America’s fascination with entrepreneurial productivity is endless -- just look at the waves of books published each year to the ongoing obsession with finding ways to wake up earlier each day. But it’s not just optimizing your morning routine or the approach to structuring your work day that’s important. In fact, one of the most overlooked productivity and schedule hacks is the entrepreneur’s nighttime routine.
Here are five tips that will make you the master of your evening schedule and set you up for a high-energy and focused tomorrow.
1. Assess your day: what good did I do today?
Ben Franklin was famous for his rigorous routines and schedules. He ended each carefully mapped day by asking one single question, “What good did I do today?” The sentiment is right, but as an entrepreneur take a slightly more structured approach to examining your day. Take time to review your schedule, projects and insights.
Ask yourself three questions: What progress did I make toward my vision and goals today? What am I grateful for today, specifically? Finally, what improvements can I make with what I learned?
2. Set three priorities for tomorrow.
What you do in the evening can ensure your success the following day. In his Vanity Fair profile of President Obama, Michael Lewis notes “the president’s day actually starts the day before.” He spends the evening reviewing schedules and briefs for the coming day. Similarly, many writers suggest ending the day’s work mid-sentence so they know exactly where to pick up with writing in the morning.
Use this principle of building momentum by thinking about your objectives, tasks, schedule and desired outcomes. Using the Most Important Thing (MIT) approach, define your top priorities for tomorrow before bed. You’ll wake up with a clear agenda and be ready to accomplish more.
3. Set clear boundaries to decompress.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to feel like your business is your life. But set clear boundaries when the work day ends and personal time begins. Psychology Today has discussed the importance of rituals to help you transition from work to home. A study of military professionals, in arguably some of the most stressful positions in the world, showed that simple steps such as taking a few minutes of private time or removing their uniforms helped them ease into the home environment.
Take a walk, listen to an audiobook or stretch to end your day on a peaceful note. If you like more structure, attend a yoga class or meditate. After that time, if at all possible, disconnect and enjoy time with family or friends, decompress, engage in hobbies, or catch up on your rest.
4. Master sleep hygiene.
Seventy million Americans experience some form of sleep disorder. Entrepreneurs have more sleepless nights than most. Prioritizing sleep and protecting that time is essential to sleeping when you’re struggling with anxiety, fatigue and other issues that can arise as part of the entrepreneurial life.
The National Sleep Foundation lays out a good plan for sleep hygiene, but the keys are simple. Set a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it. Don’t work or watch TV in bed, just use it for sleep and intimate activities. Make your room as dark as possible with blackout shades and keep your bedroom a screen-free zone. Play with the temperature and keep things cooler. Invest in a comfortable mattress setup. And finally, give yourself enough time to unwind before bed.
5. Do one thing for pleasure.
It can be easy to lose sight of why you’re working so hard: to achieve financial freedom, build security for your family or to change the world. Every night, do one thing that brings you joy. Spend time with your family over a leisurely dinner with no tablets or phones in sight. Indulge in self-care with a long walk or a professional massage. Take time to watch a movie or read a book you’ve been dying to dig into.
Make the most of your non-work time to refill the well a bit each day, rather than relying only on weekends or vacations.
Paying attention to your evening schedule adds a layer of control and sanity to a typically packed schedule. It allows -- or forces -- you to make time for important things such as family and your health. Ultimately, you’re able to keep your energy high and focus on your most important business priorities for maximum productivity the following day.
Related: How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?