Everyone knows morning routines are essential for success.
The way you start your morning sets the tone and flow for the rest of the day and can either make or break your productivity.
But an equally important and often less talked about habit for long term success is to follow a consistent and effective evening routine.
If the quality of your mornings determines the quality of your days, then the quality of your evenings determine the quality of your mornings.
By implementing the right habits into the last few hours of your day, you will supercharge both your sleep and your morning for more energy, productivity, and success.
Here are 12 of those habits you can implement today to set yourself up for the success you desire and deserve.
1. Use the 10-3-2-1-0 Formula for Better Sleep
Craig has talked a lot about his 10-3-2-1-0 formula for better sleep on Early to Rise. And with good reason.
And it works remarkably well.
The formula is simple, but powerful.
- 10 hours before bed, stop consuming caffeine
- 3 hours before bed, stop consuming alcohol
- 2 hours before bed, stop working
- 1 hour before bed, turn off all screens
- 0 is the number of times you’ll hit the snooze button
If you will adhere to this formula, you’ll enjoy deeper sleep, greater levels of productivity, and far more energy when you wake up the following morning.
2. Read a Chapter of a Fiction Book or Biography
One of the most common mistakes high-performers make is to spend the last few hours of their day mired in personal and professional growth.
Educating yourself and expanding your personal and professional development is undeniably important. But as the old saying goes, “There is a time and place for everything under the sun.”
And the hours before you go to sleep are neither of these.
Consuming business or personal development content before bed will set the gears of your mind in motion, causing you to stay up into the wee hours of the morning ruminating over how you can improve yourself, your life, and your income.
A habit that is not conducive to a good night of rest.
Instead, I encourage you to spend 30-60 minutes reading high-quality fiction (The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is a personal favorite) or a biography.
Fiction will allow you to lose yourself in another world, turn off after a long day of productivity, and will inspire your creative thinking, giving you new ways to look at old problems.
Biographies, on the other hand, will both educate and relax you, allowing you to learn important lessons and witness the process of success while still becoming engrossed in a story that is unrelated to the stressors of your day.
3. Review Your Goals
By now, I hope you’re sold on the importance of having and pursuing goals, so I won’t waste any time here attempting to convince you of their efficacy.
Instead, I’ll simply encourage you to take 5-10 minutes before bed to revisit, re-read, and (possibly) rewrite your #1 goal in your health, wealth, career, relationships, and personal growth.
Examine the progress you made towards their achievement during the day and then, after looking at your priorities for the following day, ask yourself, “Are the actions I plan to take the most important thing I can do to achieve the goals I’ve set?”
4. Write Down Your ‘Excitement List’
Although many experts and gurus encourage you to end your day with a nightly gratitude practice, I’ve found a different tactic that, I believe, is even more powerful.
Yes, I believe in the power of gratitude and believe cultivating a sense of gratitude first thing in the morning is a powerful way to start your day.
But at the end of your day, your goal is to prime yourself for the following morning and ensure that you wake up with the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm you need to pursue your dreams.
And to accomplish this, you’re going to write something I call an ‘Excitement List.’
About 15-minutes before bed, after you’ve finished your planning and reflecting for the day (more on those in a minute), take 3-5 minutes to write down the things for which you are most excited about the following day.
What’s happening the following day that you can’t wait to take part in?
Are you finishing up a major project in your business? Visiting friends or family? Taking your spouse out for an exciting date night?
What is going on in your life about which you can get excited?
If you can’t think of anything off the top of your head, that’s fine. Think of the small things that make your days amazing.
Are you looking forward to the taste of freshly brewed coffee early the next day? To waking up and having an hour of uninterrupted silence during which you can work on your book? To reading that new book you just purchased?
When you create an emotional state of excitement about your day–believing that you get to wake up and pursue your dreams, not that you have to wake up and pursue your dreams–you will leap out of bed with an energy and enthusiasm like you’ve never experienced before.
So if you want to be more productive, start by getting more excited.
5. Take a Cold Shower (60 minutes before sleep)
If you’ve paid any attention to the health and biohacking industries over the past few years, then you’ve undoubtedly come across a practice known as cold-therapy.
And yes, it’s exactly like it sounds.
For the sake of high-performance and happiness, you subject yourself to the icy blasts of either a cold shower or ice bath for 10-15 minutes a day and enjoy:
- Increased fat loss
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved nervous system function
- Faster injury recovery
And most importantly (for our purposes at least), improved sleep quality.
In fact, a recent Dutch study showed that individuals who lowered the temperature of their skin through cold therapy achieved more than double the restorative slow wave sleep of their warm and cozy peers.
Implementing this tactic is fairly simple.
First, about two hours before you plan to sleep, start lowering your thermostat down to 65-67 F.
Then, no less than 60-minutes before bed, take either a 10-minute cold shower or a 10-minute ice bath.
Combine this tactic with a shot of apple cider vinegar and a TBSP of raw honey to experience what Tim Ferriss referred to as, “being shot with an elephant tranquilizer.”
6. Practice 10-15 Minutes of Yoga and 3 minutes of Inversion
Unless you ardently alternate between sitting, standing, and walking while you work, you likely end your work day feeling stiff, achey, and tight.
While it would be ideal to spend 30-60 minutes going through an intense yoga flow to work all of the kinks out, most of us simply don’t have that kind of time in the evening.
Instead, I encourage to take just 10-minutes to hit a few poses targeting your tightest muscle groups (you can find a great 10-minute routine from Mike Matthews of Muscle for Life here).
After you’ve stretched out your tight muscles and relaxed into the evening, you’re going to do something a little weird and get upside down.
Inversion, or the practice of elevating your feet above your body has a whole host of research based benefits from:
- Reduced chronic back pain
- Reduced need for surgery
- Increased flexibility
- Improved spinal health
And, anecdotally, far better sleep.
If you struggle with onset insomnia as I do–e.g. Tossing and turning completely unable to get comfortable–this simple practice will work wonders.
You’ll fall into bed feeling far more relaxed and decompressed and find that you can easily get comfortable and fall asleep.
7. Plan the Following Work Day
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
You’ve heard this old adage time and time again on Instagram, Facebook, this site, and countless other sources.
But let me ask you. Are you implementing it?
Do you set aside 10-15 minutes every single night (even on the weekends) to plan your following day so you can wake up knowing exactly what must be accomplished and why?
If you begin your day without a plan–even if you plan first thing in the morning–you are already behind.
Set aside 10-15 minutes each night to write down your top priorities for the following day and schedule your biggest meetings.
Better yet, use this 7×7 grid every Sunday morning to plan out your Perfect Week and then simply review and revise the plan each night before bed.
Try this tactic for 30 days and I promise you’ll never go back.
8. Do Something You Love
All too often high-performers and entrepreneurs become so focused on making a living they forget to make a life.
They spend all of their time planning, executing, and turning their big goals into reality they forget to step back from it all and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
As such, my challenge to you is simple.
Every night set aside 60-90 minutes before bed to do something you love.
Whether it’s playing the guitar, reading a good book, spending quality time with your spouse, or calling a close friend, do something every single night that you love.
Reward yourself for your hard work and invest in your rest and recovery.
I promise, it will pay dividends in your performance and productivity.
9. Avoid Superstimuli
One of the most common mistakes that nearly every individual in the Western world makes on a daily basis is the consumption of superstimuli in the hours before bed.
From scrolling through Instagram to watching television to playing games on your phone to reading articles from your favorite blog, any activity that leads to a non-stop release of dopamine must be cut out from your evening routine.
Although they might seem innocuous, those 15-minutes you spent scrolling through epic photos and funny memes on Instagram are jacking up your brain and putting your mind into a heightened state.
Simply put, humans did not evolve to handle the sensory overload to which we’re subjected on a daily basis.
Luckily, the solution is simple.
Two hours before bed, turn off all of your electronics.
Spend time doing only those things that relax and restore your mind and body.
Avoid stimulating your mind in unnatural ways and give your brain a chance to reset and turn off after a long day of work.
You might find this challenging at first, but I promise, if you will stick it out for a few weeks, you’ll wonder how you ever lived any differently.
10. Reflect on the Day
A hallmark characteristic of high-achievers is future orientation.
Simply put, we are focused on where we are going, not where we’ve been.
And this is a good thing. It prevents us from falling prey to guilt, shame, and regret and allows us to focus all of our mental and emotional energy on moving forward instead of wishing we could change something in the past.
However, this tendency often leads entrepreneurs to ignore one of the most important habits for peak performance.
At the end of your day, take a few minutes to review the past 24 hours.
How did the day go? What went well? What could have gone better? What challenges and obstacles arose that you didn’t anticipate? How could you mitigate those in the future?
This simple habit will allow you to gain invaluable insight into your performance and problems and help you cultivate greater self awareness around the ways in which you are showing up.
More importantly, this habit will allow you to make those tiny 1% improvements and adjustments that lead to massive results in the long term.
You can identify your sticking points, uncover your strengths, and find unique ways to prevent problems from happening in the future.
11. Use Brain Entrainment to Fall Asleep Faster
One of the more interesting habits I’ve discovered in recent months for improved sleep, performance, and productivity is something called brainwave entrainment. Which is accomplished through the use of binaural beats.
And while I won’t dive deep into the science (you can check that out here if you’re interested), binaural beats have been rigorously researched and proven to grant numerous cognitive benefits from:
- Decreased anxiety
- Improved focus and attention
- Improved memory
- Pain reduction
- Improved sleep quality
And a whole lot more.
Executing on this habit is simple.
For those of you who struggle to fall asleep while wearing headphones or earbuds (as I do), use a free binaural beat track like this one or this one and complete a 10-15 minute meditation session right before bed.
This will help you “tune” the frequency of your brain waves to a channel that is more conducive to sleep–namely theta or delta brain waves.
Or, if you can use a device like this one and plug in a 7.5 hour track to keep your brain waves optimized for deep sleep and recovery all night long.
12. Close Any Open Loops
Your brain is very similar to computer.
And like a computer, if you have a million open tabs and programs whirring and buzzing in the background, it won’t matter that you hit the ‘sleep’ button. Your brain will still be attempting to run those programs and discover the solution to those open loops.
To end your day and ensure you have the most restful night of sleep possible, take a few minutes at the end of each day to close off any open loops with a nightly brain dump.
While you are completing your planning, reflection, and excitement list, take a few minutes to write down all of the things that are bogging down your subconscious.
From doctor’s visits you forgot to schedule to lightbulbs that need replaced to taxes that need filed, write down anything and everything that’s on your mind and then…
… Let it go.
Either schedule a time during which you will complete each task or cross it off your list, mentally dismissing it and giving yourself permission to let it fall by the wayside.
And then prepare for some of the best sleep of your life and one of the most productive days you’ve ever had.
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