Evening Routines: How to Unwind, Reflect and Prepare for Tomorrow
April 15, 2021
You can liken a day to a roller coaster ride. The mornings are those upward lifts – expectantly chugging up the hill, waiting for the inevitable to happen. The daytime is when it all comes barreling down in glorious, frenzied fashion: the wild drops, brain-rattling loops, and hammerhead turns.
Then, things slow down. You’re on flat ground again, catching your breath and fixing your hair. Those periods of stillness after the mayhem are the evenings, and we need them to feel sane.
The evening functions as a rare period of reflection, rest and self-care. An opportunity to look back on the past day with clear-headed hindsight, and look ahead to tomorrow with determined foresight. For many, it’s the only part of their day unoccupied by work and chores.
Evening routines, therefore, shouldn’t be about making your life busier. They shouldn’t be designed for over-extension. Instead, an evening routine should be carefully crafted to help you unwind, reflect and prepare for the hectic day ahead.
Last month on this blog, we explored how to hack your morning routine. Before that, we discussed how to make life at home easier during the daytime. Now, we arrive at the evening. To help you craft the perfect evening routine, we’ve compiled a list of tips and suggestions for making the most of your PM hours.
Break out your most comfortable merino clothes because it’s time to unwind, reflect and prepare for tomorrow.
Prepare for Tomorrow
In our ideal order, we put “preparing for tomorrow” first chronologically. After all, it’s best to get the laborious stuff out of the way before you start reflecting and unwinding. After work, with the little energy you have left, get into the routine of laying the groundwork for an easier start tomorrow with these tips. Doing so will help lessen the mental and physical load of the morning, and help give structure to your evening.
Make an Actionable List of Things You Want to Accomplish Tomorrow
In our previous article on hacking your morning, we talked about the value of goal-setting as a routine. There, we plugged the High-Performance Planner, an ultra-popular planner developed through years of psychological research into the habits of high performers. It's still a fantastic way to establish and prioritize goals, but it’s by no means the only way.
Evening goal-setting can be as easy and analogue as filling out a few sticky notes. Or it can be as involved as upkeeping a goal-tracking app. You can simply write a few goals – both big and small – on a post-it note and paste it to your laptop, or check out an app like Strides that helps you organize, track and prioritize your daily goals.
Avoid Decision Fatigue by Preparing Tomorrow’s Outfit
Decision fatigue is a real psychological phenomenon first noted in the court system. There, they found that judges made increasingly rash and poor decisions as the day wore on. It turns out that the more decisions our brain has to make – whether it’s small stuff like, “what are we going to wear?” or big things like, “should this person go to prison?” – the more fatigued we become.
Since then, entrepreneurs and productivity-hackers have used the principle to trim unnecessary decision-making from their day, freeing them up to make better, more important choices at work. An easy place to start is with your morning wardrobe. Save yourself the mental taxation of having to pick your wardrobe out in the morning. Lay a soft, sophisticated set of Unbound Merino clothing out on the dresser and save your morning brain the trouble. At worst, you’ll look great tomorrow; at best, you’ll boost your productivity and look great.
Prep Your Breakfast
When you wake up, your body is hazy from sleep, achy from inactivity and nutritionally depleted. It’s not the ideal time to whip up a carefully considered meal. That’s why, too often, we reach for quick-fix hits of sugary carbs. They’re easy, fast and offer a satisfying – albeit unhealthy – hit of energy.
In the evening, you have a pretty good sense of hindsight and forethought. Use that to your body’s advantage. Before you reflect and relax for the night, prep a nutritionally balanced meal and keep it waiting in the fridge. At the very least, prep enough of the breakfast that a simple assembly job will suffice tomorrow.
“Mess equals stress” is more than just a cliched rhyme. It has strong scientific backing in the psychological community. When your surroundings are cluttered, your brain has to work overtime to process the excess visual stimuli, mimicking a stress response. Clutter also tricks us into thinking that we always have unfinished work, which can cause us to feel ashamed and overwhelmed.
If you want to start your day fresh, free of yesterday's burdens, take a little time in the evening to declutter. It doesn’t have to be a deep clean: just a few dedicated minutes of clearing visual space and organizing belongings.
With the hard stuff out of the way, it’s nearly time to kick back and relax. Before you do, consider reflecting on the day gone past. As mentioned in the intro, the evening is a rare time of retrospect, when, removed from the madness, you can contextualize the day and make sense of what just happened.
Reflection and self-reflection (they are different – more on that below) can help us better understand ourselves, our thought patterns and our surroundings. Here’s how to work them into your evening routine.
Credit: Arun Thomas Via Pexels
Have you ever gotten frustrated, but you don’t exactly know what’s frustrating you? It can be difficult, in the moment, to pinpoint the source of our emotions. Like we said above, it’s like we’re strapped to a roller coaster, going along for the ride. It isn’t until we self-reflect, with hours of remove and the hindsight of having calmed down, that we can make sense of why we felt the way we did.
In a nutshell, that’s the value of self-reflection. It’s an investigative look at why we act, feel and think the way we do. We self-reflect in the hopes of changing our more rash and unproductive patterns in the future – and to become, as it’s termed in psychology, “self-aware.” To start, check out this article – it contains some helpful “what and why” questions to ask yourself when self-reflecting.
Reflect with a Journal
There’s a slight but impactful difference between self-reflection and reflection. Where the former is concerned with gazing inward, often at the unconscious aspects of our behaviours, the latter is more of a big-picture survey. Think of reflection as writing the news story of your day.
Keeping a journal of daily reflections has several benefits. It can help you practice memory retention, set your personal priorities, celebrate successes and identify areas for self-improvement. There are several apps for journaling. There are also physical journals that include prompts, organizational stickers and inspirational passages. If those frills help you, all the power to you. But all you really need is a standard notebook and about 15 minutes of time in the evening.
Pure, unadulterated enjoyment – that’s what late-evening should be all about. No more productivity trackers, goal-setting apps, or self-improvement hacks. Just straight relaxation and unwinding.
Relaxation and enjoyment look different to everyone. For some, relaxing involves sinking into the couch in front of a TV show, while others prefer to exhale the day through meditation and reading. Here, we’ve listed a few of our favourite ways to unwind.
Get into Your Most Comfortable Clothes
A first, all-important step in any unwinding routine should be changing into comfortable clothes. Whatever constricting clothes you wore during the day – the tie, belt, bra or buttons – need to go. To fully relax, you need to feel comfortable, unrestricted and, yes, unbound.
Unbound Merino is thrilled to announce our new merino wool sweatpants, perfect for lounging in the evenings. These aren't your average college dorm sweatpants, though. Made from a blend of merino wool and natural Tencel, they're breathable, temperature regulating and odour-resistant. They also feature a stylish tapered cut that makes them suitable for wear in social situations.
Pair them with other merino wool products, like our t-shirts and merino socks, for an ideal lounge-around outfit that you can wear day after day without washing. Removing frequent laundry trips from your chore schedule lets you free up more time for evening relaxation.
Some people swear by evening meditation. Not only does it have an immediate calming effect on our brains, but scientific studies have shown that regular meditation can help combat depression and anxiety, increase focus and even stall age-related brain deterioration.
If you’re trying meditation for the first time, start small. Carve out five minutes in your evening to sit comfortably and focus on your breath. Your thoughts will wander, but that’s okay. Just gently draw your attention back to your breathing. Don’t kick yourself when your mind wanders; try to view each thought detachedly, watching them as they pass you by.
There are a ton of great meditation resources online and in books. We recommend starting with a book like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are. However, if you’re strapped for time, a basic introductory webpage like this one will suffice.
Put Away the Phone and Pick Up a Book
Social media is thrilling, there’s no doubt. But it’s also agitating. It introduces a degree of randomness that is counter-productive to the notion of routine building. The high-drama news stories, gossip, back-and-forth arguments and litany of “hot takes” can leave you feeling wired at a time you should be prioritizing relaxation.
Credit: cottonbro Via Pexels
There’s also solid evidence that the blue light from phones inhibits a healthy sleep schedule. The cells behind your eyes read this blue light the same way they read morning light, which can cause your brain to suppress melatonin (the hormone responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm).
Instead of reaching for your phone, reach for a book. Since we were little, teachers and parents have instilled in us the value of reading. They weren’t wrong. Studies show that regular reading improves fluid intelligence, emotional intelligence, empathy, concentration and more. Just by reading this article, you may be giving yourself a brain boost!
If You Have Trouble Shutting Off, Try These Sleep Apps
Part of a healthy evening routine should be sleep preparation. Consistent, quality sleep makes a world of difference to your productivity, mood and overall health. Getting to sleep on-time (whatever that time may be) is an investment in an easier tomorrow.
In our previous post about morning ritual hacks, we included a list of sleep apps like Sleep Tracker, Pillow, Sleep Cycle, Alarmy and Morning Routine. These apps track your sleep patterns to set an alarm at the ideal point in your sleep cycle, and help you avoid hitting that snooze button. Again, we can recommend these apps here. They’re as crucial to your evening routine as they are to your morning ritual – in both cases, the object is better-quality rest.
If you’re having trouble turning your brain off, though, we have a separate set of apps to recommend. Most “fall asleep” apps (sometimes called “insomnia apps,” though you don’t have to suffer from insomnia to benefit) operate by offering a catalogue of ambient noise. Headspace, for instance, features 45-minute “sleepcasts,” collections of ambient noise designed to help you ease into slumber. Others, like Noisli, feature channels of static white noise.
Then there’s Tide; it has an ambient library like the apps above, but it also has a focus timer, sleep analysis mode, breathing guide for relaxation and a website blocker to keep you from distraction. As an all-around sleep-aid pick, it’s hard to beat.
Ultimately, the evening routine you settle on will reflect your personal preferences. Are your priorities weighted more toward preparation or relaxation? Are you the kind of person who benefits from the structured reflection of a journal, or would you rather spend that time prepping a lavish breakfast? As usual, these guides are guidelines, meant to offer inspiration and information to help you hack your life the way you want.
If you have tips of your own, leave them in the comments below. And if you have any questions regarding Unbound Merino clothing, don’t hesitate to visit our help center for info, FAQs and contact.