Success begins in the evening.
Whenever people talk about productivity, the first question they ask is always, “What’s your morning routine?”
In their mind, their morning routine is how they get going on the right foot. But I actually have found that how your day begins has far less to do with the morning itself—and far more about what you do the night before.
Success begins in the evening.
I’m a naturally energetic and passionate person, so it’s easy for me to wake up in the morning and get going. I’ve always been this way, and when I started my wellness company, Four Sigmatic, I became even more of a morning person—which is why it’s my evening routine that I focus on optimizing the most. Still, I’d say 3 out of every 4 people I talk to are more focused on what they do in the morning versus what they do in the evening, and I see that as an opportunity for improvement.
Here are a few ways I help myself reset at the end of the day, and why I think it’s actually the evening routine that makes all the difference:
1. I always try to find my zen—whether that’s sitting down to meditate or chopping vegetables while making dinner.
What you do the night before is what sets the tone for the following day.
I’ve learned that it’s crucial to find ways to release your nervous system at night. Meditation is one example, but the truth is there are a lot of activities that can help ease you into a state of relaxation. For example, going for an evening walk, watching the sunset, catching up with a friend, or even being present while you cook dinner are all ways to help relieve the stress of the day.
Without these evening practices, days start to blur together and suddenly all you think about is work, work, work.
More and more employees (especially those who work at startups) are being held to high expectations, which forces them to work harder and longer. So the day bleeds into the night. All of a sudden, there’s no work-life balance, no separation from being “always connected,” and over time this leads to conditions like burnout—which isn’t going to lead to any sort of long-term success.
Instead, you’re better off addressing the pattern of “over-working” proactively in your life, and finding ways to break the cycle. Meditation can help. Working out can help. Try cooking, listening to a podcast, reading a book—anything to get you out of “work mode” and reconnected to yourself.
2. I prime my environment for maximum relaxation and sleep.
What makes someone a productive leader is that they have their mind, body, and spirit in order.
But keeping these things balanced requires constant attention and practice. In the morning, you want to fuel your body, hydrate, clean, and move. And then at night, it’s all about recovering, relaxing the nervous system and the mind, reducing stress, and finding ways to ensure you get a good night of rest.
One of the ways I do this is by paying attention to how I’m feeling on a given day, but also using technology to support my gut feelings.
I use an Oura Ring to measure things like my sleep quality and heart rate variability, but to also know how hard I can push my body. If I’m not sleeping well, that’s indicative of something else that’s happening in my life—either I’m working too hard, or I’m not effectively relaxing into the evening—and all these insights help me learn how hard I can work the next day.
Similarly, I have the same respect for my employees and the people I work with, and try to be conscious of how my actions might cause someone else to have trouble sleeping or getting the rest they need. For example, if I write a stern email to an employee and he or she reads it right before bed, chances are, they are going to panic, they’re going to have trouble getting a good night of rest, and their performance is going to be impacted the next day.
So it’s actually in my best interest as a leader to not only take care of myself in these ways, but to respect these same wellness habits in the people around me.
3. I go to bed knowing what I’m going to focus on the next day.
So much of success is psychological.
The moment you wake up, the day is going to try to steer you in the direction it wants you to go. Which means, in order for you to remain productive and moving in the direction you want to go, you have to have that “target” already defined in your mind starting the night before.
If you wake up to 72 unanswered emails, you’re going to immediately feel behind. More than that, you’re going to feel compelled to respond to them—and adjust whatever plan you had for the day to cater to the people around you.
But if, the night before, you have your priorities clearly defined, then when you see those 72 unanswered emails you won’t react and respond. Instead, you’ll be able to tell yourself, “These aren’t my priority right now. My number one is priority A. My number two is B, and if I tackle A and B then this will be an amazing and productive day, even if I never look at my email.”
The reason these habits are so important is because they’re the difference between a stressed, frazzled founder, and a leader who is relaxed and in control of their life. If you’re super loose but confident, people will want to be around you because they want to be around that sort of energy. It’s contagious—because it’s a blend of confidence and drive. But the moment your state starts to become a reflection of your mismanaged day, that’s when people will want to avoid being around you.
So, take the time to put yourself on the right course. And that starts by setting yourself up for success in the evening.