I don’t believe that there are any secrets to success. Success can look different for anyone, and there is no single strategy that fits all of us.
When I used to think of success, I’d think only in terms of business and career. And I believe that most people also think in this way. Yet what I’ve learned over the past few years is that my career is just a small part of my life.
My career is not who I am, it’s just a part of it, and my life consists of so much more than just my job. Self-care, for instance, can form the foundation of our entire day-to-day existence.
When we look after ourselves, we enable ourselves to be happier, healthier, and more mindful. Life isn’t just about work.
Our definition of success rarely encapsulates the importance of how well we care for ourselves, though. What I believe is that a proper evening routine is crucial to creating happiness and balance in all areas of life.
I’ve found that enjoying some me-time every night is crucial to my happiness. Because after all, every great day starts the evening before.
No matter what great day might mean to you — if you are prepared and well-rested, your next day is undoubtedly going to be better than otherwise.
But how exactly do you build an evening routine? Well, firstly, here’s how not to:
Don’t Make it Too Complicated
An evening routine doesn’t have to be complex. Tiny changes can have a tremendous effect if you practice them regularly.
Instead of creating a long, complicated evening routine, make it as easy as possible and stick to it.
Building routines is not always easy, so make sure to create a solid foundation and start small.
Don’t Spend Hours On it
One more thing before we get started with the actual routines: Your evening routine doesn’t have to take hours.
Even a few minutes can be extremely powerful.
The duration of your routine doesn’t say anything about its power. Building habits that sum up to one hour is definitely harder than starting with a few minutes.
Make sure to start with a small, short routine and increase the intensity once your routine is established.
In my experience, it can be challenging to decide when to practice your evening routine at all. That’s why I recommend scheduling it into your daily calendar, just like any other appointment you have.
You would not miss an appointment with somebody else, so why not also stick to your dates with yourself? Decide when to start your evening routine in advance and try to stick to it as often as possible.
For example, if you want to settle down after 9.30 pm, make sure to get everything done before then so that you can fully relax after that time.
If you can’t stick to it once, it is no problem at all, however, being structured and planning ahead helps you to build discipline.
1. Reflect on Your Day
Daily reflection is a crucial part of my evening routine.
Especially as an entrepreneur, it is essential to know what you spend your time on.
You can only improve if you regularly reflect on your life and wellbeing.
A daily reflection doesn’t have to take much time.
Sometimes, I am done in one minute.
Here are some of my favorite questions to answer before going to bed:
How did I feel today?
What am I proud of?
What didn’t go well today?
Did I accomplish all my daily goals?
What made me happy today?
What could I do differently and better?
I usually take a look at my calendar and my journal to find out whether I accomplished all my daily goals and how I spent my time.
On average, I don’t spend more than 5 minutes on my daily reflection.
I write down how I feel about the day and whether I am proud of it or not.
One tool that I can warmly recommend when it comes to daily reflection is the 5 Minute Journal. You can get it as a physical book or download the app. I used the app for almost two years before I started to do my daily gratitude journaling and reflection work through a physical journal, and I was super happy with it.
Why reflection is so critical:
Take a look at how you spent your time today. Now imagine doing the same for 365 days in a row. How would your life look like?
By taking a look at our daily actions, we can figure out why our life looks the way it does.
Irregular actions will never lead to significant changes in your life. It’s your daily activities that make a difference.
Thus, it is crucial to analyze your days and live every day as if it matters — because it does.
If you have goals to reach, your daily actions are what determine whether you will succeed or not.
2. Write down to-do’s for the next day
This one might sound too basic, yet I discovered that it is so powerful, and yet most people are not practicing this one.
I am a digital entrepreneur, and most of my days don’t include specific tasks or meetings.
I can choose what to do and when to do it, and precisely this freedom was terrible at the beginning. Because I lost a lot of time thinking about what to do instead of taking action.
Having a short and sweet to-do list is a great productivity booster.
Preparing your to-do list for the next day before going to bed can even help you to calm down and sleep better.
If you are a little workaholic like me, you might think about your next to-do’s, even if your working hours are over.
I love to do work that I am passionate about, yet, sometimes putting it down and unwinding is the most essential self-care activity you can practice.
Preparing my to-do’s for the next day helps me to round off my workday and fully relax for the rest of the evening.
Ideally, your to-do list should not exceed six items.
I currently create my to-do list according to the Ivy Lee method, and I genuinely love it.
The rules are easy:
- You take a small piece of paper and divide it into three sections on each side
- You write down at most three to-do’s on each side (graded according to the importance — the first task is your #1 priority for the day)
- Then you start working off your tasks, starting from #1, then doing #2, and so on.
- If you finish all the tasks — great! If some are left, you transfer it to your sheet of the next day, or you decide that it is not relevant at all.
I love how easy yet effective this method is, and I can warmly recommend trying it out.
We often think that an endless to-do list is cool because it makes us feel productive, but the reality is the opposite.
Focusing on the important tasks is what will bring you forward in life.
3. Plan your next day
Besides writing down my to-do’s, also preparing the rest of my upcoming day is a vital part of my evening routine.
If I know what I need to tackle the next day, I am much more relaxed in the evening before.
I simply check my calendar, see if there are any appointments or events, and schedule the rest of my day according to it.
For example, I decide whether I am going to eat outside, what I am going to wear, when I need to leave the house, or which type of exercise I can fit into that day.
I like clear structures and plans, that’s why I freak out if I don’t have any idea regarding my next days and weeks.
However, even if you are a chaotic person, I am sure that planning your next day might be highly beneficial for your wellbeing and productivity.
A simple overview of your next day might save you a lot of time, energy, and even money, while it might probably just cost you two minutes, a pen, and a piece of paper or a calendar.
4. Get rid of screens
As mentioned above, I am mainly working from home. Thus, I sometimes work late at night and instead enjoy the sunny hours during the day by doing other activities.
However, what I take care of is getting rid of screens before bedtime.
The blue light emitted by your laptop or smartphone is harmful to your sleep.
By staring on your screen shortly before going to bed, you disturb your sleep hormones, and your body struggles to fall asleep.
Instead of watching TV or scrolling through social media, do some easy, relaxing activities and try to get rid of your screens.
What I do is to put my devices on flight mode at least 30 minutes before going to bed. In the best case, you do it even earlier.
Pro tip: If you really can’t stop using your devices, at least install a blue light blocker on your screens (I use f.lux). By doing so, your screens will turn into a red light, which is less harmful to your body and sleep. Most phones, including Samsung and iPhones, already have a “night feature” that you can simply turn on, which also reduces the blue light that is emitted.
Alternatively, you can also get yourself blue light blocking glasses.
5. Dim the light
Besides your screens, also dim the light in your room.
If exposed to too much bright light, your body doesn’t know if it’s day or night.
Thus, sleeping in becomes harder (just like it’s the case with screens).
Instead of turning on all the lights, use some candles and use your evening for calm, relaxed activities in a dark and cozy environment.
6. Do some stretching or light yoga
If you want to do something good for your body right before going to bed, choose yoga or some stretching exercises.
Heavy exercising is not favorable before bedtime as it boosts your metabolism.
Due to the increased heart rate, it is hard to calm down and fall asleep shortly after an excessive workout.
Stretching or yoga, on the contrary, calm you down and help you to get a clear head and fresh body.
Switch on some calm music and do your body a favor before going to bed.
Not only your body but also your mind will calm down and thank you.
What I can also recommend is to combine this light exercise with some breathing exercises.
I guess reading is the best way to relax before going to bed.
I love reading a good book and drinking a warm cup of tea before sleep. It’s my ultimate routine to chill and let go of stress.
I don’t read any fiction books at all, but I think that those are the best choice to read before bedtime.
However, for me, personal development books also work well. Of course, I wouldn’t read something too complicated, but a good, motivational book helps me to wind down and fall asleep easily.
On most days, I just read up to ten pages. And as I told you at the beginning:
Your evening routine doesn’t have to be very long. Let it be short and sweet. Ten minutes of reading is still much better than 10 minutes of useless social media or TV consumption.
8. Prepare your morning
I know, I’ve mentioned preparing the next day, but preparing your morning deserves an extra paragraph.
Just like an evening routine, a morning routine that energizes and excites you for the upcoming day is another secret sauce for success.
And what I experienced is that practicing a morning routine is much easier if you prepare everything on the evening before.
Here’s how I do it:
Every morning I drink a lot of warm water and tea with a few supplements like vitamins C and D.
To make it as easy as possible for myself, I prepare everything ahead so that I just have to press the button of my water kettle. My cup is ready, my tea bag is ready, and my supplements are right next to my cup when I enter the kitchen.
I love journaling and meditation in the morning, so I prepare my journal, a pen, and my headphones and put them on my couch. If I have to look for these things before getting started, I already get annoyed.
I also like exercising in the morning; thus, I prepare my gym clothes in advance so that going to the gym or doing a home workout gets as easy as possible.
9. Spend time with your loved ones
In my opinion, spending some quality time with your loved ones is the best thing to do before sleeping.
If possible, exchange ideas, share how your day was, and spread some love.
If your loved ones are not close to you, even a short phone call might boost your happiness and wellbeing before going to bed.
10. Get enough sleep
Last but not least: make sure to get enough sleep.
Many people are trying to boost their performance by sleeping less and working more.
Yet the truth is that sleep can be the number one performance hack if you get a fine rest.
There is nothing worse for your body than a lack of sleep.
Without sufficient sleep, you won’t be able to concentrate and deliver exceptional results anyway.
So make sure to go to bed early enough to get at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night.
The best you can do is to have a strict sleeping schedule and stick with your sleeping hours.