Here at Asian Efficiency we are big fans of rituals – small sequences of step-by-step actions that put you in a certain mood, state or frame of mind for getting something done. We’ve written and talked extensively about the importance of having physical energy and how having a good morning ritual helps with that. The rituals you go through during the day are the focus of most of our articles, for example, how to use OmniFocus and the Pomodoro Technique together. The last piece of the puzzle is what you do to wind down at the end of the day – your evening ritual.
Simply put, a good evening ritual is supposed to help you get a good night’s sleep. It’s also supposed to help you rest, relax and reset in preparation for the next day. I like to think of it as a set of interrelated components that help you get a better night’s sleep. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Evening Ritual Ingredients
Here’s the order that I’d recommend as a starting point for building your own evening ritual. Obviously, each component can be swapped with another, and unlike your morning ritual, everything is fairly interchangeable:
- Social Media clearing.
- Journal entries.
- Write down stray thoughts.
- Eat something light.
- Use the bathroom.
- Visualization exercises.
- Light stretching.
- Read some fiction.
Social Media Clearing
This is a fancy way of saying check your email, your Facebook, your phone, your twitter and anything else that people use to communicate with you, and then turn them off or put them on silent. Consider it the last time you’ll be checking all these devices for the day. If you use an alarm to wake up in the morning, now is the time to set it.
It is basically checking your daily outcomes against what you had planned in the morning, and doing some quick analysis. It provides a closure to the productive aspects of your day. We have a more in-depth look at this here.
Grab a notebook and write down everything that’s leftover in your mind – essentially, clear your thoughts in preparation for sleep. I personally find that physical pen and paper works better than typing into a computer or tablet.
Eat Something Light
Eating something light (like fruits and nuts and yoghurt) seems to help with energy levels in the morning. You’ll have to experiment with this one – it works differently with different people, and I had a hard time tracking down any conclusive studies about pre-bedtime food, sleep quality and morning energy levels.
A hot (or cold) bath as one of your last activities during the day helps calm you down and puts you in the right frame of mind for relaxing and sleeping.
You can either do visualization exercises before going to sleep, or as you’re going to sleep (i.e., after lights out). The options for visualization exercise are endless: you can do breakdowns of your business or life, your goals, your outcomes, you can picture your best self, you can picture your self sleeping and so on. Anywhere from 5-30 minutes is fine, depending on what you’re comfortable with.
Some light stretching before sleep fools your body into thinking that it’s already relaxed and resting.
Remember when you were a kid and you used to read or have someone read to you before going to sleep? It’s little wonder that children tend to sleep really well. Nothing disconnects you better than going off to the fictional world of your choice and leaving all the thoughts, ideas, worries and responsibilities of the real world behind. 15-30 minutes should be more than enough.
Note: This means reading. No TV. No video games. No web browsing. And don’t read anything that overstimulates you either (I’m thinking Matthew Reilly novels here).
If you’ve done everything above, sleep should come pretty naturally at the end of your evening ritual.
Here are some additional concepts for crafting a better evening ritual:
- Don’t stop moving morning to night. The more you do during the day, the more energy you expend and the more you’ll have a natural tendency to fall asleep at the end of the day. If you can fit in some daily exercise, that’s even better.
- Give yourself enough time to sleep. For most people, this is from 7-9 hours. Any less and you’re really damaging your daytime productivity (no matter what the sleephackers say). More is usually better than less, and realize that if you’re slightly hyperactive (like me), you’ll need more sleep than other people. Check out AE Thanh’s excellent article on sleeping your way to the top of productivity.
- It’s fine to sleep in on weekends. Mostly because we don’t get enough sleep during the week, and sleep debt is cumulative. Use your weekends to pay it off. Remember that nobody’s sleeping schedule is perfect, it’s all give-and-take.
- Put together your own evening ritual from the components that we’ve discussed here. Then put it in your task manager of choice as a daily repeating list.
- Start using it.
- Experiment with the order of components to find what gets you from Daytime Efficient Asian™ to relaxed and ready to sleep the fastest.