target time. Then, aim to start your wind down process an hour or two before that target time.

Completing the slow down process before you get into bed means that by the time your head hits the pillow, your body is already in rest mode and knows that it’s time to sleep.

You’ll fall asleep faster and your sleep will be more restorative.

3) Save Time To Wind Down

Human beings are experts at wasting time. We waste time trying to make decisions. We waste time procrastinating once we’ve made the decisions. We waste time second guessing our decisions.

Having an evening routine in place is a huge time saver. It minimizes the chances of you getting distracted by other things which will lead you down into the chasm of wasted time.

You spend less time making decisions as they’re already made, and as you have a limited amount of time to complete your routine, you tend to procrastinate less, if at all.

And it doesn’t just save you time, it ensures that you’re using your evenings efficiently, but in a measured and relaxed way.

It’s not all about go, go, go in the evenings. It’s all about pre-planned events that are meant to slow you down.

4) Reduce Stress

Having a regular routine makes us feel comfortable. The familiarity of a consistent pattern gives us a sense of stability.

Many of us as kids had kick-ass evening routines without even realizing it.

Most likely your parents had a strict bedtime for you. At that point, you would change into your PJs, brush your teeth, get tucked up in bed and maybe even get a bedtime story if you were lucky.

This kind of nightly routine helps kids to feel calm and safe as they wind down for bed.

If even one element of the routine is missing, they will not be happy. Well, maybe except for the brushing teeth part. 😉

An evening routine for an adult has the same effect of helping us to feel comfortable, calm and safe.

The familiarity of the routine combined with stress-reducing habits that form the routine will promote calm and reduce stress before you hit the hay.

A really good evening routine will also make your mornings less chaotic too.

VIDEO: 5 Evening Routines of the Most Successful People (Animated)
YOUTUBE: SUCCESS INSIDER
LENGTH: 4:45

Summary Points:
> Good morning routines cannot override poor night time routines
> The mood you go to sleep in is the mood you wake up in
> The most successful people have good evening routines

A Little Prep In The Evenings Will Lead To Big Gains In The Mornings

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to evening routines. Yours will depend on how much time you have available and what your priorities are.

The habits you’ll want to form in your evening routine will largely fall into efficiency based habits or sleep promotion based habits or maybe a little of both.

We’ve listed some ideas below to get your creative juices flowing. From this, you can pick and choose what will work for you.

And, importantly, leave yourself enough time to be able to complete and enjoy each activity.

There’s no use trying to cram tons of activities into your routine if you know you can only commit to a 45-minute wind-down routine. You’ll just end up stressing yourself out - which is the opposite result to what we’re after here!

1) Prioritize Tasks

This study from the American Psychological Association shows that people who wrote out their to-do list fell asleep faster than those who wrote out a completed list - and the more specific they were with their tasks, the better.

We recommend that you don’t just write out what needs to be done tomorrow. Decide what the priorities are.

Instead of stressing yourself out with a to-do list as long as your arm, write out two or three high priority tasks that you want to tackle for tomorrow.

You can do this for both work and home.

If you’re keen to leave work at work (why wouldn’t you be?!), then you can do the work priorities at the end of your working day before you leave the office.

In fact, you can make it part of your end of day ritual to disconnect from work.

2) Choose Your Outfit

Unless you’re Charlie Brown or pulling a Zuckerberg and have a closet full of the same t-shirt and grey hoodie, you probably waste time each morning umm-ing and ahh-ing about what to wear.

Most of us get analysis-paralysis while staring at our closet full of clothes.

What to wear? Will this go with that? Where’s the belt for this one? Is this going to be warm enough? Is this even clean?

Take some of the stress out of your morning by deciding what you’re going to wear the evening before. It’ll be one less decision and time-waster in the morning.

Setting out your clothes all ready to go the night before will save you time and frustration in the morning.

3) Pack Your Stuff Ahead Of Time

How often have you got halfway to work and realized you forgot something really important? Like your packed lunch, ID Badge, wallet, paperwork or that random thingy you needed to bring to work.

Then, it leads to another little mind-slip and so on.

These kinds of annoyances can be reduced in a big way by packing all of your shit the night before.

Pre-pack your work bag with anything that you need to bring into work for tomorrow and then place it by the door. Place all your pocket items like house/car keys, wallet, ID badge, etc. in a tray by the door or in your purse.

And, no more skipping the gym because you “forgot” to pack your work out clothes. 😉 Get it all together and ready-to-go by the door so that it’s easy to just grab-n-go on the way out.

Or at the very least, pack a pair of sneakers for easy low sweat workouts at work.

4) Meal Prep

​Remember that decision fatigue we mentioned earlier? Nowhere does that become more apparent than when it comes to our food choices.

The more tired and stressed you are at work, the more likely you are to opt for unhealthy foods and snacks.

This is when we’re vulnerable to the burger-n-fries for lunch when we should really eat the grilled chicken wrap. And, susceptible to grabbing junk food from the vending machine instead of some healthy snacks.

But, you can prevent this by packing simple healthy lunches and stress-busting snacks on your own. Prepping your own food gives you ultimate control of your nutrition.

The same is true for your breakfast.

It becomes much harder to skip breakfast if you place all the ingredients together and set them on the counter the night before. Or, simplify it to a box of cereal or an instant oatmeal packet. It’s all about minimizing morning processes as much as possible.

Pre-Bedtime Habits For A Good Sleep

1) Stick To The Same Time

The key to a good bedtime routine is timing.

You should start the routine at the same time every evening and get into bed at the same time every night. Even on the weekends, do your best to stick with the same bedtime and wake-up times. The less deviation you have, the easier it is on your body and mind.

Obviously, there will be some exceptions (a night out on the town for one) and that’s fine. Just try and stick to the same times as much as you can.

Work out what is reasonable for you.

If you get home from work at 8pm every day and need to be in bed by 10pm, you’re not going to be able to start a 2-hour evening routine the minute you walk through the door.

Decide what amount of time you can dedicate to the routine and what time it makes sense to kick things off.

Then stick to it.

2) Reflect On The Positives From The Day

We often rush through each day and barely give ourselves time to process what actually happened before stressing about tomorrow, next week, next month and even into next year.

Reflection is an important part of learning and helps us process our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

When we include a moment to look at what we’ve achieved in the day, it can also give us a confidence boost and some extra motivation.

So, as part of your wind down process, think about the good stuff that happened during the day and find just one thing...one little thing that you can be happy about.

It can be that one awesome email you sent out. Or, maybe the new creative way you laid out that powerpoint slide. Or, how the excel formulas are all working perfectly. Any small wins are perfect.

So spend a few minutes in your evening routine to give yourself a mental high-five. It’s a great way to shift your mindset into the positive as your day ends. 

3) Do Something (Quiet) You Enjoy

Another way to boost positivity before you go to sleep is to take some time for a calming hobby or activity. Essentially, it’s anything that doesn’t get you riled up or trigger your brain into deep or rapid thought processing.

It’s gotta be something that should hold your attention but can easily be put on hold or walked away from - think jigsaw puzzle kinda thing.

It could be as simple as reading a few chapters of a book, drawing some sketches, writing in a journal, meditating, listening to slow calming lyric-free music, etc.

The more analog and unplugged it is, the better.

Whatever you do though, make sure it’s a wind down activity. Watching violent/action movies or doing an intense workout session right before bed is not the way to end the day.

Anything that increases your level of adrenaline is the opposite of what you want before you hit the sack.

4) Turn The Lights Down Slowly

Our bodies are pretty damn smart. They know that it’s time to wind down and get ready for bed when it gets darker and darker.

The problem is that we no longer allow our surroundings to get dark.

Now, with all the high-efficiency light bulbs out there, we often just leave all sorts of lights on throughout our homes. Especially, LED bulbs that only cost pennies to run all month long.

Because of this, our mental clocks get all jacked up. They think it’s 9am when it’s actually 9pm. To counteract this, we can control the light we have around us.

Instead of regular harsh white lights, we can soften the light around us with warmer colors that mimic sunsets. Himalayan salt lamps are a favorite of ours to achieve this effect. And, they’re a pretty cool decorative addition to any home.

Or, instead of having all the room lights on, just have one smaller light by the bed turned on. This way your overall environment is getting dimmer and winding down along with you.

5) Stop Scrolling In Bed

Do you remember the days before smartphones? What the hell did we do in bed before those pre-smartphone days? Well, if we’re speaking frankly here, maybe a little nookie but otherwise, a lot of us just had a much bigger screen to watch.

Before smartphones became so widespread, having a TV in the bedroom was and still is a very common thing, sometimes a damn near necessity for some. For millions of us, winding down in bed meant watching some cable TV episodes or late night talk shows.

Today, cable and satellite TV options are supplemented by or even replaced with online streaming shows and series. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ve got another mini screen on your phone for all the social media nonsense.

All of these screens emit a blue light that triggers your brain into thinking that it’s daytime (like the blue sky) and not night. This creates a conflict in your body where your mind “wakes up” but your body is still tired.

To prevent this conflict, turn off all displays as part of your wind-down transition. Instead, do some quiet time activity without any screens - reading a book, coloring, reflecting on the day, writing in a journal, meditating, etc.

Doing non-screen related quiet activities will really help to slow things down.

6) Have A Hot Drink

Remember drinking hot cocoa at night as a kid? Well, you don’t have to say goodbye to it just because you’re a grown-up.

We can still have the same benefits with less sugar. There are some other non-caffeinated drinks which can help you transition into the land of slumber:

Golden Milk: Milk with a teaspoon of turmeric and a pinch of cinnamon

Chamomile Tea: A natural remedy for restless nights

Valerian Tea: Another herb which has long been prescribed to aid sleep

Redbush Tea: If you prefer a “proper tea”, this is an excellent caffeine-free alternative to your regular black tea

Try different teas and see which one really helps you relax and destress. Then, include it in your nightly routine as your healthy non-alcoholic nightcap. 

7) Take A Warm Shower Meditation 

One good way to start your evening transition is to take a warm shower as a trigger habit. There’s nothing like the feeling of washing away the day’s grime from your body and anxiety from your mind.

Instead of blasting through your shower, slow it down - a lot.

Most folks rush through a shower in about five minutes or so, give or take a few minutes. Take a few more minutes and use the time to clear your mind as well as clean your body.

Just don’t exceed fifteen minutes. That’s getting into wasteful water use.

Instead of going through your shower in auto-pilot mode, start paying attention to the individual things around you while showering, like the smell of the soap and shampoo, the sounds of the water splashing around you, the feel of the lather on your body, etc.

It’s all about having your mind shift its focus to the present act of showering and nothing else.

Alternatively, this extended shower could serve as your mind-clearing session. It’s an ideal time to let thoughts and ideas work themselves out in the shower or better yet, let all thoughts just come and go and enjoy the quiet time.

Warm showers help to loosen muscles and relax your mind. After showering, your warmed body will begin to cool down. This is the perfect time to do something peaceful and allow your body to continue cooling, which will aid in falling asleep.

Set Yourself Up For Stress-free Mornings

The last thing you want when you come home from a long day at work is to be confronted with more work and things to do.

Our minds are genetically programmed to avoid the “pain and suffering” of having to do more tasks. That’s why it can be so easy to fall into the habit of just lounging around until bedtime. It’s easy and it feels good to do nothing and just decompress in front of the TV.

But with a simple evening routine, you won’t feel like you’re doing more work. It just becomes an automatic process that just happens.

Whatever the day has thrown at you, you’ll feel calm, centered and ready for a good night’s sleep. Which, in turn, will help you wake up feeling rested and ready for the day.

It takes time to form a new habit.

There will be days when you simply can’t be bothered to do everything in your routine. There will be other days when you don’t do it at all. And that’s okay but don’t let it become the norm.

Get back in the saddle, stick to it and keep persevering and soon enough, you’ll be doing this stuff on autopilot, kinda like your commute.

And the more automatic your evening routine becomes, the more calm, comfortable and ready you’ll be for the day ahead.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]