This Evening Routine Helps You Wind Down at Night—and it’s One You Can Actually Stick to

Here’s the truth—your evening routine matters more than your morning routine.

Maybe that sounds a little crazy when the productivity space spotlights morning routines as the not-so-obvious secret that will transform your life. But there’s no way you can pave the way for a smooth morning unless you prepare the night before.

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In fact, my morning mood (and productivity level) change significantly based on whether or not I complete my evening ritual.

  • When I wind down in an intentional way, I’m ready to tackle my to-do list soon after I wake up.
  • When I don’t, I default to excessive screen time and stay up way too late.

The result is waking up just as exhausted as when I went to bed in the first place, along with zero motivation to work out, get ready for the day, or open up my computer to work. Plus, I’m downright cranky.

My mom tells me I was the baby who desperately needed enough sleep to function. My husband, Joseph, thinks I never grew out of it. 😆

Because an evening routine results in so many domino effects, it’s the first routine you should develop before you even think about building a morning routine.

Supporting your body as it winds down will not only help you get the best sleep ever, you’ll also recharge yourself for the next day. It’s a win-win!

But You’ll Want to Avoid This Trap

If an evening routine feels like just another set of tasks on your to-do list, that’s a clear sign you need to switch things up. You should look forward to this part of your evening!

And you can’t do that if you are super strict about what time you do each part of your routine.

So instead of 8:45 this and 9:10 that, decide when you want to turn the lights out, then work backwards. Give yourself enough margin to do everything you want to do and choose a start time based on how much time you need.

For me, I want lights out no later than 10:30pm.

That means I need to give myself enough time to…

  • Set up my next day’s to-do list
  • Close out my Notion Daily Journal
  • Complete all skincare steps (being in your mid-30’s is no joke)
  • And carve out at least 30-45 minutes to read.

So I should start my routine around 9pm and push it back to 8:30 for the nights I take a shower.

See how that works?

You’re choosing an end time and start time, then working through an order of events in the middle. This eliminates the stress of feeling tied to the clock. You don’t need to worry about staying “on track”!

Evening Routine Ideas To Wrap Up Your Day (What I Do!)

Here are my favorite before-bed habits that help me transition into a relaxing evening and set the right tone for tomorrow.

1.  Create Your Next Day’s To-Do List

If you have a hard time shutting your brain down at night, don’t wait until morning to write down everything you need to do. Otherwise, your brain will officially enter it’s spin cycle and keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Just ask me how I know!

Instead, write out a list of 3-5 things you want to accomplish the next day and don’t think about it until morning. If you have lots of ideas and tasks swirling around in your mind, do a brain dump, then organize those thoughts according to your top priorities.

I also like to have a small notebook and pen on my nightstand for things I think of later.

2. Tackle a Frustration Area

Are you frustrated when you wake up and see dishes in the sink? Or throw pillows on the living room floor? Or do you dread making breakfast in the morning and tend to skip it just to save your sanity?

For me, I can’t stand seeing a cluttered mess on the dining room table and kitchen island (which used to happen to me all the time before I implemented a 10-minute tidy, one of my non-negotiable daily habits).

It totally screws with my productivity and I’d rather climb straight back in bed!

Whatever it is you dread in the morning, do something to ease the friction the night before. 

You could….

  • Spend 10-15 minutes doing a quick pickup
  • Set out bowls and oatmeal packets for breakfast
  • If you have school-age kids, keep separate bins of food in the fridge and pantry (these acrylic ones are easy to clean!) so they can assemble their own lunches, thus limiting how much you have to do during the morning rush.

It might not sound very relaxing to do housework before bed, but come morning, you’ll be a much happier person when you wake up!

3. Pamper Yourself

A skin-care routine can be incredibly relaxing and is helpful to “wash away” the stress of the current day. Be sure to include products you love, but don’t make your routine so long that it feels like a chore. Simplicity is key!

Here’s my current system:

Sometimes, I will also take a shower during this time so I don’t have to spend a TON of time blow-drying my thick hair in the morning.

4. Wind Down with a Relaxing Activity

A few months ago, I was frustrated with how much time I was spending on my phone before bed. So I committed to a 30-day “no phone after 9pm” challenge and picked up a book instead.

Guess how many books I read?

I flew through EIGHT books instead of my typical 3-4 per month. And I fell in LOVE with reading again after experiencing a big slump—due to my excessive phone use, I presume!

For my fellow bookworms, my top tip is to not read anything too mind-bending before bed. A light fictional story or memoir are both great options to help your brain and body relax. Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life by Sutton Foster is one of my favorites.

If you’re not a bookworm, you can easily find an activity that has the same effect.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you don’t dread and genuinely look forward to. That’s the best way you’ll successfully close out the day and ready your body for sleep.

Goodreads is the best way to gamify your reading habit so you’ll stick to it. Here’s how to organize all your books in Goodreads!

5. Turn Off the Lights at a Decent Time

If you’re the type of person who can live on five hours of sleep, then by all means, skip this step. But for me, I need to turn out the lights no later than 10:30pm so I can make sure I’m getting enough rest.

Otherwise, I turn into that cranky mess I mentioned earlier!

I know how tempting it is to finish a good book (Frieda McFadden is not the best author to read at night for this reason), or find excuses to scroll through endless Instagram photos, but your body will regret the lack of sleep come morning. 

Make rest a priority, and your next day’s tasks won’t feel so monumental. 

HEADS UP: If you regularly turn out the lights later than usual, this is a sign that you may need to start your evening routine earlier than you normally would!

Bonus Tip: Buy a Weighted Blanket

It probably sounds strange to lie there with a 12-15lb weight holding you down, but this invention WORKS.

I would describe a weighted blanket like a warm hug that settles in and around you, making you feel cozy and secure. Half the reason I’m able to fall asleep at night (and sleep well) is due to using a weighted blanket!

This is the exact blanket I have (and I was able to WASH IT without the blanket falling apart.)

You usually have to spot clean weighted blankets (in fact, the one I own said “spot clean” as well), but the blanket looks dingy from top to bottom so I threw it in the wash as an experiment on the delicate cycle.

My blanket came out smelling (and looking) brand new!

The Best Weighted Blanket

Fall asleep faster and wake well-rested. This weighted blanket applies gentle, even, pressure across your body and helps calm and comfort people who have trouble sleeping, including those with conditions such as stress, anxiety, autism, ADHD, and PTSD.

Reminder: Perfection isn’t the Goal

Whenever we implement a new set of evening routine ideas, we have this overwhelming desire to do it perfectly until the end of time.

But that’s not real life!

Try to view your evening routine as a flexible support structure. Routines, in general, should guide you toward a healthier and more mindful version of yourself… not as a rigid set of rules you should never break.

Your evening routine will change as your life seasons do. Hold your routine loosely and it will continue to serve you instead of the other way around.

Sweet dreams!

What is an Essential Part of Your Evening Routine?

Let me know in the comments!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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  1. This is so helpful. As a working mom to 2 kids, time is very precious. I am using this app too – to manage my schedules, to-dos, notes and more. Getting stock of my time helps me to feel less overwhelmed and I can plan my day and week better.

    1. An evening routine could be the key! Just remember to stick to it for at least a week. It always takes a little bit to establish the routine to keep from falling back into bad habits.

  2. I love listening to Tim Keller (he has a podcast) at night. His teaching engages me intellectually and often touches me deeply. His voice is calm and often puts me to sleep in a good way. I don’t seem to have weird dreams much any more since I started this either. I’ve listened to many of us talks over and over; they are full of treasure.

    1. Do you use a speaker or headphones? My husband likes going to bed with some sort of noise in the background but I’m more of a quiet girl. Sometimes he uses headphones but they aren’t as comfortable for him if his ear is on the pillow.

      1. I use a pillow speaker, which is small and flat and lays on top of the pillow or inside the pillow case (for comfort). When the person’s ear is on it, no one can hear except the person who wants to listen. I fall asleep to podcasts or audiobooks each night. I set the sleep timer on my phone and leave the phone on the floor, so it’s not in the bed with me. I’ve experimented with various speakers that I’ve found on Amazon. I’ve just found your website, and although it’s not a productive afternoon, I’m hoping some of your ideas will inspire for future productive afternoons. Thank you.

  3. As of this morning, lol, I have made an effort to work in a short workout into my day. This means that every morning I am up at 6am and ready to go on a morning run. So naturally, if I want my morning to go smoothly, I need to prep for my day the night before.

    An essential part of my routine is laying out my workout clothes, so when I’m still half-asleep, I don’t have to try to dress myself in the dark.

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