If you work a day job, especially one you have to commute to and from, it can be hard to feel like doing anything when you return in the evening. This is a big problem if you have a family or a side project and a huge problem if you have a family and a side project.
I’m still single, the family thing isn’t yet an issue, but finding the energy to do what needs to be done on my side project (The Focus Formulas) is challenging.
Over the past year or so, I’ve found a few things that help a lot.
#1 – Eat Something Before You Leave The Office
Nothing big, just something healthy that’s enough to give you some energy that lasts over the commute and your first hour or so at home.
High in good fat and protein is good, as is low-glycemic. Hard-boiled eggs, protein bars, or a can of sardines can do nicely for this. Dark, low sugar chocolate also works pretty well.
I would avoid things that are mostly sugar, like fruit, as they don’t have much satiety value and while they can give you a quick boost, it will be fleeting and can leave you even more tired and hungry soon.
#2 – Make The Commute Home Enjoyable
Since I ride a train to and from work, I can in theory get work done during my commute. In the morning I often write on my iphone, for example.
My evening commute, however, is reserved for reading things I find enjoyable and want to read, like fiction, etc. Most of the time I don’t have enough energy to work efficiently, so I just use this time to rest.
Avoid news and social media for the most part, though. That has a good chance of stirring your emotions up and creating a bunch of mental clutter that will slow you down when you get home.
#3 – Have A Return Ritual
The moment when you walk through the door is critical. What you do in those first few minutes can make the difference between a productive and restful evening and just frittering your time away on things that are neither productive nor restful.
For me, this is pretty simple. There is some variation (see #4 and #5) but the basics are that I put my bag in a designated spot, change into “home” clothes, grab a small snack if I need it, and then sit on my couch and read from a real book (not my kindle) for 10 to 15 minutes to clear my head.
Even though I read on the train, it’s not the most relaxing environment, especially not after I have to wade through a crowd to exit the train station. After that, I do one of:
#4 – Either power nap, meditate, or do 30 minutes of work
This can be part of your return ritual, or something you do after.
I’ll sometimes close my eyes for 20 minutes or so. You have to be careful here though. I find that if I’m really tired this can make me more tired, or I can just fall asleep before I’m ready.
Meditation can be a little better, especially if I do it sitting up on my couch rather than lying in my bed where I’m likely to fall asleep.
If you’re not completely exhausted and have enough mental energy left to do a little bit of work, doing 30 minutes of work soon after returning home can be surprisingly energizing.
Pick it so that it’s something that you like doing (like writing, in my case), so it won’t be too hard to sit down and do. When you get in the flow and feel yourself accomplishing something, you will often find there’s more energy left in you than you realized.
#5 – Do some light exercise and then eat something
Again, this can be done as part of your return ritual if you want, or it can replace #4, or follow it.
Some people actually like doing heavy workouts in the evening – I’m somewhat this way. But even if you don’t, or don’t currently following any high-intensity regiment, it’s good to do something – either stretching, some quick calisthenics, a quick jog or walk, etc.
Note that it should be easy enough that you’re not tempted to avoided it, but still long and intense enough to get your blood moving.
Getting your heartrate up and your muscles moving will go a long way towards energizing you and clearing your head.
Craft your own
The stuff above is mostly things I have used at different times with success. I’m not saying to use all of it, certainly not at once, but experiment and see what works for you, using the above ideas as a starting point.
There’s nothing too profound here, but if you can get a system in place that allows you to consistently have more energy in the evening, and regularly get a little bit more work done on any side projects you have, you’ll get A LOT more done over time.