How To Make The Most Of Your Evenings

by Raven Ishak
Young pretty student woman lying down on the sofa, reading book, studying for exam.
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After a long day of work, the only thing you probably want to do is relax and watch the next Making a Murder episode on Netflix. But even though having the rest of the night to do whatever you want sounds amazing, there are ways to make the most of your night and be just a little bit more (dare I say it) productive. While chilling and watching Netflix (or Netflix and chilling, for that matter) is amazing, sometimes the best use of your time is to spend it doing something that makes you feel a little less stressed out.

Of course, I too appreciate the nights when I don't have to do any work and don't have to go anywhere except in my bedroom and eat cookies. While those are nights I dream about and indulge in every now and then, I also know there can be better ways to spend my evenings. Once I realized that my nights at home are a great way to better myself, my productivity levels went way up. If I'm not finishing up work, I try to clean up my house, plan for the next day, or read a book that I've been trying to catch up on. While most of the time, I'm on my computer working till midnight, I still truly enjoy those little moments of free time that I have with myself. No matter what time I finish work, I always try to have a routine before I go to bed. This has helped me stay organized for the following day without going to bed stressed for the night. If you feel like your nights have been a little less productive than you'd like, here are some tips I've implemented in my own life that have helped me feel better about how I structure my evenings, and the day/week ahead.

1. Plan For Tomorrow

To me, nothing feels better than getting organized and ready for the next day. Every night before I go to bed, I write out a to-do list of things that need to get done for the following day. It saves me time in the morning before I go to work and it releases stress that I may have. According to Lifehack, financial advisor Lianne Martha Maize Laroya said, "Before going to sleep, make sure that you’re going to start your day with a purpose." Laroya continued, "To give you a guideline, you should have at least four plans for everyday: one should be work-related, one should be for a personal activity like an errand, and two should be for accomplishing your life dreams." Writing down these plans will help you give equal attention to each one of them and avoid forgetting anything important. And make sure you have fun things on your to-do list, too! While work is part of life, of course, you want to make sure that you are working toward your dreams, too.

2. Create A Nighttime Routine

Having a nighttime routine may keep you fresh and motivated for the next day. Try to always go to bed around the same time, remove your makeup, eat a healthy dinner, and drink a glass of water before bed. But sometimes the most important part of an evening routine is knowing when exactly to end the day and begin your night of rest. According to The Huffington Post, there is a chart to follow to prevent sleep sabotage, which includes suggestions like avoiding drinking coffee six hours before bed and finish exercising two hours before you sleep. Try to follow these rules and see how they affect you. If you're afraid to make a big change all at once, try to take baby steps until you have perfected your own personal night routine.

3. Unplug For The Night

Make sure you unplug from all your electronics at least an hour or so before you sleep. This can not only let you sleep a lot better, but you can focus on doing things you enjoy doing instead of just scrolling through the Internet, or worse, going through work emails. According to The Greatist, people who always check their phones for work emails have a really hard time disconnecting and keeping their stress levels in check. Also, people need to have the weekends and weeknights off to recuperate to feel better on Monday. Try to envision weeknights like a mini vacation from work. The more you switch your work patterns around, the more inclined you are to make a change in your habits.

4. Exercise Or Meditate

While a lot of people like to exercise or meditate during the morning to get their day started, it's also pretty beneficial to do those activities at night, too. According to Psychology Today, Laura Maciuika, EdD, clinical psychologist and author of Conscious Calm: Keys to Freedom from Stress and Worry, explained that one of the best times to mediate is right after your workday. "For some people, meditating at the end of the workday is the perfect way to create a natural boundary between work and the rest of life. For beginners or people who find meditation intimidating, using the breath to re-center then can work really well," Maciuika said. The only time you don't want to mediate is right before you go to bed. "Avoid meditating too close to bedtime so that doesn't become confused with relaxing into sleep. In meditation, we're practicing the opposite—falling more fully awake," Maciuika explained.

5. Enjoy Working On Your Hobbies

While the day might be about your job, let your nights be about what you love to do for yourself — your hobbies. Instead of focusing on work, why not learn a new skill or read a book you've been dying to finish? According to Observer Opinion, making time for your hobbies can rejuvenate you and even create inspiration and gratitude, while being stressed all the time can actually lead to depression. Not only can enjoying yourself and your hobbies bring you more happiness, it can also bring more balance into your life.

6. Boost Your Mood

If I had a really hard day at work, I try to come home and watch a comedy or do something that makes me laugh. It instantly boosts my mood and makes me think more positively. While that might work for me, doing something that will make you happy and laugh can cheer up anyone after a rough day. Spend some time with your friends after work, or go to a comedy club just for the heck of it. While laughing feels good on the outside, it's actually has a lot of help benefits for your insides, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing is a great way to relax for the night. It activates and relieves your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Essentially, laughing is like the glass of red wine you need for the end of the night without getting a hangover the next day. It's a win-win.

7. Reflect Before You Go To Bed

Reflecting about the day is a great way to solidify your goals. Did you get everything accomplished? How did you feel about the day? Have a journal by your bed and write down some key points that may have happened. This can help you focus on your goals and work out any issues you might've had. According to Business Insider, Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of You Can't Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work, said, “Keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ also reminds people of the progress they made that day in any aspect of their life, which in turn serves as a key way to stay motivated, especially when going through a challenging period.”

While there are plenty of things to do before you head to bed, doing any of these tips can truly make the most out of your night. You don't have to change your bedtime routine all at once, but take the time to acknowledge how you can change it for the better. Even though watching TV is never a terrible idea to help yourself relax and forget about work, you can accomplish so much more when you prevent that from taking over the majority of your night.

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