My evenings are a waste of time.
October 24, 2007 11:27 AM   Subscribe

How can I increase my evening productivity (i.e. not be such a lazybones when I get home from work) ?

Without a doubt, my most productive hours are (and have always been) in the morning and afternoon. Between the hours of 9 and 5 I am full of life, energy, ideas, enthusiasm and motivation.

This would seem good, right? Except I'm chained to my desk during these hours doing relatively mundane office-y tasks, when my real passions lie in my extracurricular activities and personal projects that I can only work on outside of my day job (everything from sewing projects for my small clothing business to studying for the GRE and researching grad schools to cooking to practicing hoopdancing).

By the time I get home at night all I want to do is nap, watch TV, hang with my boyfriend and roommates, veg, and be otherwise unproductive. All motivation goes out the window, whereas earlier in the day I was fantasizing about how much I was going to get done, and wishing I was home to do it all. On the odd day off from work, I do get lots of things done and feel great about myself.

So, bottom line, what can I do (and what do you do?) to be as productive, motivated, and energetic during the evening hours as I am during the day? [Is caffeine the answer? I don't drink it and would prefer not to...]

Thanks, mefites.
posted by infinityjinx to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Somebody on another thread said, "Action precedes motivation." I've thought a lot about this and agree. The thing to do is: anything. Pick the smallest, easiest task you can think of and do that. Once you get moving it is a simpler matter to take on the next easiest task.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:35 AM on October 24, 2007 [6 favorites]

I drink a fair amount of caffeine and, currently, your predicament sounds like mine. I don't know that caffeine would change that - it sounds more situational. I'm going to guess that your BF and roommates are around during the evenings also vegging out? This makes it very easy for you to slip into the veg out as well.

Solutions have (sort of) worked in the past:

1) go for a jog when you get home from work. I found this would make me feel less guilty about a little post-jog veg-out (like, say, watching jeopardy), and I'd end up being more motivated later in the evening to do stuff.

2) forcing myself to get out of the house. When I get home after work, it's like climbing back into a womb. Not allowing me into that womb helps a lot. Perhaps figuring out how/where you could do extracurriculars outside of the house could help?

YMMV, good luck.
posted by mbatch at 11:38 AM on October 24, 2007

Two ways I've been approaching the same problem:

Pick something you want to accomplish. Then write down all of the steps you need to accomplish it (the more basic each step is the better). Try to put them in order, if possible. Then during the evening, do the first step.

The second, is to make a chart with becoming productive in the middle of it. On one side write all of the things that you can do to be productive. On the other write all of the things keeping you from being productive. Try to address the things in the second column that you can change.

In addition, I find exercising helps a little bit, but I haven't completely solved my personal problem in this area.
posted by drezdn at 11:40 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

What works for me is coffee... but early enough to kick in during the evening and fade off by bedtime. Also it REALLY helps to pick out ONE thing to get yourself going and just force yourself to do it. Never underestimate momentum.
posted by chef_boyardee at 11:44 AM on October 24, 2007


Also, don't be afraid to give yourself a break! I take some time to chill and relax when I get home, which helps me forget the work stuff and makes it easier to get into a "let's do projects!" frame of mind.
posted by lhall at 12:00 PM on October 24, 2007

You like sewing . . . why not try knitting? Unless you need to read something on the screen, knitting is mindless enough to watch TV with. Similarly, knitting is enough of an excuse to just slump in a comfy chair, but not enough work to ruin the quality laziness you're partaking in. You're not being a lump, a lump is the non-knitter drowsily watching you knit.

And then you've got sweaters coming outta nowhere!
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:01 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I also vote for a little workout. Join a gym or bring some jogging clothes with you to work so you can go jog immediately after work. Don't go home first- I agree with mbatch about the "womb" feeling. I don't know if this'll work for you but it's my way of getting myself motivated. Physical activity sets off a chain reaction for some reason, and I know I'm not alone.
posted by smeater44 at 12:01 PM on October 24, 2007

I have a burst of energy when I leave work, but the commute home is strenuous enough to make me feel totally sapped by the time I get home.

I've found that if I take a nap, I wake up feeling relaxed but not particularly motivated.

If I do the counter-intuitive thing and exercise a little (even though I'm already SO TIRED) I usually perk up pretty quickly, then have a snack, and then I'm ready to roll.

Also, I've found that if I get home and wind up sitting in front of the computer for any reason, for any amount of tiem, I wind up back in that work-like dead zone and might not stand up again for the better part of an hour. So now I try to avoid that, and if I simply MUST look something up on the computer, I lean over and do it from standing up so it's clear I'm not getting comfortable.
posted by hermitosis at 12:12 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Action precedes motivation"

Totally Agree. Is it possible that you are productive during the day *because* you are at work, not only because thats your natural rhythm? I recently switched careers, from one with a lot of work in the evenings to one with traditional hours, and I have definately noticed a difference in my energy and when I am most productive.

This may give you a possible different way to think about your situation. Rather than tell yourself that you don't have energy in the evenings, perhaps find a way to give yourself some structure (take a class, set up an appointment with another friend that enjoys the same hobby(ies), etc.
posted by jpdoane at 12:20 PM on October 24, 2007

What works for me: not going home till I am ready to veg. If you are going to study for the GRE, plan to go to the library after work. If you are going to research grad schools, take your laptop (if you have one) to the bookstore/starbucks/etc. and do it there. For the hoopdancing (what is that?) maybe you can go to a park or find practice space at a studio, take a class, start a class, etc.

Cooking kinda has to be done at home, so I can't think of a suggestion for that one. But in general, if you want to get more done, stay out of the house.
posted by birdlady at 12:32 PM on October 24, 2007

Are you actually getting enough sleep at night in general?

I'd start with that, then investigate exercise, etc.
posted by konolia at 12:35 PM on October 24, 2007

sometimes after work I just need to take it easy, but the idea of just do something is key - esp. if its out of the house. I seem to gain energy required to meet my plans if I just push through with them. Productivity at home though is much tougher to push through the lazy distractions, but the same applies.
posted by jeffe at 12:39 PM on October 24, 2007

i'm the same way, but more with housework/chores than the fun stuff. i find if i go home, change clothes, and immediately start doing the laundry/washing dishes/vacuuming/etc. it actually gets done. wheras if i take 20 minutes to decompress (a quick nap, playing on the 'net, watching a sitcom that we dvr'd), i cannot motivate myself to do anything but watch tv and the chores don't get done.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:45 PM on October 24, 2007

Try not to turn the TV on when you get home.

I am dead from a boring job and 90 minute commute. I also have a very rambunctious 1 year old so when I get home I actually can’t stop BUT what keeps me going after he sleeps is not turning on the TV…I mean do I really need to see a rerun of scrubs for the 20th time?

If the TV is on and the baby goes to sleep you can be sure my butt is glued and will be glued till sleepy time so this really is working for me. Also I have fought the urge to get hooked (like I usually do) to all the new fall shows. We HDR the ones we have to watch so this is just another was to release the binds of TV.
posted by doorsfan at 1:09 PM on October 24, 2007

Konolia has a great point. I've found that going to bed just a half-hour earlier improves my day on a lot of levels.

Yes, you'll whine, but going to be early is LAME! My day will be that much shorter!

When it comes to time awake (and alive), it is quality over quantity. Always.
posted by hermitosis at 1:27 PM on October 24, 2007

I've had a lot of luck with a "do one thing" rule. I sometimes have a list going of these "one things," ranging from trivia like making a phone call somewhere to much more involved what-not.

It's easy to do just one thing. And stuff will get done even if you only do one thing a day. But doing the one thing tends to push me into doing more.

So, er -- seconding a number of other people here, then...
posted by kmennie at 3:29 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

You could get up earlier and do the personal projects in the morning before going to work. Then you could be a lazybones after you get home from work with a clean conscience.
posted by maurice at 3:59 PM on October 24, 2007

I think you have to determine what it is that is making your evenings unproductive. it could be:

a) light - you may have more energy during the day because it's daytime, and after dusk, you may actually go into a bit of a hibernating mode, want to cozy up and not expend much energy. Some people are more susceptible to this than others, but if it is a problem for you, you can counteract it by fixing up your workspace with halogen lights, getting started before sunset, drinking energy drinks or working out to get the blood going, or even just recognizing it and actively willing yourself to work against it (sometimes just knowing something could be causing you trouble can be enough to limit its grip on you)

b) distractions - the TV, the boyfriend, the roommates - who wouldn't want to hang out and relax? If you really want to set yourself up to accomplish things, maybe you should set aside certain nights as "work nights" and other ones as relaxation time. Or you can set aside certain portions of different nights, or whatever, but instead of just letting yourself get swept up by whatever's going on in the common area, follow your own schedule. Maybe even plan to spend certain nights at another location - a library, a coffee shop, etc - where you can get work done without being tempted by people who aren't trying to get something done. Or if they are also trying to complete projects, make a deal with them that you'll all do work on (whatever) night.

c) being tired out - you were full of energy earlier in the day, before you'd worked all day. But by the time you get home, your resources are depleted - hardly surprising. To counteract this, you can try doing some of your personal stuff before leaving for the office in the morning, or you can set yourself a "refueling" period in between getting back and starting your home projects - a nice, relaxing dinner with a lot of energizing food, before you hit the work station. Or work out, to get yourself psyched up. Or take a nap, or a bath, or anything else that leaves you feeling refreshed and revitalized - what exactly will do it is up to you.

In general, I think turning the TV on is almost always going to dull someone's sense of resolve and inspiration rather than refresh them, so if you want to relax before getting to work, I'd recommend going for a walk, having a nice meal, taking a bath, playing a (real live) game, or hanging out talking for a little while, rather than staring at a screen. However, if there's a show you love that really gets you thinking or something like that, there can be exceptions.
posted by mdn at 4:16 PM on October 24, 2007

Seconding the exercise, and thirding getting enough sleep in general. I find that if I get enough sleep every night, then I have sufficient energy throughout the day.

Also, a bit of exercise throughout the day helps. Can you get away from your desk at all during breaks and/or lunch and take a little walk? Sitting at a desk, all day every day, is incredibly fatiguing, IMO. A brisk walk around the block at lunchtime or afternoon breaktime will perk me right up.

Consider eating a high-protein snack in the late afternoon to provide an extra burst of energy. Something like low-fat string cheese, yogurt, lean chicken, turkey or tuna.

Finally: Is it possible you are dehydrated? Many times "fatigue" is your body's way of saying "I'm thirsty!" Drink enough water (not coffee, not sodas, WATER) throughout the day.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:08 PM on October 24, 2007

Don't go home. Go straight from work to a place (cafe? library? pub? park?) along the way where you can focus on other things for an hour or two without having the mindsucking options (TV, bed, etc.) to worry about. Then when you get home, you can throw yourself 100 percent into boyfriend, TV, and other relaxation with no regret.
posted by pracowity at 12:39 AM on October 25, 2007

I know it’s expensive these days, but you might consider TM, or some learn-from-a-book alternative form of twice-daily mantra meditation. Been doing TM for more than 35 years and one of the main reasons is that it gives me two days every day: The day after the morning 20-min. meditation, and the day after the evening 20-min. Haven’t tried other types of meditation, but the quality of rest and refreshment I get from TM is completely different from taking a nap, even if I fall asleep during the evening session. There’s absolutely no fog/grog, no slow re-entry; the world just looks delicious again. It’s a total livesaver when I’m travelling for work and have put in a full day, then need to entertain at night. I’ll find ANY quiet corner to get in my evening 20...
posted by dpcoffin at 9:45 AM on October 25, 2007

"Is caffeine the answer? I don't drink it and would prefer not to..."

To some degree, yes.

Human sleep is regulated by many chemicals, but there are primarily two. Of those, adenosine is the one caffeine works on.

Ironically, adenosine is very very low in the morning. People who drink coffee in the morning are actually feeling woken up by the momentary shot of adrenaline that happens when your adenosine levels spike in the brain. This happens due to the increased level of neuron firings.

Caffeines effectiveness as a sleep deterrent increases as the day goes on as adenosine builds up. Keep in mind, not only time awake, but things such as stress and exercise also cause your body to produce more adenosine. It also stays in your system for hours. So you don't need to drink caffeine at 5 to be able to work at 5, you can drink it at 3 or 3:30.

Also be mindful of how much you use. A little goes a long way with caffeine, and several smaller doses over a time period are much more effective at increasing concentration and energy than one big one. This says use soda or non-breakfast tea, not coffee or breakfast tea (which is a higher caffeine blend).

posted by gte910h at 10:28 AM on October 25, 2007

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