The Power of the Evening Routine
Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
Do you reach the end of the day wondering where and how you spent your time? Do you look at your task list and feel disappointed that you still haven’t ticked off the one thing that’s been on there the longest (and that you should have tackled first)? If so, there’s a tool you can use to become the master of your day.
When you wake up each morning what’s the first thing you do? For a lot of people they check their phones – diving into emails or social media. I’ve written before about the importance of having a structured morning routine to ensure your most precious part of the day doesn’t get taken over by the quick wins instead of prioritising the things that will take you over the line in the long term.
Having a structured evening routine will help you protect your morning to ensure you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go – without having to think about what lies ahead for the day.
Reflecting on today
An evening routine starts the moment you have finished work for the day. Start by ‘closing up the shop’. Turn off your work phone, tidy up your desk and say goodnight to work colleagues. These simple actions will psychologically help you to switch off from the day.
Then take some time (just five to ten minutes is sufficient) to reflect on the day you have had. We spend most of our lives looking ahead to what needs to be achieved, neglecting to look back and recognise the good work we have done. This can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction.
So review what went well in your day. Write down what you achieved and what you are proud of. Take a moment to reflect on what didn’t go well and what you have learned from the experience. No matter how small they may be, jotting down a few positive points will help to build momentum for the next day and inspire you to keep pushing forward.
Looking ahead to tomorrow
Having spent a few minutes reflecting on what’s happened it’s time to look ahead to the following day to ensure you make the best of it.
Here are three things you should include in your evening routine:
1. Identify your most important tasks
Your most important tasks (MITs) are the tasks that you need to complete that are non-negotiable. They should be the things that are either time sensitive or that support your bigger goals.
The night before write down between one to three things you MUST complete the following day. This will give you clarity on what you need to achieve and mean you wake up in the morning ready for action.
2. Review your calendar
Have one calendar and use it wisely.
Chunk your tasks into colour-coded blocks of time e.g. yellow for phone calls, purple for face-to-face meetings / appointments, green for deep work, blue for shallow work.
Each evening look at your calendar and familiarise yourself with the shape of the following day – mentally preparing for what lies ahead.
Keep a promise to yourself that you will stick to your commitments. By doing so you will create trust and trust is essential in the mastery of any system.
3. Have an essential items box
If you are someone who has a gym bag, work bag and laptop bag on the go at most times then it can get confusing juggling essential items between the bags.
Set aside a box that you can store all the small essential items that you might need with you when you leave the house each day e.g. wallet, keys, phone, glasses, gym pass, headphones. At the end of each day return these items to the box. Then in the evening you can pick out the ones you need the following day.
The box acts like a toolkit, giving you one place to store everything you might need and reducing the likelihood of forgetting anything.
The one thing you can do to be more productive
A lot of people let emails run their life and dictate how they spend their day. However, unless you work in a customer service role, email is not the core part of your job. It’s a to-do list that other people can write on.
We often check our emails out of habit, looking for the easy tasks to complete, rather than focusing on the more challenging ones that will move then needle forward.
Create the habit of not working out of your inbox i.e. turn your email client off. Check emails twice or three times a day (dedicating 30 minutes to 1 hour at a time) and then log out of your client when you are finished.
This might will feel uncomfortable to start with but it will free up your time to work on your daily MITs and ultimately help you to accomplish your goals.
How to take action right now
Using any tool for the first time can present some challenges so take things slowly. Start by choosing one thing you can do each evening to kick off your evening routine e.g. ‘closing up your shop’. Keep that one thing going for three to four weeks and then add in something else. Be comfortable with making changes to your routine. If something doesn’t feel right then tweak. Mastery lies in continuous improvement.
If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.
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