How to Create an Evening Routine

man with sleeping baby on chest

The benefits of having a morning routine are no secret. A personalized morning routine executed consistently sets the tone for your whole day. What is less known, though, is that a successful morning depends on an efficient evening routine. An evening routine allows you to go to bed with a clear mind and ultimately frees up space for more creative pursuits.

If you want to make time for what matters most to you and be as efficient as possible in doing so, keep reading. Use this article and our evening routine setting guide to help you set and stick to your own personalized nighttime routine.

Step 1: Picture Your Perfect Night

The first step in this process is to imagine what the perfect, productive night looks like to you. Use our evening routine printable to take note of everything you want and need to do to in the evening. Make sure you include every detail, like taking the dog on a walk, brushing your teeth, helping your kids with homework, relaxing in a hot bubble bath, reading – whatever you want to do. During this step, don’t worry about the order, just write down all the tasks you want and need to complete each night so that you can have a restful sleep and a successful next day. For example, if having dinner around the table as a family is a priority for you, include the actions that must occur for that to happen, such as buying the groceries, prepping and cooking, and setting the table.

Keep in mind that while morning routines are regimented and often broken down by the minute, evenings are much more flexible. What you do each night may vary depending on the day of the week, so the key is to identify the daily habits that are essential for you to end your day effectively and jumpstart the next day's morning routine.

Step 2: Write Out Your True Evening

After you have your ideal evening planned out, it's time to add a second list. Here, include the tasks that you actually complete every evening. Again, make sure you get as specific as you can. Some things you might add here include what you typically have for dinner (take-out vs. a homemade meal), changing into pajamas, brushing your teeth, and cueing up Netflix.

Step 3: Dare to Compare

Now it's time to sit back and compare your lists. Which tasks from your first list made it over to the second? Are your lists dramatically different? If so, your evening routine and your ideal schedule aren't adding up. Think about what is causing this discrepancy to better tackle your ideal routine in the future. Think about what's causing this discrepancy and what events are derailing your evening, preventing you from accomplishing everything that you want. Write them down in a third section.

After you've made this third list, take a look at it. Which items are you in control of? Which ones can't you control? Which are simply excuses? There will always be unexpected distractions during the evening. The best tactic for sticking to your routine is to minimize the common distractions that you are in your control as much as possible. Does a nightly deep dive into Instagram rob you of a valuable 30 minutes? Do unexpected laundry loads prevent you or the kids from packing a gym bag and selecting an outfit for the next day?

Some steps you can take to better manage distractions include:

  • Planning ahead. If you know you're going to be too exhausted to do anything when you get home, take the necessary steps to keep yourself healthy and happy. For instance, if you're tired during the week, meal prep on the weekends, create large batches to ensure plenty of leftovers, or keep a few freezer meals on reserve for the days you just can't bring yourself to cook up a healthy meal. If you know you won't be in the mood to clean up the house, make tidying up small areas each day a quick part of your morning routine.
  • Getting others on board. Work with your family or roommates to create their own easy-to-follow evening routines too. Doing so will help you stay accountable to our own routine.
  • Remembering why you started. You wanted to create an evening routine for a reason. What is it? Keep your intention at the front of your mind to stay motivated when all you want to do is collapse into bed and forget your to-do list. If it helps, write your motivation down and put it somewhere visible to stay focused on success and productivity.
  • Creating a backup plan. Sometimes, unexpected things emerge and cause our schedules to get off track. While it’s best to try and stick to your routine, make sure you know the essential tasks that need to occur in order for you to climb into bed feeling relaxed and ready for rest.

Step 4: Set Up Your New Routine

You've gotten a sense of what you want your evenings to look like and how they actually are now. Finally, it's time to set up your new schedule. While your customized morning routines need to be broken down by the minute, your evenings are a bit more flexible. It’s likely that your afternoons and nights will vary depending on the day of the week, which means the key is to identify essential daily habits to ensure you end your day effectively, leaving you to start a productive morning and repeat those healthy habits every day.

Think back to your list from step one and pinpoint the tasks that you feel are most important for you to complete in order to achieve the core purpose of your night that you established in step one. These are your Nightly Necessities and should be completed every night without fail. Keep in mind that there may be other tasks you would like to accomplish throughout the evening. By creating this list of non-negotiable items, you’ll gain a better understanding of what is most important for a successful evening and, in doing so, will clear up space for those other activities you’d like to pursue. 

Some things you might want to include here are prepping tomorrow's lunch, setting out tomorrow's clothes, reading, or even a nightly tidy-up. If you’ve already completed our morning routine guide, take a look at the items you identified as nighttime activities and be sure to integrate them into your new evening routine.

While a set bedtime is ideal for a restful night, most people fall asleep at different times throughout the week. This means you shouldn’t set a time to each of your Nightly Necessities. Rather, establish a nighttime ritual by creating an easy-to-follow order of your tasks and sticking to it every single night. Remember that this routine is completely unique to you, and should best reflect what you want your nights to be used for.

Step 5: Test, Test, Test

After you've established the essential goal of your evenings (see step 1) and created your list of nightly necessities, you're ready to put your tasks to the test. Keep a copy of your new routine with you until you can remember every step on your own.

During this step, you should also note what's working about your routine and what isn’t. That way, you can go back and make any necessary changes to ensure your routine is productive. It may seem tedious to revise your routine now, but trust us, it'll be worth it in the long run. Data suggests that actions take around 66 days to develop into a regular habit, so don't give up too soon! Stay motivated and stick to it.

woman on laptop sitting on bed

Quick Tips

Since routines can be tough, we've included some habits you may want to include in your own evening routine. Pick and choose which items may work for your schedule (if you haven’t written them down already):

  • Set a time to stop working. Some people may get caught up in a project or assignment. To keep these tasks from eating up too much time, schedule an alarm on your phone to remind you when it's time to quit working and begin settling down.
  • Shut off all screens 1-2 hours before bed. This includes TVs and cellphones. Doing so will minimize any distractions and keep you from staying up all night watching TV or scrolling through Facebook, leaving you groggy and unmotivated in the morning.
  • Calm down. Meditation, prayer, yoga, reading, sipping tea, lighting candles or oil diffusers, quick journaling, taking a bubble bath, listening to ambient or sleep noise, and even putting on a face mask can help you calm down and get you ready for bed. Tasks like these can significantly decrease your stress levels to offer an optimal amount of restful sleep each night.

How to Stay Motivated and Stick to Your Routine

Change can be hard. You may face a challenge that derails your entire routine one night, and you just give up on completing it the next night. If you skip it, you may never feel motivated to try again. That's why it's important to always stay the course, even when there's a bump in the road. Similar to creating and sticking to a morning routine, here are a few tips that will help you stick to your evening routine, too:

  • Get vocal. Let your close friends and family know that you're changing your routine so they can jump on board and help you stay accountable. The more support you have, the more likely you'll be to stay on task.
  • Get visual. Remembering every small detail can be hard. Keep copies of your new routine with you while you work down the list so you can check off tasks as you go. You'll have your new nightly ritual down in no time.
  • Stack your habits. Some say that new habits are easier to keep when attached to existing ones. If you want to read more, for example, challenge yourself to read for 15 minutes before you brush your teeth. 
  • Practice reflection. Reflecting on the day can help you determine the positives of your day, plus what you think you may be able to do better. Consider picking up a line-a-day journal to help you reflect each night or simply take a moment to reflect on the day before bed.
  • Set tomorrow's goals. Some say that if you write out what needs to be accomplished and what you hope to accomplish the next day before you fall asleep, you'll be more likely to clear your mind, rest easy, and actually finish those goals when the time comes. Make a physical list before you climb in bed. In physically placing it on the nightstand you can clear your mind and prepare for rest.
  • Relax. Pick up things like stretching, meditating, yoga, or other calming activities to help you de-stress, get better rest, and wake up feeling like you're ready to take on the day.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself. Some nights can be more challenging than others. When distractions do occur, don't feel too disappointed. Just pick up your routine again the next day. The most important part is to stay encouraged rather than completely falling off the bandwagon.

If you're ready to create your new evening routine, use our printable worksheet to help you plan it out now. These sheets will help you plan out your desired tasks from start to finish so you don't have to worry about doing it all on your own. Once you're finished, move onto your morning routine if you haven’t already. This will ensure your whole day is productive, every day of the week, so you can stay on track to finish goals both inside and outside your home.



Written by Ashford University Staff.

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