How to Create your Evening Routine
I’m no early bird, but the morning is always easier when I have completed my evening routine the night before.
I fill entire notebooks creating morning routines and they never last. In the mornings, I usually find that my mind goes straight into overdrive, and not in a good way.
In positive periods, I can get a hundred things done before breakfast. When I’m low? I’m lucky if I can get out of bed in time to run to work in a mess, feeling like a failure. I spend a good hour or so first agonising about all the things that might go wrong, mounting up reason after reason not to get out of bed.
The past few months, I have started to come to terms with the fact that I am just not at my best in the mornings, and that’s okay. Medication for mental health issues has helped in the past, but as I am currently awaiting a potential new diagnosis, I am trying to live on far fewer antidepressants than my body is accustomed to.
As a night owl trying to live in a 9-5 world, I can’t change the fact that I don’t function well at all before 8am. What I have started to do, is to take charge of my evenings and use them to make my mornings as painless as possible.
After all, there’s no point in throwing all your energy at a perfect, 6am, ‘miracle’ morning if you simply cannot get to bed before 1am without intervention.
Think of your evening routine as gentle intervention. You deserve a good night’s sleep, but don’t be fooled into thinking it comes naturally.
Here are my top tips, as a person who has tried and failed at many morning routines, and frequently finds myself up late by accident.
How to Create Your Evening Routine
This one is tough.
Getting to bed on time seems like the simplest thing in the world. That doesn’t mean it will be easy.
I’ve seen myself go to bed at 10pm, get up from 12-2am to do all the things I wanted to do before bed but didn’t have time to do, and then crawl back into bed around 3, finally exhausted and facing the prospect of 4 hours of sleep to get me ready for a full day.
I spend the whole day knackered and telling myself I will go to bed early. But when 10pm rolls around again, I am terrified to go to bed. I feel like I need to leave the kitchen spotless, my bedroom has to be tidy and I should have already made breakfast.
This whole evening routine thing is a balancing act. Plan to stick to it, but prepare to forgive yourself for the times it just doesn’t work out.
You are not the problem here. You’re just figuring out a routine that works for you.
Use Your Mornings to Plan Your Evenings (and vice-versa)
Reverse-engineering sounds like an impressive concept, but it’s really just common sense and it’s hugely helpful for our purposes.
Pick which time you want to get up. Then, count back however many hours sleep you think you need. If you struggle with this, I love this tool which calculates how many sleep cycles you probably need and gives you a bedtime based on your alarm time, or vice versa.
Next, think about your mornings. What could you do in the evening to make your mornings less painful?
– Pack your bag for school or work
– Check the weather forecast and lay out an outfit for the next day
– Have your dressing gown and slippers nearby in case it’s cold in the morning when you need to get up
– Fill the kettle and lay out coffee/tea and your favourite mug, all ready to boil and pour
Some of these are a bit of effort, like packing your bag. Some, like picking an outfit, are far easier the night before when your brain is still working and isn’t in the throes of sleep.
My evening routine also involves packing my lunch and laying out breakfast. What would work best for you?
Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Wind-Down
If you’re one of those people who falls asleep in fourteen minutes, then you may not need to factor in so much time.
I try to get to bed for 10pm, but I know for a fact I tend to take at least an hour to fall asleep.
I listen to Harry Potter audiotapes or long historical non-fiction on repeat, without fail, every single night. And I often find myself resetting the sleep timer, but that is fine. If you struggle with a ‘noisy mind’ like me, then I recommend listening to something you know well to distract yourself at bedtime.
That way, it’s easy enough to fall asleep because you already know the story well and you aren’t missing out. At the same time, you have something to concentrate on, other than whatever your brain is telling you is important at that time (it usually isn’t more important than sleep, promise).
Figure Out How to Look Forward to Bedtime
We live in a world where everyone loves sleeping, right? Well, I love sleeping (hence the morning problems!) I just cannot get there very easily.
If you find yourself putting off bedtime because you simply aren’t tired, try to create a new routine that you look forward to.
For me right now, it’s Audible. I listen to audiobooks every single night – history if I’m feeling adventurous and good old Harry Potter read by Stephen Fry if I’m feeling vulnerable and worried about sleep. I usually drift off within the hour, now, which is pretty crazy considering my old routines (update November 2019).
If It Isn’t Serving You, Let It Go
A routine is not a rule.
I struggle with this hugely, so apologies for being a dirty, great hypocrite here but I want to share my own mistakes as well as my little successes with my bedtime battles.
If 10pm rolls around and you haven’t done anything on your list – breathe.
Stop what you are doing, pick up the last few, most essential steps (washing, pyjamas, bed) and don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you MUST do everything before you can sleep.
Haven’t packed your lunch? You’ll probably have time in the morning, and if not, you can probably grab something on the way.
Haven’t laid out an outfit? You’ll probably still manage to put clothes on. It’s absolutely fine. In that whole list – prioritise sleep. The rest of it doesn’t really matter. Sleep is essential. Don’t let any one, or any to-do list, tell you different.