I can’t count the number of blogs I’ve read on the importance of beginning a morning routine. You hear so often about how everyone’s lives would be better if they just got up a little earlier and did a little more in the morning. While I’m fully in support of taking advantage of your mornings, it seems to me that finishing your days well is just as important as starting them well. If you’re ending your days feeling exhausted, stressed, and behind in your work, here are some ways to make that time a little more positive.
1. Be Realistic About Your Day
The problem with to-do lists is that they never seem to end. This is why in a previous post I mentioned I was going to work on something called a “ta-da!” list, which is listing everything that I did get done, rather than what I didn’t.
Sit down with either a pen and paper or a digital way of taking notes — for this particular exercise, I like the satisfaction of writing it out physically, but you can do whatever feels comfortable to you. Now, starting from the beginning of your day, write down every single thing that you accomplished today.
Here’s the thing, though: don’t write down only what you would write down on a to-do list. Write down every single thing you’re glad you did today, for one reason or another. Here’s an example:
- Ate a healthy breakfast
- Did laundry
- Sent three freelancing pitches
- Called Mom
- Got coffee with my sister
- Walked the dog
Everything counts. The way I frame it is I list everything that I believe was worth the time I spent on it. Once you’ve finished making your list, take a good, long look at it. Let it both encourage you about how much you got done (which is likely more than you’d realized) and challenge you to make your time tomorrow count.
2. Practice Gratitude
You’ve probably seen thirty blog posts on the importance of practicing gratitude. The reason is that it matters a lot. Now that you’re already feeling grateful for what you got done, use that same sheet of paper (or app) to make a list of things you’re grateful for today. Start with three, but if you can keep going, feel free! These don’t have to be giant things — maybe you got to see a beautiful sunset today and your favorite song came on the radio on your commute. Take time to be grateful for the little things.
However you choose to make your gratitude list, save it somewhere you can go back through it any time you’re having a bad day. Every day you add to it (or create another list), you give yourself more ways to cultivate contentment in your life.
If you want to take this step to the next level, you can also check out a guided gratitude meditation online.
3. Plan for Tomorrow
Planning may sound like the opposite of peace, but the reality is, putting what you need to get done down on paper will help stop you from ruminating over it when you’re trying to sleep. Start simple: make a list of the three most important things you need to get done tomorrow. If you have things you’re worrying about for tomorrow, write those down, too. Lay out an outfit for yourself to make the morning easier.
4. End Your Day With Intention
How many times has your last action before going to bed been scrolling endlessly through your Facebook or Instagram feed? Or maybe you made the mistake of getting on Netflix, and now you’re on an endless cycle of “just one more episode.” I propose a solution: get the screens out of your bedroom, or at the very least make them inaccessible from your bed. Those emails, notifications, and decade-old episodes can wait.
Instead of getting sucked into more aimless screen time, decide ahead of time what you want to do right before bed. Maybe it’s talking to your significant other, reading a good book, or spending time in prayer or personal reflection. Whatever it is, make sure it’s not work related or something that’s going to keep you up when you’re trying to sleep. Then take your time just before bed doing this — on purpose. Ending your day with something intentional, rather than something you got sucked into, will make for a much more peaceful night.
What about you? How do you wind down and create space in your evenings?