M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
If there’s one productivity topic people often fixate on, it’s the idea of a morning routine.
And with good reason.
If you want to get big things done, if you want better balance, if you want to live life more on purpose, then setting your days up for success, every morning, with solid morning rituals is an absolute must.
But here’s the thing.
A lot of people really struggle to wake up each morning on purpose. And even if it happens two or three days a week, they struggle to do it consistently.
And do you know why it happens?
It’s not because those people are lazy or unproductive or don’t realise how much mornings matter. It’s because they’re missing a piece of the puzzle.
They don’t have an evening routine.
They haven’t fully realised that how they spend the last few hours of today is even more important than how they spend the first few hours of tomorrow.
And by doing so, they’re not just setting themselves up for frustration and failure…
They’re cheating themselves of a win.
So what does a good evening routine look like?
Good question. I’m glad you asked.
A good evening routine does two things effectively:
- It optimises for sleep – It maximises quantity and quality of shuteye; and
- It eliminates friction – It makes your morning routine as simple and easy as possible.
What’s the best way to do that?
Here’s a short excerpt from Step 6 (“Dominate Every Day”) of STOP WORKING HARDER, TAoL’s Ultimate Productivity Primer, where I explain how to get those things done…
1 – How to optimise for sleep – If you’re not rested, your mornings will suffer. And if your mornings suffer, you’ll sabotage the rest of your day.
That’s why every morning routine starts with a good night of sleep. And one of the main things every good night of sleep depends on is a reliable evening routine.
To set yours up for success, forget for a moment how busy you are and ask:
“How many hours of sleep do I need to feel happy and rested?” (e.g., 7.5h)
Next, add 30-minutes for fall-asleep-friction (e.g., 7.5h + 0.5h = 8h) and subtract the total from your ideal wake up time (e.g., 5:00 AM – 8h = 9:00 PM).
Aim to turn your lights off by then, be in bed 30 minutes earlier (e.g., 8:30 PM) and avoid all the following for at least 60 minutes before that (e.g., after 7:30 PM):
- Nicotine or caffeine (ideally eliminated entirely);
- Light-emitting screens;
- Intense physical or mental activity (ideally not within 180 minutes);
- Heavy alcohol use;
- Heavy eating or drinking;
- Sugary foods or medications that disrupt sleep.
Don’t hit the finish line at 200mph then wonder why you struggle to wind down. Do lay out your stuff for tomorrow, meditate, read light fiction, take a hot shower or bath or spend time with (but not video calling) your loved ones.
Whatever you do, your overall objective is simple: manage the last 90 minutes of your day to optimise quantity and quality of sleep.
Look after your evenings, and your mornings will look after themselves.
2 – How to eliminate friction – Imagine your morning is a runway. The goal of eliminating friction is to make take-off effortless. It’s to maximise momentum by removing as many small obstacles from your morning as possible.
How? The answer is by pre-deciding and pre-preparing as much as we possibly can. It’s by doing things like:
- Choosing and neatly laying out your clothes for tomorrow;
- Pre-packing your bag and leaving it by the front door;
- Pre-preparing and packing your breakfast and/or lunch; and
- Pre-booking and buying tickets for transport.
Every decision you make, every step you take that minimises your need to make even the smallest morning decision is a win; it’s energy you can put towards something else.
How to eliminate friction from your morning – first, make a list of all your morning activities. Run through a mental video of the first hour of your day. If you’re at home, take a few minutes to actually follow this process on fast forward. Go through the motions of getting out the door or preparing for your first hour of meaningful work.
“Which of these activities can I get rid of?”
Eliminate things like, “read the news” or “browse social media” entirely. You have better things to do (like more sleeping) than wasting good energy on distractions.
“What could I do in advance to make each activity as easy as possible?”
Write your ideas (including the ones above) on a checklist and make them a 15-minute part of your evening routine.
It’s not rocket science.
But taking the time to think through and master your evenings will change your life. It’ll take you from inconsistent and frustrated and exhausted to ready and rested and reliable.
It’ll maximise the odds of setting every day up for a win.
So, what are you waiting for?
Take action on the simple steps above. Plan your evening routine.
End as you mean to begin.
And otherwise, until next time, be awesome, be productive and go well.