When the evening is carefully planned, the morning goes smoothly.
Morning routines get a lot of attention. When I searched the term on TreeHugger, I found no less than eight articles on the topic of optimizing one's start to the day. One of them was my own list of goals for a better morning routine in 2018, most of which I continue to follow.
But what I now think we should pay more attention to is the evening routine. After all, this is what prepares us for the following morning and sets the stage for success. Depending on how I've spent the previous evening, my morning routine will feel smooth or rough, productive or aimless. This is why my focus has shifted more toward ensuring that I spend my evening well, because when it's taken care of, the morning always goes well.My evening routine is very consistent. I stop drinking caffeine by 3 p.m. I go to the gym at 4:30, when my husband comes home from work and can take over the parenting and dinner prep. When I get home, I help finish up supper and then we sit down to eat with the kids at 6. The remaining hour until their 7 o'clock bedtime is spent eating, getting the kids ready for bed, reading stories, and talking about the day.
After the kids are tucked in, my husband and I finish up the dishes. I have a hot shower or bath, and spend 1-2 hours in my pyjamas on the couch, usually reading, sometimes baking, talking on the phone, or watching Netflix. It's my crucial daily downtime. I always drink a cup of mint tea and often munch on popcorn. My husband either hangs out with me or does a workout in our garage, then we both get ready for bed at the same time. Lights are out by 9:30 and alarms are set for 5:30, which ensures a solid eight hours of sleep.
When I stick to this routine, it's not hard to get up in the morning. But throw in a midweek invitation, drinks out with friends on a Thursday night, or an extra-curricular activity that causes us to have a late dinner, and suddenly the next morning's success is far from guaranteed. I feel groggy, irritable, and rushed, none of which is beneficial for writing or parenting.
I am not the only one who feels this way. The Financial Diet's Lifestyle Fix series has an episode that talks about the importance of a solid evening routine. Host Tasha has some advice:
– Get home early. She has structured her entire life around this, turning down job offers and pay raises and changing where she lives in order to make sure she's home by 4:30 every day.
– Look at the schedule. Tasha takes an hour every Sunday to outline her plan for the week and reviews it each evening to prepare for the next day. She checks the weather and plans accordingly.
– Prepare food and coffee the night before. Get ahead with tasks that will make the morning go more smoothly, such as making lunches and programming coffee to make itself.
– Keep evenings empty. Say no to social obligations that will mess up the routine. Save errands for early Saturday mornings. Don't cook complicated, messy meals.
– Set bedtimes. Tasha is in bed every weeknight by 8:30 and she always goes to bed with her husband, which gives them time to hang out. Her children have bedtimes, too, even the 17-year-old whose bedtime is calculated based on her need for nine hours of sleep per night.
This is smart advice. Analyzing and tweaking your evening will automatically improve your morning and, by extension, your whole day.