After tracking time for several weeks now, I find I am by far the least productive in the evening.
Since this is a high impact area (average 3-4 hours lost a day), it needs to be tackled immediately. First, dissect and understand the problem.
Three reasons for poor evening performance:
- Lower willpower in the evening. I am tired from all the decisions made throughout the day, and don’t have much “Mental HP” left to make optimal choices.
- Deeply ingrained bad habits. I spent most of my high school and college life on mindless Internet browsing. My mind automatically responds to certain triggers in the bedroom, making me want to waste time.
- Lack of stability. Mornings are naturally stable things. You are always waking up (or, you should be…). You always brush your teeth. Evenings don’t have a stable “start trigger” of equal caliber. We need to be more conniving if we want something reliable here.
Our goal here is to find a way to conquer these problems, eliminating low quality evening time and settings ourselves up for a better day.
Enter the evening ritual.
Why an evening ritual?
Rituals are built on habits. Poor evening performance is based on habits.
By “re-wiring” our evening habits to a premeditated ritual, we can successfully override negative behavior to create high-probability behavioral change.
At its essence, a ritual is a chain of habits – the end of one habit triggers the next:
- Reliable Trigger
- Habit Chain
Choose a Reliable Trigger
Triggers are everything for rituals. Once you’ve adjusted to a new ritual, all you need is that signal and, snap, like a dog drooling to the sound of a can opener, your body will act smoothly, without effort.
I don’t expect to find the perfect trigger on the first try. Ideally, it should be something that works equally well anywhere in the world and in any environment.
- After dinner – use the end of dinner as your start trigger. Works better if you eat meals late enough in the day and at a consistent time.
- At Xpm – use an alarm set to a certain time in the evening. Works better if most of your days start and end at the same time.
- Pre-existing habit – use a reliable habit that you already perform. Maybe you take a shower every night. Maybe it’s brushing your teeth. Use this habit as a trigger for another habit chain.
I’ll be playing with each of these over the coming weeks to see what works best.
Make a Habit Chain
This can be as short as zero things (Trigger, Sleep) or much longer (Trigger, Habit 1, Habit 2, … , Sleep).
Each habit in the chain should accomplish an objective.
Some possible objectives:
- Higher sleep quality. You might decide to dim the lights in the room; reduce blue light exposure; drink some sort of calming tea; listen to music; meditate; etc.
- Review the day. Look back on your objectives for the day? Did you succeed? Did you fail? Why? What could you do better? This integrates a habit for repeatedly getting feedback on our own performance.
- Plan tomorrow. I tend to do better when I have a general framework upon waking. By setting up the night before, I am guaranteeing myself this framework.
- Clean. Humans have a harder time making decisions in a cluttered room. Cleaning helps us relax, too. Maybe doing this in the evening will pay off 2x.
Note that, again, I’m just throwing ideas out there. The idea is to piece together high-probability activities and see how it contributes to our performance.
That’s all for today. I’ll be integrating this during my next weekly cycle. Let’s see how it goes!