Morning and evening routines are the “bookends” of a prosperous life, argues Darren Hardy in his book, The Compound Effect.
In his book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey writes about the habits, routines, and rituals of history’s greatest minds.
After studying the great artists, Currey came to this conclusion:
“In the right hands, [a routine] can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism. A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”
The time between clocking out of work and hitting the sheets every night is golden — and it’s usually completely yours to schedule.
How you spend the hours before you go to bed reflects the value you place on the most important things in life. Using that time to pursue something meaningful to you will immensely improve your life.
What you do after work determines the rest of your future. A well designed evening routine can change the trajectory of your life.
“A well-designed life is a life that is generative — it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise. You get out of it more than you put in. There is a lot more than “lather, rinse, repeat” in a well-designed life, ” writes Bill Burnett in his book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.
The biggest problem many people have is finding TIME to pursue things, activities and projects that can completely help them decompress from work.
Striking a balance and committing quality time, attention and energy to things that help you relax can prepare your mind and body for the next day.
Instead of spending all of your evenings in front of a TV, you can really savour this time and make the most of it by trying out a host of new things.
Read for pleasure
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body, ” says Richard Steele.
Through reading, you can expose yourself to new things, models, principles, new ways to solve problems and new ways to achieve your goals.
Reading increases your understanding of the rules of life — the new knowledge can help you adapt, adopt and accommodate better into society.
Reading for fun promote cognitive progress and a whole kind of wisdom and wholeness. “…reading for pleasure can result in increased empathy, improved relationships with others, reductions in the symptoms of depression and dementia, and improved wellbeing,” according to The Reading Agency.
Reading not only boost your knowledge and intelligence, but it can also change your perception and improve your worldview.“Reading for pleasure isn’t separate from learning to read,” says Pam Allyn.
Even if you have 30 minutes every night, can easily read a few pages or chapters of your favourite book.
Pursue your favourite passion project
Starting and consistently doing or creating something will give you a sense of empowerment that can translate in the office as well.
Extracurricular outlets don’t just boost your sanity — they feedback into your daily work and can actually make you more productive.
The daily grind can easily overshadow passion project like writing a book, starting an online business, creating art, designing, learning to code
It’s not enough to show up to work on time, and do a good job — you have to cultivate your passion to enrich your life.
You could even make money from your passion project.
You can read about inspirational successful side projects in Chris Guillebeau’s book, Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days. He shows you how to select, launch, refine, and make money from your side hustle in under a month.
Learn more about a topic you are curious about
Exercise your curiosity after work.
Different skills, ideas, cultures, and opinions can have a positive effect on your own views about the world.
Acquiring new skills and gaining knowledge on a daily incremental basis is a proven way to take your career to the next level and improve your self-esteem.
Steve Job’s calligraphy course in college helped build the first Mac.
In his famous 2005 Commencement speech for Stanford University, Jobs said: “If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”
You never know what will be useful ahead of time. Try learning something new you’ve always wanted to learn. It may connect with the rest of your skills in the future. Take online courses that can help you start a passion project.
Take a course in a completely different domain
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
If you are interested in knowing more about a specific topic in a different domain, but never got around to learning more about it, you can make time in the evenings to learn it.
Whatever your path in life, committing to learning completely new skills outside your domain can advance your career and help you improve yourself.
Courses are a great way to gain new knowledge and skills. You can take full courses in programming, psychology, economics, negotiation, entrepreneurship, music and much more — all from the comfort of your home.
Online courses can provide you the time to dig deeper and truly master a new skill tr topic. Open Yale Courses and MIT Open CourseWare are two of the best places to learn about new topics, ideas, concepts, and better ways to solve problems in life and business.
You can also try Yale’s The Science of Well-Being to engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits. No matter what subject you’re interested in, some of these lectures are a good place to start.
Pick up an unusual artistic hobby
Beyond the usual hobbies you choose to do outside work, is there something new and different that can challenge you mentally?
If you are a web designer, you could learn how to paint? A writer can start a digital photography course to shot better pictures. A programmer can learn how to play an instrument or how to draw or better still how to invest.
You could also pick up drawing or painting in your spare time. There’s something almost magical about the brain connections when you get your hands dirty.
Besides relieving stress and engaging the whole brain, hands-on artistic pursuits are a form of “neurobics,” according to Dr Lawrence Katz in his book, “Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness.”
Artistic hobbies stimulate the brain to grow new ones by using the senses in new ways. They also challenge the brain to build new pathways.
Learning something new requires you to stretch yourself physically, mentally or emotionally. Any hobby that involves a great deal of attention to detail can stave off cognitive decline and improve your memory.
Build authentic and deeper relationships
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend. ” — Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was famous for his legendary dinner parties, where he’d invite people from different backgrounds and then pose a deep, philosophical question for everyone at the table to answer.
Jefferson understood the value of building genuine relationships and learning from others. You may not be able to meet people face-to-face in these challenging times but you can still connect with others and have conversations that go deeper than small talks.
Connecting with others is also inherently more rewarding. People with strong and healthy relationships are less likely to feel stressed by challenging situations.
“Social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being,” explains Dr Emma Seppala of Stanford Medicine.
The people you choose to surround yourself with have a bigger impact on your happiness, intelligence and total well-being than you think.
Take a cue from Jefferson and make time for meaningful conversations in the evenings. The connections you make or improve could change the course of your life and career.
Morning and evening routines prime us for success. They help us achieve more, think clearly, and do more of what brings out the best in us.
Build a better evening routine and set yourself up for success. Whatever you want to do is up to you. The key is to enjoy your evenings. A better evening routine can help to adequately disconnect, unwind and recharge.
And always remember what Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
This article originally appeared in Medium.