My evening routine made me a better writer and a healthier person

Why are we so obsessed with morning routines?

Morning routine posts are still SO popular. This has been going on for years!

And I’m the biggest sucker for them. I’ll click ‘read more’ on anything that begins with “here’s how I start my day!”

(Side note — apparently our obsession with morning routines dates all the way back to Benjamin Franklin…!)

Unfortunately, I’ve come to realise that all the great morning routines are missing something.

Because my best days don’t start in the morning — they start the night before.

Evening routines changed my mornings

Since I’ve started ritualising my evening wind-down, I’ve solved a lot of problems.

For example, writing: I’d spend all this morning time preparing to write (coffee, shower, sunlight) and then sit down…

And stared at a blank page. It never got any easier, no matter how well my day started.

Another one was the gym: I made it to the gym most mornings, but I’d show up without a workout plan, and without setting the necessary intention for having an awesome training session.

I was putting in the effort, doing the right things, but not getting the results I wanted. It’s like I had all the right ingredients, but I was undercooking them all and getting a shitty meal as a result.

The work before the work

That all changed when I started consistently doing an evening routine that consisted of five simple steps.

And the reason is pretty simple: Preparation wins.

“He who is best prepared can best serve his moment of inspiration.” — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Like so many other things in life, the prep work often matters as much, if not more, than the work work.

And it turns out that an evening routine was exactly what I needed to get the most out of my morning.

Here are the steps I implemented, which made a big different not just on my mornings, but my whole day

Step 1: Log off early and reflect on the day

I finish my work at 5:30–6:00pm every night and hand write anwers to these four questions:

  • what was the best part of today?
  • what did I get done?
  • what did I miss out on?
  • what do I need to do tomorrow?

Why?

I finish early because I stack all my most important work early and because I want to be present at home with my wife and kids.

And the evening reflection helps me keep on track with my goals and ensure I’m ready for tomorrow.

Step 2: Prep food and clothes

After logging off, I spend time with my wife and two kids. It’s crazy, but it’s awesome.

Around 8:30pm, I’ll prep my food for tomorrow (breakfast, lunch) and get my clothes ready for the next day.

If you don’t lay out your clothes before you go to sleep…you are missing out on one of life’s great joys: The joy of thanking yourself, every morning, for being so damn organsied the night before — it’s great.

This is an important step because it creates space for the important stuffi n the morning. I don’t want to be running around getting my food and clothes ready in the morning, when I could be in deep work mode getting my writing done.

Step 3: Plan tomorrow’s writing

I write everyday and I publish everyday.

Those are two seperate goals, and they require lots of time and energy (and deliver huge benefits in return). The writing is private (and often turns into these blog posts) and the publishing is public (and goes on LinkedIn).

I’ve found that I can avoid the blank page problem discussed earlier by taking just 10 minutes to plan my writing for tomorrow morning.

I’ll list 10–15 bullet points on what I want to write about, and what I’m planning to post on LinkedIn.

I cannot overstate how profound this habit has been for me. It’s so simple, but the blank page problem is so painful, and having ideas ready to go is such a massive asset. I can’t recommend it enough.

Step 4: Sleepy tea and ZMAs

I’m not sure about these two things, but every night I drink a steaming cup of sleepy tea and chug a shaker full of ZMAs.

There is some research to back up the sleep benefits of ZMAs, with Examine.com summarising:

An improvement in sleep quality has been noted in persons with poor sleep quality, no studies assess persons with normal sleep function.

Whatever the science says, these two things have noticeably improved my ability to get into a deep sleep quickly, which helps me wake up feeling rested and ready to go.

Step 5: Three good things journal

The final step is the most simple, and perhaps not the most productive.

But it contributes the most to my overall wellbeing and happiness.

Lying in bed, I whip out my phone and write bullet point notes under the following headings

  • Three good things that happened today
  • Three things I’m looking forward to tomorrow

It’s like a gratiude journal, but it’s better.

I always end up writing more than three things in each category. It’s a nice way to close out the day and think about what’s to come the next.

Wrap up

My mornings are the most important and productive part of my day.

But no matter how good my routine was, I didn’t get the maximum benefits of great morning habits until I implemented a complementary evening routine.

Here are the simple steps that have worked so well for me:

  1. Log off early and reflect on the day
  2. Prepare tomorrow’s food + clothes
  3. Plan tomorrow’s writing
  4. Drink sleepy tea and ZMAs
  5. Three good things journal in bed

I’d love to hear from you — have you found an evening routine that works really well?

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