Win the Battle of Today—Yesterday

Why everyone should have an evening routine and how to get it right

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States while being a polymath who was active as a writer, scientist, publisher, and many other roles.

As you can imagine, Franklin's day was intense. In his autobiography, he laid out how he attempted to live his day following the schedule below.

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule

The first and most obvious lesson to learn from Franklin's schedule is to have a morning routine.

Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness; contrive day's business and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study; and breakfast.

There's no one perfect morning routine for everyone. Your morning routine should help you 1) set a winning mental state, 2) get clear with your intention, and 3) raise your energy level for the day

Staring the day right by ending it well

No doubt that to win the day, you want to start your morning right.

I've spent a lot of time optimizing my morning routine. To wake up early and get the top priorities done in the morning—be it reading, working out, or writing.

Unfortunately, it didn't always go well. More often than not, I started the day late, spent more time than I wanted to on my phone, and felt miserable and anxious after wasting hours in the morning.

Over time, I observed that I usually got into these patterns when I messed the previous evening up. Sometimes, I was working late without a proper shutdown. Or I could be worrying about some imaginary troubles. Most of the time, I spent hours on my phone consuming junk inputs before bed.

That was when I realized: We don't win the day by starting right today. We win the day by ending the day before it well.

But how do you end a day well? Here are a few things I've tried in the past few weeks.

1. Put your day up for a review

Back to Franklin's daily schedule. The truth is, Franklin himself couldn't keep up with his schedule. In his own words:

I enter'd upon the execution of this plan for self-examination and continu'd it with occasional intermissions for some time. I was surpris'd to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined, but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.

Instead of beating himself up, Franklin approached it as a form of reflection on what he didn't do well. Like any genius, he didn't aim to get everything right all the time—but instead, less wrong over time.

Putting each day up for a review is powerful. In fact, it was how I learned about the impact my evening routine had on the next day. A great way to approach your daily reviews is by asking great questions. Some questions I ask myself in the evening include:

  • What went well (small wins) today? And what didn't go so well?
  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What are the highlights of me practicing my virtues today?

2. Don't think too much about life after 7 PM

I used to do my daily review around 8 to 9 PM, but I started doing it earlier after stumbling across a short essay by Austin Kleon.

Kleon has a rule that serves him well: Don't think too much about your life after dinnertime.

Finish every day and be done with it... You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

In essence, Kleon found that overthinking about your life at the end of the day is a recipe for despair. If you have a problem, deal with it in daylight. It may sound like a cliche, but it could be true that we're in a better mental state to deal with our problem in the morning.

If you're like me, who see work as an intricate part of life, add "don't think too much about work" to the rule.

3. Get ready for a good night sleep

Since the objective is to start the next day right by ending tonight well, we have to talk about getting a good night's sleep. Without quality bedtime, we couldn't perform at our peak the next day.

Some basics include making your bedroom dark, cold, and quiet. But more often than not, the things that matter most are things we shouldn't do before our sleep. An example above is to overthink about work and life at the end of the day.

For me, it's zombie screen time. I often spent more time than I liked to admit—scrolling through social media consuming pointless information that I don't need on my bed—right when I should be winding down.

It's okay to get some screen time for entertainment and relaxation in the evening. But the rule of thumb is to avoid any screen 60 minutes before your bedtime. Melatonin is the hormone that makes us sleepy. However, the blue light from our screens suppresses melatonin and thus, disturbs our natural circadian cycle.

Instead of gluing your eyes on a screen, you could:

  • Read something light
  • Listen to music
  • Have light conversations with family members
  • Stretch, meditate, breath, or anything you find relaxing

Like a morning routine, there isn't a one-size-fits-all bedtime ritual for everyone. But if your goal is to win the next day by ending the night right, you need to find one that works for you.

Footnotes

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