If you’re at all interested in productivity hacks and improvement, then you know that building solid routines which you actually follow is as fundamental as it gets. I certainly do. I am highly interested in ways to sustainably improve my productivity, so naturally I’ve not only heard about the importance of routines, I know firsthand their benefits. I have morning routines, workday routines, post-workday routines, and night routines—not to mention cleaning routines, exercise routines, yard work routines… I do love me a good routine!
I would say that my nighttime routine is the one that most affects my productivity, and for that reason I think of it as an investment in my career as a writer…
Okay—pause here. By now, I am sure you’re rolling your eyes, thinking “Oh, great. She’s one of those types.” Haha. I don’t blame you, and I’m happy to confess I’m not actually that lofty. Thinking of my nighttime routine in this way is a bit of a mind trick for me. You see, as I’m going about my night routine—especially on those days where I am exhausted and just want to fall onto the couch and Netflix the rest of the evening into oblivion—I am repeating to myself over and over: “I’m investing in my career, I’m investing in my career, I’m investing in my career.”
It’s a motivational tool. A kick up the pants to keep going and git ‘er done so that the next day will go as smoothly as possible. I’ll tell you all about it, in the hopes that it might help you, too.
Why routines are essential
We all know that it’s best to know what you’re doing before you start, so that you have a list of to-dos that you can proudly check off, and a plan in place for how you’re going to accomplish this. “Write chapter five this week” is less likely to happen than if you know that Tuesday is your outlining day, Wednesday and Thursday are first draft days, Friday is for your second draft, and Saturday is dedicated to clean-up and line edits. At least, that is how it works for me.
As I mentioned, I have routines for many areas of my life that are designed to make sure my days go as smoothly as possible. For example, a load of laundry each morning is how I avoid the weekend rush of five loads back-to-back and all the mad folding that goes along with it (not to mention avoiding the fail when I get overwhelmed and give up, and my living room floor looks like all the dressers in my house threw up for the following week). When it comes to my night routine, it is comprised of all the things I do before I go to bed to make sure that my following writing day goes well, and I have the best chance to be productive. By following my night routine on a regular basis, I find that I am more productive. I am also more motivated, more organized and I have more momentum.
Routine as a career investment
What do I mean by this, exactly? Well, I define this type of investment as one of my time and energy. Even when I’m exhausted at the end of the day, I tell myself that this is an investment in my writing career. “Tomorrow Veronica” is going to be very grateful that “Yesterday Veronica” made it easy for her to get down to work in a clean, organized environment where her tasks are planned and her daily goals are mapped out. Thinking of my night routine as an investment in my career is, like I said, a mindset tool that I like to employ. If you read my post, Authors: How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome in Your Social Media Marketing, you may remember that I talked about detachment as a mindset tool to help me get over the nagging self-consciousness that I’m not a “real writer” because I don’t have a publicist.
Here, thinking of my night routine as an investment in my career is also a tool that I use to help me get motivated to do what I need to do. It’s a subtle shift in my thinking that helps to motivate me when my motivation has completely dropped off the map.
My night routine
What is my night routine, you might ask? It’s not actually all that ground-breaking, I’ll admit. But when I explain what I do and why, you’ll see how I’m able to consider it an investment in my career.
First, I tidy the kitchen. There is nothing more demoralizing than walking into a kitchen full of dirty dishes and crumbs first thing in the morning, amirite? I will also set the coffee maker up with a filter and water so all I have to do the next morning is grind my beans, dump into the awaiting filter, and press “Brew.” Finally, I will do a quick meal prep for the next day. This usually consists of overnight oats for breakfast which require nothing to start eating, putting together a quick kale salad with vinaigrette (gotta get those greens in), and packing up leftovers into a container that I can toss into the microwave without much thought or effort.
After the kitchen is tidy, I make sure my desk is tidy. That means loose papers are put away, water glasses and tea mug are picked up and washed, computer is shut down, and notebooks are closed and stacked neatly. I fill my diffuser (an ambience must!) with fresh water and essential oils for that fragrant burst of clean, fresh scent while I work. And finally, I do a quick plan on what my day will look like, what appointments, meetings or errands I have to do and when, and I identify what tasks I hope to accomplish.
Last, I head up for a nice, hot shower to relax and wash the stresses of the day away. Once I’m squeaky clean, I flop into my big, comfy armchair in the corner of my bedroom, light a few candles, find some soothing music, and debrief with my journal. Here, I reflect on my successes of the day, what challenges I faced, what I could have done better, what didn’t go the way I hoped, and I give myself a pep talk to accept what I didn’t or couldn’t do without beating myself up. I find this to be tremendously helpful because, like my morning journal where I reflect on what I want from the day ahead, at night I reflect back on what I learned from the day and how I can carry those lessons forward to the next one.
A night of prep becomes a productive next day
That’s my night routine. As you can see, I’ve invested time and energy into making sure that I have as little resistance as possible the next morning, when I’m at my mental peak. I can use all that new, fresh energy for my writing, instead of squandering it on all the things I should have done the night before. By considering my night routine as an investment in my writing career, I have more motivation to follow through on it. It’s not just “the stuff I gotta get done for the sake of getting it done,” it’s a productivity hack.
As we writers all know, motivation begets motivation begets productivity begets that finished manuscript!
Do you have a night routine, friends? What are some of the things you do the night before to make sure your writing day goes as smoothly as possible? Leave a comment and let me know!