The term “routine” can have a negative connotation for the type of person who tends to be more spontaneous. One thinks boring, monotonous, constricting. Yet, we all live by routines, even if they are unwritten or not well defined. In the best sense of the word, a good routine allows us to do regular tasks in a positive way with minimal thought. It prevents us from having to reinvent the wheel for everything we do, every day. In important areas of life, routines allow us to be intentional instead of reactionary.

Two of the most important routines to be intentional about are our morning routine and our evening routine. These routines act as bookends, framing each day in either a positive, neutral, or negative way.

The first place to look is our evening routine. Evenings can be a time for great relaxing, special time with family and friends, and de-stressing from busy days. Evenings, well spent, can be the icing on a satisfying day. Nights can also be a time when we try to extend the workday, fall into bad habits because we are too exhausted to resist, watch too much mindless TV, and stay up too late. Beyond the obvious negatives, our bad nighttime routines tend to bleed into the morning by leaving us fatigued from too little sleep, ruining our best opportunity for health and growth.

The morning is the time when so much positive possibility exists. We can enjoy precious, unrushed time with God. We can think through and plan our days for maximum effect. We can create a relaxed rhythm for the rest of our waking hours, setting a tone and spirit that allows the best in us to emerge. The problem is that many of us, exhausted from the night before, have left only a few minutes, if that, for all of this good to occur. Instead, we go into our already hectic days out of breath and frazzled.

So I want to encourage you to give some clear thought to your nighttime and morning routines. These routines are deeply ingrained in us.  Any changes will take determined and clear conviction. But there are very few changes that we can make in our lives that will have more impact over the long haul than adopting life-giving morning and evening routines. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What time in the morning do I need to wake up to allow myself unrushed time for reflection, growth, and planning the day?
  • Counting backward from our desired time to wake up, what time do I need to go to bed in order to make sure I am not exhausted?
  • What evening habits do I need to add or subtract that are affecting how I end each day? Evenings, when our willpower is weakest, are the time of greatest temptation. How do I resist temptation?
  • When do I need to shut down technology?
  • How do I want to spend my mornings? How much time optimally for each activity (quiet time, planning, getting ready, other)? Be generous with this time. Unrushed mornings can be the path to real intimacy with God and great clarity of purpose for each day.

Changes are always very hard to make! To help with the challenge, imagine the effect of changing these routines for the positive, multiplied by 20 years of daily practice. The end result? A changed life of meaning, growth, intimacy with God, health, and even greater effectiveness. Very few changes have such an undeniable upside.

Frame the beginning and the end of your day well, and the middle will likely take care of itself.

Join the discussion 26 Comments

  • Stuart Holt says:

    You nailed it!! – Stuart

  • Bill Childrey says:

    I’m an eight hour sleep person. So I’ve always tried to manage the beginnings and endings of my days some times to a fault., occasionally missing out on something fun or important. But I’m pretty dull.

    • In reality, I bet you haven’t missed out on much. I know I usually waste nighttime, so it isn’t a big deal to cut it shorter, especially when it makes my mornings so much richer.

  • Karen Hayes says:

    I thought it was curious that you began by focusing on the evening routine before the morning routine, until I read further and realized the strong connection between how our evening choices affect our next day. I have never fully considered this. Very helpful thoughts – I will be prayerfully evaluating these important times of day and making some changes. Thanks, Tommy!

    • I think the connection is what is so easily missed. We think of ourselves as morning people or night people and don’t connect the dots of how they affect one another. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Mom (Stella) Thompson says:

    Tommy, this has thrown me for a loop. The idea of mornings and evenings being as bookends of the day and how the time is spent is just something I never tried to discipline myself to do. I think I have lived “reactionary” – first things first, feeding the child that is seems the hungriest first, going to the grocery store when I need something for supper, filling up my gas tank just before the tank is empty, that kind of thing. As I have gotten older I have found I listen to by body a lot – hungry? tired? bored? lonely? With today’s communication it’s easy to take care of these needs. I truly wish I had been a planner and have always admired people that could plan their time (especially their grocery list). Thinking about it I am very much a product of the moment, a product of feelings, a product of wanting everybody happy. Your suggestions could and should have been used to more advantage at a younger age. Now at almost 92 I look at my life with joy and love. My family (each and every one) have filled in my personality gaps and make me proud every single day. How could have God blessed me so.
    LOVE YOU, MOM

  • David Tinkler says:

    Tommy,

    Good advice — advice that even ( and especially) a loving Mom can recognize for its wisdom. So glad to see you translating your life experiences in this way.

    Best wishes,

    David Tinkler

  • Valerie Kling says:

    Good pointers succinctly and clearly written , Tommy! I also love the image you chose, as it shows framing that offers protection, structure, and shape without inhibiting light and a sense of airy freedom. I look forward to more posts!

  • Thanks so much Tommy for your pearls of wisdom. Even a small change in this way can improve productivity . Your are an example of Godly, joyful living. Thanks for the encouragement and sound advice. Give that precious wife of yours a big hug from me.
    Warmly,
    Barbara
    (Btw, I loved ? your Mom’s comments)

  • Monica Rawles says:

    Such wisdom Tommy! Great food for thought. Thank you.

  • Robyn says:

    Wow I can’t unplug at night and go to bed! Need better practice on my bookends! Thanks and hope you and family are doing well!

  • Scott Andrews says:

    Superb lesson Tommy and keep it up.

  • John Dozier says:

    Great, “Bang-on!” [as they say in Toronto} message, Tommy! Soooo… As most have said, it’s counterintuitive yet very apt to begin the conversation at the END of the day. For me–since I’m a early morning guy–it would be like saying, “Since Jesus, the Son of God, placed so much emphasis on spending what historians believe to be 3+ hours with His Father, in the desert wilderness, “Early in the morning…” (Mark 1:35), shouldn’t I be devoting myself to being with God and my Bible early in the morning as well? And if I waste away late into the night, how am I going to get up early and begin the day like Jesus did?” Love it, Tommy. Such a great way to prioritize life to keep the main thing, the main thing. I believe it was Chuck Swindoll who said, “My favorite time of day is early in the morning with crank [coffee] and Christ!” That’s my motto too.

  • Mike says:

    Great stuff. You know I agree.

  • Judi Coleman says:

    Wow…knowing when to call it a night is a constant challenge for me. The delight of there being no demands on my time and no judgement about how I’m spending my time…it’s all so very de-li-cious…though I know it is not God’s BEST for me. I needed this challenge and I thank you for it. How many times through the years I have benefitted from your teaching, Tommy. Thank you for this new format.

  • Kim Boyer says:

    Excellent word- my mornings and evenings seem to toss me to and fro…
    As though I am a victim of time rather than manager
    Very good food for thought for me
    Time for a change