After work, you probably want a relaxing, stress-free night. And that makes sense. Planning activities like reading or meditating can help relieve stress when things get tough at work.
In addition, you can use this time to expand your knowledge or develop your skills. Additionally, you can engage in new experiences or pursue a passion.
The benefits of participating in these activities can range from increasing your productivity to improving your health and general well-being.
With that said, here are 10 practical ways to maximize your after-work time.
1. Tie up loose ends.
My mom had a tradition that she followed every evening when I was a child. As soon as we got home from school, we had to clean up the house. It wasn’t a long bit of cleaning — usually, she set a timer for 20-minutes. Obviously, we whined about this and the time trying to get out of it was likely longer than the actual time spent. But this effort and habit kept the house tidy and saved us from major cleanings if the cleaning had waited until the weekend.
After I finish working for the day, I will set a timer for 20-30 minutes and tidy up. Or, I can handle items on my to-do list I couldn’t do during the day. Even though that’s not a lot of time, you’d be surprised at what you can actually accomplish.
You can clean dishes, fold laundry, make a grocery list, clean your calendar, or send an important email. In addition, a timer can be a great way to tie up the day’s loose ends and help your transition from work.
2. Get a weeknight hobby.
Commit to an out-of-the-home activity after work. Some ideas could be an exercise class, volunteering, or a night out with friends. Then, rather than spending your time at home, you’ll have more time to do what you care about.
“By scheduling your time after work, you are more likely to stick to your most important ‘to-do’ items. Many people find that they are most productive when they have more to do,” says Dr. Lisa N. Folden, licensed physical therapist and naturopathic lifestyle coach, owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants. “By having a scheduled event after work—especially one that can double as exercise—you have more accountability to avoid sitting around aimlessly scrolling through your phone or watching TV.”
3. Sweat it out.
Yes, I am aware. You’re well aware of the importance of physical activity. However, this still can’t be stressed enough. There is no doubt that a regular exercise program boosts your creativity, confidence, and resilience — whether in the workplace or the home.
In short, moving your body is one of the best things you can do to boost your productivity. After all, exercising relieves stress and relieves mental strain. The result? You’ll sleep better and be more energetic.
So, block out time at the end of the day — to go for a run, ride a bike, or join an exercise class. Other ideas would be playing with your pet or kids, dancing, or getting caught up on a chore.
4. Enjoy the company of those you love.
Spend quality time with those who are important to you, such as family, friends, and colleagues. Not only does it make life worthwhile, but it’s good for you too. It releases endorphins and lowers stress when you talk to your spouse, kids, siblings, parents, or friends. Even a simple phone call with a loved one can benefit your well-being.
What’s more, with friends and family, there are lots of fun things to do, such as;
- Go to a restaurant or host dinner at home.
- Visit a museum or art gallery.
- Go for a walk after dinner.
- Host a game night.
- Attend a concert or sporting event.
- Go to the movies.
- Participate in a group activity, like bowling.
- Attend classes together.
5. Address your needs.
“This may seem totally out of place in an article about getting a lot done after work, but hear me out,” writes Rachell Buell over The Muse. “While it’s very important to make the most of your time, the only way you will have enough energy to do so is by first attending to your basic needs.” Also, get plenty of sleep, eat, and relax. “By addressing these needs, you allow yourself the quintessential element to productivity: sustainability.”
“A few weeks ago, I had a serious moment of panic,” Buell shares. “Feeling completely overwhelmed by everything on my plate, I lost my cool.” Regaining my composure, I came up with a brilliant idea: a sanity list,” she added.
“The list included things like doing daily yoga and drinking 64 ounces of water every day of water and cuddling with my husband. Whenever I cross everything off my list, I feel like a million bucks, and I’m fired up for more.”
“After a long day of work, most of us need time to switch gears and give ourselves a mental break before we try to accomplish anything else,” Buell says. “Whether that’s plopping in front of the TV to catch up on the day’s news or going for a jog to take the edge off, take a moment and consider what you need to feel recharged during the week, and keep it on your sanity list.”
6. Write out your priorities.
Is there ever a time when you feel like something is a high priority when it’s not? When prioritizing productivity, it can be easy to focus on getting more done rather than considering what is really important.
At the beginning of each week, I find it helpful to prioritize everything on my to-do list. Then, during the week, I navigate my time more efficiently by determining how essential a given item is. Personally, I use the Eisenhower Matrix to assist me with this.
By figuring out where each item fits in, you can focus on where to begin. For example, when doing home projects, start with the most essential stuff — then move to the middle and lower priority stuff. With work projects, you can start the next day knowing what needs to happen in what order.
Best of all? Creating a list of priorities can help you feel accomplished even if you don’t start the project yet.
7. Get outside.
Are you familiar with “nature deficit disorder”? Initially, Richard Louv used the phrase in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv says our indoor lifestyles are causing a lot of health and behavioral issues.
Even if you think that’s a stretch, studies have found that we spend 92% of time indoors. And that can negatively influence our physical and mental health. Why? Because it’s a simple way to reduce stress, increase happiness, and live healthier.
Moreover, connecting with nature and the outdoors can replenish your energy.
With that in mind, Rachel Hopman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Northeastern University, suggests that you live by the 20-5-3 rule;
- 20-minutes. Twenty minutes is how much time you should spend outside, like at a neighborhood park, three times a week.
- 5-hours. Five hours is the minimum amount of time you should spend each month in semi-wild nature, like a forest, city, or state park.
- 3-days. You should go camping or rent a cabin three times a year to escape it all.
8. Power down.
In today’s culture, many of us are overly attached to social media and our smartphones. In fact, DataReportal estimates the average American looks at a screen for 7 hours and 4 minutes a day. So why’s that a problem? Research has found too much screen time cal lead to digital eye strain, impaired sleep, and diminished mental health.
Furthermore, too much screen time can result in information overload. And it’s also distracting when we’re trying to get things done.
Therefore, setting boundaries around your phone and social media use is vital. For example, set a timer to limit how long you play games, watch videos, or scroll on social media. If that doesn’t work, keep your phone in a different room or make sure you shut down all social media at a specific time each night.
Initially, this will be awkward. But you may be surprised how much more alive you feel when you’re away from screens. Eventually, you’ll feel re-energized rather than worn out after work.
9. Invest in yourself.
Did you know that the former CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, studied improv comedy? Why? Learning improv comedy improved his leadership skills.
Investing in yourself is vital to success, whether that means getting some coaching, participating in psychotherapy, taking a workshop, working on more hours for graduate school, or completing a certification program. You could also learn how to play a musical instrument, join a book club, watch a documentary, or take a language course.
Overall, you’ll succeed in your professional career whether you invest in your mind, body, or spirit.
10. Follow an evening routine.
“It’s clear that you need a specific morning routine to optimize each day and be more efficient,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar post. However, “a successful morning routine actually starts the night before,” she adds. “Simply put, you need an effective evening routine to maximize efficiency and productivity the following day.”
So, what should your evening routine consist of? Well, that’s up to you. But, here are some suggestions worth exploring;
- Plan out your day. Look at your calendar to find out what’s on your agenda for tomorrow. Doing so gets you mentally prepared and makes any adjustments.
- Pick out your clothes. The task may sound insignificant. But it will save you a lot of time and energy that you could use elsewhere.
- Eliminate negativity and reflect. You can reflect on your day in the evening and choose gratitude over negativity.
- Read. Turn off the television and read a book while you wind down for the evening.
- Prepare meals. Mornings are already hectic. Save your sanity and energy by preparing your meals the night before.
Image Credit: Ketut Subiyanto; Pexels; Thank you!