Let me first confess though: this one is actually much harder for me than the morning routine. It’s not because I’m tired, but because I’m not tired in the evenings. I’m a night owl through and through. Always have been. This is also why, as I’ve previously explained, I assumed it was best to start with forming my morning routine, and making it compelling and enjoyable, so that it would help motivate and dictate my actions and feelings in the evening.
I need all the motivation and help for winding down in the evenings I can get!
I won’t explain much more of “why an evening routine” because, at this point, I feel it’s sorta self-evident from the “why I’m finally making a morning routine” post. They just have to pair together to accomplish the same desires. They’re a bit useless without each other. The only additional “why” that there is comes up in this reality of how hard it is for me to wind down and go to sleep.
Even if I’m physically tired (which is a relative term), I can feel so driven to “accomplish” something in the evenings I can convince myself I’m not tired and suddenly find that it’s 3 a.m. and I’m still going on things. This is especially true if the work involves staring at a screen — which much of my work does — because this is essentially anti-sleep, light-box therapy. #oppositeofwhatIneed
So, I know that my evening routine must be, similar to my morning routine chief requirement, highly enjoyable and involving something I desire to accomplish more of, but, different from my morning routine, not involving a computer screen!
This process will most definitely be one of trial and error to figure out what is best for me, and there is no allowing self-condemnation for messing it up quite often (or else I’ll never actually enjoy doing it well when I do).
One more important thing to note: I have no idea what an optimal range of sleep is for myself because I have never in my life had a consistent baseline for testing this. No exaggeration at all when I say, like I did in my “why morning routine” post, I have never had a regular routine of any kind! This includes sleep! So, I’m not aiming for a certain amount of hours for sleep; I’m aiming for being able to freely fall asleep when my body needs to after waking at 5 a.m. the morning before. #keepitsimple
The Current Process
- An alarm goes off everyday at 9:00 p.m. in my office and it means all computer stuff must be shut off asap. This is the beginning of the evening routine. This “screen-off” rule applies to my computer, but not to my phone. I intentionally try to look at it and use it less, but it also has a really strong night-shift filter on it cause it’s an Android. It’s also simply much less tempting for falling down a big project rabbit hole on a tiny mobile phone.
- I eat again if needed and any other body care and hygiene activities. Depending on when I ate supper, and what that was, I may need to get more food and water. I believe the whole “don’t eat before bedtime” teaching is a dumb and horrible myth, and, either way, I know I’ll sleep better if my body is well nourished with what it needs. I also might shower if needed, brush my teeth, or whatever else might be timely for my bodily care.
- I set the coffee maker and get other stuff ready for the morning. I just try to put everything in place so that I can simply wake up and go for it in the morning. Everything from food to computer and notebook and more. I also decide, if I haven’t already, what I’ll be writing on in the morning. This leads naturally to the next phase.
- I stretch and think and pray. I realize this falls into the “bodily care” activity as above, but it’s not only that to me. My wife has been influencing me on the need to spend more time stretching and aligning the muscles and skeleton more, and I’m in agreement with all that, but for me it also provides a nice time of separation and contemplation. Separation from the day’s work and contemplation on what the day’s activities have meant and what will be needed for tomorrow. I’ll likely think and pray about this stuff with God while I stretch. I may also jot down thoughts or tasks for tomorrow as the evening goes on. I have a project management app in my phone that’s good for this.
- Say goodnight to my wife. My wife is still somewhat inconsistent on when she stretches and goes to bed, so this makes the timing of my evening stuff harder. Either I’m joining her in the stretching above, and then saying goodnight, or sometimes it’s happening the other way around and I do stretching by myself after she falls asleep. Either way, I’ll lay down when she does and we usually just talk, pray, read a short devotional or something, and say goodnight pretty quick. When she’s tired and falling asleep, she’s tired and falling asleep!
- I read until I’m tired and falling asleep. Here’s the part that’s truly the motivating and enjoyable thing I look forward to in the evening that I’m intentionally desiring to do more of. Since I want to do more long-form reading of books, I’m plowing through books in the evening. Some evenings it’s just a mere couple pages and sometimes it’s quite a lot. I used to think, and was even told, I couldn’t read non-fiction or things I think about regularly because then I’d just get wound-up. However, I’m finding that is only the case if I haven’t worked hard enough in the day. Usually, if I’ve spent myself well in the day, by the time I’m reading a book at night, of any kind, I’m going to be falling asleep pretty soon. However, “soon” has no requirements! It could be an hour or two and that’s just fine! Whatever is needed.
To be fair and honest, I pretty much always do one last thing as well, and I’m not sure what I think about it yet… I will almost always pick up my phone and watch all my friend’s Instagram stories and scroll through Instagram. I’ve been trying to get better at using Instagram, and thus this has begun to form by accident. So far I can’t tell that it’s hindering me from sleep (I keep my phone night-shifted (red-shifted), but I don’t know if it’s an actually harmful practice. It still seems out of place, even if I then just plug my phone in, double check my alarms, and go to sleep.
I am, possibly idealistically, desiring a bedroom that has no phones in it and all alarms and devices are plugged in outside of the bedroom. I’m still working this out and will update this if we ever get that figured out.
This is the whole routine as it stands though! Ready for the morning again!