If you are a high-achiever, chances are you’ve already thought about your morning routine. But while the way you start the day sets the tone for the hours that follow (and the hours that matter the most), what you do in the evening can also end up having an impact on your career performance.
If you tend to kick your shoes off and crack open a bottle of wine with a sigh of relief after a long day powering through meetings, project deadlines, putting out unexpected fires and dealing with traffic, you might want to be more intentional about your evening routine. There is nothing wrong with happy hour, but if you want to take your performance to the next level your energy-management efforts should focus on an all-around lifestyle that doesn’t stop once you’re off the clock and start when your alarm rings.
So, are you ready to optimize your evenings for success? The following rituals will help you get better sleep, de-stress, prioritize, and become an all-star on the professional playing field. I have personally adopted all of these practices at one point or another throughout the years, and they have been inspired by coaches and mentors, friends in high-pressure careers, as well as the habits of some of the world’s most successful people.
1. Having a “buffer” activity
One of my coaches once suggested I use an anchor — a physical cue such as tapping the side of my leg — every time I transitioned from one activity to the other so that I could then use my anchor to give my brain and body a signal it’s time to unwind when getting home after work. Look, I get it. When you’re passionate about what you do and eager to reach your goals, your career can easily occupy all your thoughts without it feeling like a bad thing.
However, creating moments when you truly disconnect not only allows you to have a well-rounded life but also to be more productive and impactful in the long run. Having a “buffer” activity to transition between work and play gears you up for switching modes. From hitting the gym right after work to taking a long bath as soon as you get home, find something that works for you and helps you leave your work at work for the evening. This is still — or even more — important if you work from home.
2. Meditation or gentle yoga
One of the goals of your evening ritual should be lowering your stress levels as you get ready to embrace a slower pace and hit the sheets for a restful night of sleep. The benefits of mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga for reducing anxiety and calming the nervous system are well-documented. For example, this article published in Ancient Science concludes meditation can basically rewire your brain for the better.
Apps like Calm are a great way to introduce mindfulness practice to your routine. And there is also plenty of free guided meditation or yoga videos on YouTube to guide your efforts.
3. Keeping a journal next to your bed
Are you the type of person who tends to get creative ideas right as you are about to doze off? If so, you and I have one thing in common. I keep a journal by my bed to scribble down any bursts of inspiration as they pop up so I can go to sleep with the reassurance that I won’t forget them.
Journaling before bed is also a great habit: It allows you to process your day and clear your mind of any worries (just writing them on a piece of paper can be cathartic) while also setting yourself up for success the next morning. For example, you can review your wins of the day to keep a positive mindset and celebrate your progress, as well as assess what didn’t go so well and what you can learn from it for next time. Finally, the act of writing down pending to-dos and important priorities for the next day allows you to go to bed feeling like those tasks will be taken care of and you don’t need to obsess over them. Which, in turn, makes your mornings more intentional.
4. Quality time with loved ones
According to the book “Top Five Regrets of the Dying” written by palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware, one of the most common regrets expressed by dying patients was “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Why? Many career-oriented people felt like they had missed out on seeing their kids grow up or enjoying the company of their partners.
Spending quality time with loved ones in the evenings allows you to connect to the more meaningful reasons behind your drive for achievement, and to cultivate gratitude for the things that truly matter the most to you. It’s so easy to get caught up replaying a stressful work interaction or ranting over an outcome gone wrong, but at the end of the day, it’s important to find ways to keep things into perspective — on a daily basis. Cuddling someone you love or seeing the smile of your child light up a room will help you do just that.