“There is more to life than increasing its speed” – Gandhi
The time that remains after a long day at work can slip away awfully quickly.
For many of us, we’re often too exhausted to really choose what to do. Instead, we settle on the first and least challenging option that comes our way. That might be flicking on the TV, scrolling through social media feeds, or getting on top of emails. More screen time.
Perhaps, given a little more energy, we would choose differently. But when our brains and bodies are spent after a long day of decisions, it can be nearly impossible to make even these little extra choices about what to do before bed.
How can we claim back our evening time?
The answer lies in having a routine. Much has been written on the importance of ritual and routine. There’s even a whole website dedicated to morning routines, which have become something of a focus for those seeking to boost their productivity. But what about our evening habits?
We all know the feeling of having a late night, waking up groggy, rushing to get ready, and relying on coffee and sugar to claw back some energy and make it through the day.
Creating an evening routine can help you get the hours of sleep you need. Try starting to wind down an hour or so before you want to fall asleep – switching things off, making a cup of herbal tea, reading in bed, an after-dinner walk, stretching, a hot bath, some relaxing music. The choice is yours, but keeping things relatively consistent in the lead-up to bedtime will help your body recognise when it is time to doze off.
Even if you do get enough sleep, some things are best avoided in the hours before bedtime. One of these is screen time. Researchers have found that spending more time in front of a screen around bedtime is associated with reduced sleep quality, as well as difficulties falling asleep. It may also affect how alert you are the following day.
Another is work. Long hours don’t necessarily equate to greater productivity. Give yourself the time to wind down and your productivity will benefit. In the words of Carl Jung, “I’ve realized that somebody who’s tired and needs a rest, and goes on working all the same is a fool.”
When you’re thinking about the kind of routine you’d like to foster, remember that an evening routine isn’t designed to be another set of things to check off your to-do list. It’s more about deciding in advance what’s important to you at the end of the day, and what’s not. You might just have two or three small things you do, and leave the rest of the time free to simply sit – and do nothing at all. Because it is in our leisure, as the American essayist Agnes Repplier put it, that we construct “the true fabric of self.”