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.
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
- Visualisation 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.
This 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.
Write down stray thoughts
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.
Use the bathroom
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 visualisation exercises before going to sleep, or as you're going to sleep (that is, after lights out). The options for visualisation 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 yourself 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.
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:
Evening Rituals: Getting Better Sleep With a Little Preparation [Asian Efficiency]
Aaron Lynn is a productivity consultant, systems thinker, blogger and all-round efficiency aficionado. He provides advice about time management and personal productivity at Asian Efficiency.