Tons of articles argue that having a consistent and optimized morning routine is the key to setting yourself up to be productive. However, how you end your day has just as much, if not more, influence on your success.Evenings are your brain’s time to recharge and, if you plan them strategically, you can improve your cognitive capabilities while enjoying time with your family, working on fun projects, and knocking items off your to-do list.
Here are five research-backed and easy-to-implement activities you should incorporate into your evening routine.
1. Let Your Mind Wander and Your Subconscious Take Over
To the greatest extent possible, stop paying attention to work when you leave the office. Instead, spend your evening hours contemplating life, your goals, upcoming social plans or nothing at all.
Studies have found that your brain activity increases when you let your mind wander. When you shift your thoughts away from your projects, it opens the door for your subconscious to take over and work its magic. Your subconscious brain can generate incredible insights because, unlike your conscious mind, it has unlimited access to your memories, creativity, and cognitive abilities.
By the time you revisit your challenges the next morning, you’ll be amazed by how much more clearly you’re able to think about your projects and by how quickly you generate innovative ideas.
2) Engage in Creative Pursuits
Even if you feel like you’re not a “creative type” it’s worth the effort to act like one in the evenings. Research shows that doing creative activities outside of work increases your problem-solving abilities. Evenings are the perfect time to do them because you’re not constrained by the pressures of work.
Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean going to painting classes or making ceramic art. Everyday activities like experimenting with new recipes, gardening and playing made-up games with your kids can all unleash the free-spirited thinking that boosts your cognitive abilities.
The key to benefiting from creative pursuits is not to structure them. You’re not at work so, the outcomes of whatever you do don’t matter. Letting yourself explore new possibilities without thinking about the results trains your brain to be open to more innovative thought processes.
3) Read to Enrich Your Mind and Slow it Down
If you’re hardwired to want to spend most of your waking hours being productive, find a bunch of fascinating books. Not only does reading help you wind down in the evenings, but it also has a massive impact on your ability to be successful.
A study of 1200 wealthy people discovered that the one thing they all have in common is that they love to read nonfiction books.
If you struggle to make time for reading and/or have difficulty falling asleep, schedule your reading time in the thirty to sixty minutes before bed.
There are several benefits to doing this:
- It relaxes you more than activities like drinking tea and listening to music.
- It improves your memory and cognitive, so you’re able to perform better during work hours.
- It stops you from staring at blue lights that make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
Though you need to read nonfiction books to yield the full cognitive benefits of reading before bed, you don’t have to limit yourself to books in your industry. Biographies, historical stories, sociology books, etc. can open your eyes to different perspectives and help your subconscious mind learn to think in new and divergent ways.
4) Knock the Simple Tasks of Your To-Do List
In addition to spending your evenings boosting your cognitive abilities, you should also knock all the tasks off your to-do list that require minimal mental capabilities.
Studies show that our willpower weakens as the day goes on. After work, most people lack the mental energy to make big decisions effectively. Take advantage of your tiredness by doing simple tasks like laundry, running errands, fixing small things around the house etc. By completing those items at night, you free up daytime hours to work on things that require more attention to detail.
5) Schedule Your Sleep
After you’ve done your mentally enriching activities and gotten prepared for the following day, it’s time to go to bed. Experts in the media frequently lament that American workers need to get more rest. While sleeping eight or more hours a day is ideal, it’s understandable if you can’t fit in that many hours on a regular basis.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to accept being sleep-deprived. According to Harvard Medical School, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can have a substantial impact on your quality of sleep.
Decide what hours you can reliably block off for sleep every night and stick with it. After a few weeks, this will set your biological clock to know that is the time for rest. Even if it’s only six to seven hours a night, you’ll likely feel better being on a schedule than having some nights where you get close to eight hours and others where you barely make five.
About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.