Do you ever feel like you could be more productive in the time you have before falling asleep? Or maybe you are waking up already feeling overwhelmed by the day ahead? Maybe a sugary treat and Netflix is just not cutting it anymore?
That was definitely me. Over the past year, it felt so good getting my infant daughter to sleep, that all I wanted to do was reward myself with a good show, a glass of wine, and a bowl of ice cream. The unserving diet aside, I soon realized how unsustainable this was.
After a few months, I realized I needed to develop a nightly routine. And yes, I said months.
In the spirit of honest forgiveness, I was really hard on myself during that time, making plans to do more, but my body was telling me to rest. There were times when my self-flagellation was more harming to me than the nightly ice cream.
For anyone struggling right now with carrying out plans or achieving goals—Just know that it is ok to take your time. The journey always happens as it should, and you will get where you want to be. Listen to your body, and forgive yourself if you need to.
Give yourself that permission to fail, and try another night.
And that is my journey to creating my nightly routine:
This routine is intended to start after you have already completed your schedule for the day.
I recently realized that I am much more productive at night than I am in the morning, so I added some work time and exercise time to my night before I start in on this routine.
Actually, it was largely thanks to trying to implement a routine that I learned more about my optimum times for productivity.
If you are not naturally a night person, then you might just start this routine right after your responsibilities are done, or you might have a few more hours left in you.
I highly suggest keeping a log the first week you implement the routine; it helped me uncover a lot of unexpected process changes that I realized served my routine better.
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The order I put the steps in is not always the order they happen. It is often important to go with the flow your body is telling you for that night.
For example, last night, I didn’t shower after working out, and only washed my face. Yeah, gross, whatever, I was fully exhausted.
I wanted sleep. It wasn’t part of my routine, but I listened to my body and did what I had to do. I forgave myself.
But it is this outline that I always come back to in order to ensure I finish up my day with intentional productivity and set my next day up to be the next best day ever.
It is ok to be flexible, as long as we still make the time to do the things we need to do, and sometimes those things might just be Netflix, wine, and ice cream.
But when you are deep into your flow of productivity, here are some steps I find extremely helpful for my nightly routine:
1. The 15 Minutes Tidy:
I discovered this phrasing somewhere in the land of Pinterest Productivity Goals, and found it is the perfect technique for staying on top of an organized living space.
My understanding is that if you spend just 15 minutes tidying up, the mess will stay manageable and you won’t feel overwhelmed trying to pick the whole house up once a week (hopefully!).
My favorite part about this is the specific time parameters.
I found once I started timing myself doing tasks I hated, they actually took a lot less time than I imagined.
For example, I am not a fan of washing dishes.
One day in my old apartment, I could no longer ignore the pile of dishes in the sink, and set a timer for a manageable 10 minutes. Next thing I knew I had moved on to cleaning off the stove, because I finished the dishes and the timer wasn’t up yet!
Point being, you can get a lot more done than you might think in 15 minutes. There were times in its application that I went looking for things to do because I had more time than I needed. And times I only do 5 minutes.
I found that this step worked best if I did it right at the beginning of the second part of my night (after my daughter falls asleep). Even if I have a virtual class meeting or a call before ending my day, it was best to get this out of the way, and it would also set me up really well for the next step.
2. Prepare for Tomorrow:
If done properly, you will leave the house the next day feeling like you’ve forgotten something because it should not have taken you that quickly to walk out the door.
But you didn’t forget anything, you just set yourself up for success the night before. That’s what this step is all about.
Since I started getting my & my daughter’s lunch ready at night, the time I spend getting us out the door in the morning dropped from 20 minutes to 5 minutes.
Because I lay my clothes out the night before, I don’t have to start thinking until my brain is fully awake.
Lately I have been cheating on breakfast with a drive through Dunkin’ run, but the goal is to have my smoothie ingredients prepped, and ready to just throw in the blender (maybe even make it the night before!).
Once everything is physically set out (this takes me about 12 to 15 minutes), I sit down at my computer and set my to-do list and schedule the next day. I don’t finalize this until right after I journal in case anything else comes up.
This step also helps slow down my mind, and get me ready for a little intentional relaxation in the next step.
3. Wash Your Face:
After preparing your space and mind for the next day, it is time to start winding down.
I have struggled with even basic face washing my whole life. It was never a habit I felt I could develop. Then I realized how relaxing it can be.
Sometimes I still get bouts of rebellion, and if that happens, I put on a podcast. Then I can tune out and just flow through the routine.
I also recently discovered fancier face products and really love the practice of a multi step face routine.
It takes a lot less time than I thought.
All in all, including dental hygiene, it only takes me about 15 minutes to wash my face, exfoliate, apply toner, face serum, eye cream, acne treatment, face oil, and moisturize. And that’s my extended routine, it goes faster most days.
This is a time where I can wash off the stress from the day, start focusing inward, reflect, and clear my mind for the relaxing night’s sleep that lies ahead.
I am still fine-tuning the amount of time it takes me to do this routine while ensuring I still get an adequate amount of sleep. Because of this, the first few nights I logged my experience, I often skipped journaling.
I don’t like to, because it really does help ground me.
So as a compromise currently, I set a timer for 5 minutes and put pen to paper.
It’s not a long time, but it does keep the journaling muscle active, and keeps me accountable.
I always finish up with at least one sentence or bullet point of gratitude.
After the 5 minutes are up, I go back to my to-do list and next day’s schedule in case anything came up while journaling.
5. Meditative Yoga:
I say meditative yoga, because this is not a time to work out, but a time for quiet, calm reflection.
This step fluctuates for me just like with journaling, but it is another very important grounding and connection time.
Because of time constraints, I am considering moving my intentional 10 to 15 minute meditation to my morning routine, possibly in my car before walking into work (stay tuned for that update in an upcoming post).
For this step, it’s really about tapping into my body’s flow. I put on a mainly instrumental Pandora station, “A Thousand Years (Part 2)” by Christina Perri, light a candle, and start moving through some poses.
Please know, I am not an experienced yogi, and I do not have my teacher’s certification.
I have only attended a few in person classes, and largely practice on my own through apps. I love yoga, but I am not an expert. This is just the type of personal practice I have developed that feels best for me when wanting to meditate through movement.
That being said, my approach to this practice is very intentional.
I focus on my breath and the way my body wants to move when I go from one stretch to another. The goal is to not even be aware of the next pose or stretch. My mind is clear, and I am focused on the music, the flickering of the flame, and my body’s movement.
I do this for about 2 or 3 songs. It’s not a long practice, but just enough to really connect my mind back to my body.
There’s something about blowing out a flame at the end of this, too, that really adds a finality to the relaxing, grounding aesthetic.
Bonus (or the main point): Sleep!
I feel ready for sleep just having gone through that process mentally, writing it down for this post!
At this point, your space is tidied, your morning routine is prepped, your skin is moisturized, your thoughts are grounded, and your body and mind are connected in complete relaxation.
Though this is the last step, it is also the first place you should start when planning your routine. It is important to work backwards to make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep.
Once you set how long your steps will take you, and when you need to start the routine to get those much needed hours of rest, dive in.
Remember that the execution may not always be perfect. There might be parts of your routine that you realize might need to be shortened, or parts that need to be focused more on.
There might even be night when you need to skip most steps, and just go straight to bed.
We will never be perfect, and that is more than ok.
But I do hope you give yourself that permission to fail, because that is the only way to will find out what helps you feel the most authentically productive when wrapping up your day.
Tell me about your experience! Do you already have a routine that works for you?
Share your successes and celebrations! What things have you had to change to fit this to your most authentic self? What parts have you had to grant yourself forgiveness for?