11 Afternoon and Evening Routines That Will Make You Much More Productive Tomorrow
These routines can help set you up for success.
10 min read
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Want to know the secret to any success? It’s having a routine. Daily routines do more than provide structure to our lives. These routines can help us save time, money and prioritize in a way that will make a difference success. What’s more, routines make us more efficient, reduce stress and help achieve our most important goals.
Routines are incredibly important, but we often believe the only focus should be on creating morning routines. While that’s definitely a step in the right direction, afternoon and evening habits and routines are equally important. The following eleven routines will make you more productive at work and life.
1. Stop while you’re ahead
I’ve been guilty of this for years. I rush to complete a task before lunch so that I don’t have to worry about it later on — because there are a million other things to do. However, a lot can be gained if you press pause.
“If you stop when you are doing good, then you know what you are going to say next,” author Roald Dahl explained. “You make yourself stop, put your pencil down and everything, and you walk away. And you can’t wait to get back because you know what you want to say next and that’s lovely.”
Stopping while you’re ahead, or at a certain point doesn’t just apply when composing content. The rule of making yourself stop can be used for nearly any job for two reasons.
- It saves your cognitive energy since you know exactly how you’ll be spending your afternoon.
- There’s the Zeigarnik Effect, a psychological phenomenon that essentially says that the brain needs to finish what it started.
2. Get up and move
Perhaps the best way to overcome those afternoon productivity slumps is to get your body moving. Making yourself move during the day is why Twitter co-founder began exercising when he was the least productive. “I used to go to the gym first thing in the morning,” he writes on the Coach.me blog.
“Exercise is, of course, great for energy levels, and I believe it makes me more productive no matter what.” However, “energy and focus naturally ebb and flow throughout the day. My focus is usually a great first thing in the morning, so going to the gym first is a trade-off of very productive time.
Instead, I’ve started going mid-morning or late afternoon (especially on days I work late),” he continues. “It feels weird (at first) to leave the office in the middle of the day, but total time spent is nearly the same with higher energy and focus across the board.”
If you aren’t fortunate to have easy access to a gym, then even just going to a walk outside will work. Or, you can try some easy exercises right in your office. The point is that you need to get the blood flowing to have a productive afternoon. And it will also help you sleep more soundly.
3. Take a micro-nap
Entrepreneurs like Thomas Edison and John D. Rockefeller were known for taking midday naps. More recently, companies Zappos, Ben & Jerry’s, and Cisco let employees take naps. The reason? Well, there’s several.
Napping boosts alertness and improves motor performance. It can also reduce stress and improve your mood. The key, however, is to keep naps under 30 minutes and take them between two p.m. and three p.m. A short rest at this time of day won’t interfere with your sleep at night.
4. Save the easy stuff for last
Most of us have more energy and focus in the morning, so it makes sense this should be the time when we focus on our most challenging or essential tasks. As for afternoons, they should be spent on less mentally-draining activities. These include organizing your inbox, filing paperwork, conducting research, or meeting with your team.
5. End your workday on a high note
“How you end the day is critical, as it has much to do with how you start the next day,” Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, told Forbes. Additionally, ending the workday on a good note makes you feel accomplished, and, it prevents you from bringing any work-related stress home.
Concluding your workday on a productive note can vary from person-to-person. Here are some suggestions on how to wrap-up your day at work:
- Reevaluate your to-do-list.
- Tidy-up your workspace.
- Finish non-peak work like responding to emails.
- Tie-up any loose-ends.
- Reflect on the day and jot down your accomplishments.
- Check-in with colleagues.
- Say goodbye to your team.
- Leave on a positive, like writing a thank you note to an employee who went above and beyond.
- Have a plan for your commute, so that the commute is productive.
- Disconnect and be present in your home.
- Leave work on time.
6. Chillax when you get home
When you come home from work, the best thing you should do is relax. Even though I know that you’re tempted to keep working, you need to take this time to relax and recharge so that you can be at peak performance tomorrow. Additionally, it ensures that you get to spend quality time with friends and family.
The moments of relaxation (whatever form your relaxing takes), right when you get home allows you to blow off some steam. According to the American Psychological Association, “the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby.”
On the flip side, the least effective strategies for relaxing: “are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.”
7. Do one thing that you love
Between juggling all of your work responsibilities and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, we sometimes forget to stop and enjoy life. As a result, we often sacrifice doing the things that we love. As a consequence, we put our emotional and mental well-being at risk.
Evenings are an ideal time to enjoy the things that make you happy. Whether if it’s reading, exercising, or socializing with friends, it’s important that you do something that you love daily. Paying attention to what makes you happy — won’t just improve your mood — it will also boost your productivity, motivation, and overall health. It will also strengthen relationships and gives you fresh perspectives.
8. Eliminate negativity and reflect
“The evening is the perfect time of the day to reflect on your day and focus on gratitude over negativity,” writes Choncé Maddox in an article for Calendar. “Instead of thinking about what went wrong during the day, write down a few key highlights and what you’re grateful for.”
“This could also be a good time to reflect on your goals and review your progress,” adds Maddox. “Since during the day you’ll be focused on taking action, you can take a moment to slow down and assess how things are going at night before bed.”
Another effective way to reduce negative inputs at night is to avoid negative news and conversations. Remember, you want to keep your evenings as light and stress-free as possible.
9. Prepare for tomorrow
The suggestion to prepare for tomorrow is pretty self-explanatory. Look over your calendar to see what’s on the agenda. More importantly, your preparation helps you determine your goals and objectives. Not only will this assist you in prioritizing your tasks for tomorrow, but you’ll start thinking about these items and steps as you sleep.
“Identifying daily priorities might seem like an obvious or insignificant step to take, but writing your most important tasks down the previous night turns your subconscious mind loose while you sleep and frees you from worrying about being unprepared,” write Jason Selk, Tom Bartow, and Rudy Matthew in their book: Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life. “You’ll probably find that you wake up with great ideas related to the tasks or conversations that you hadn’t even considered.”
Other ways to prepare for tomorrow would be to layout your clothes and prep your meals. Most people set up the coffeemaker to turn on and be ready and organize all work materials. Having the morning prep done and ready to go provides an organized beginning to your day.
10. What good did I do today?
Scrap the “done and to-do-lists” and replace them with “a good list.” The practice of doing good, and having a checklist to match and check off each day — was something the Benjamin Franklin used to do.
Franklin, as Jayson DeMers explains in another Entrepreneur piece, “Benjamin Franklin ended each day with a carefully mapped day — by asking one single question, ‘What good did I do today?’” However, Demers adds that entrepreneurs should “take a slightly more structured approach to examine your day” by reviewing “your schedule, projects, and insights.”
You can also ask the three following questions:
- What progress did I make toward my vision and goals today?
- What am I grateful for today, specifically?
- Finally, what improvements can I make with what I learned?
11. Turn your bedroom into a cave
Want to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep? Then think of your bedroom as a cave. Yes, a cave means that it should be dark, a cool temperature, and quiet. Before going to sleep, set the temperature to between 65 and 72 degrees. If it’s in the middle winter or a colder spell — wear some socks. Draw your opaque curtains or blackout shades, and, don’t play around on your phone or tablet.
You shouldn’t even look at any electronic devices at least an hour before sleep — it’s a great time to read. If you don’t have curtains or noise is an issue, there are other ways to fix this problem. The easiest for solving sound and light is to purchase a sleep mask and earplugs.