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It can be hard to wind down at the end of a busy day. Especially if you’ve been working from home. You can quickly find the boundaries between your work day and your personal life are blurred. (If you're a parent taking care of kids at home, well, your day isn't even done when your workday is done. You don't go "off the clock" until your kids are fed, bathed, and settled in bed, with bedtime done stories read and stuffed animals securely in place.)
You feel like there's a frustratingly small window of time between when your daily tasks are all finished, and the time you have to go to bed if want to be even marginally functional the next day. You're looking for a way to create a sustainable self-care routine in the evening that helps you wind down, sleep better, feel less anxious, and have a more restful sleep so you're ready for the next day ahead.
When planning your evening routine, you might first think of yoga, herbal tea, or mindfulness meditation. Digital note-taking may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you're thinking about an evening routine. But the truth is that creating an evening ritual with digital journalling and note-taking in your personal knowledge management system will help you feel more relaxed, calm, and ready for the next day.
Side note: what is personal knowledge management? Personal knowledge management (PKM) is a fancy term for creating a systematic way of organizing your digital notes, documents, folders, ideas, tasks, and projects. Learn more about my Calmer Notes framework to create your own personal knowledge management system in this blog post.
Having a personal knowledge management system means that you have a methodical, reliable way of capturing and organizing your thoughts, ideas, and tasks. (Instead of scribbed whiteboard notes on your fridge, sticky notes all over your computer monitor, and cryptic late-night emails to yourself so you don't forget a crucial task in the morning.)
Three simple steps to creating a calming evening ritual using personal knowledge management to sleep better
Step 1: Set aside some time in a quiet space
Find the time in your calendar
Look on your calendar ahead of time to pick a time of the evening that you can reasonably expect to be undisturbed most nights. This should be a time when your work is done, your kids are in bed, your pets are fed and walked, your partner is occupied with their own projects or tasks, and you have some time and space alone with your own thoughts.
Choose your workspace
Plan where you'll work. Curl up in a cozy armchair. Get some fresh air on a balcony or your backyard. Clean off the kitchen table and pull up a chair. Maybe even go for a walk. Wherever you go, make sure that you're able to give yourself a brief window of focused time.
Step 2: Create an evening mindsweep ritual of daily reflections
Grab your phone (or iPad or laptop). If you're going for a walk or sitting outside, try using the ditation function of your phone. Open your notes app of choice. (Trying to decide which digital note-taking software is best for you? Check out my introduction to PKM for a quick rundown of options, including Notion, Obsidian, Roam Research, Bear Notes, and Evernote.)
In your unstructured mind sweep, write down (or dictate) everything that comes to mind when you ask yourself these questions.
Questions to ask for your daily reflection
- What's on my mind?
- What am I pleased I accomplished today?
- What do I wish I'd accomplished today?
- What problems or challenges are taking up my mental real estate?
- Is there anything I can do tomorrow to move forward on any of these problems or challenges? Can I move the needle, even just a bit?
- Are there any burning issues, tasks, or deadlines tomorrow I don't want to miss?
Edit your answers for clarity (especially if you're using dictation) but don't overthink your answers. This mindsweep is for your eyes only. Try to do this every evening if you can, but don't worry if you miss a day or two (or week or two) if life gets too busy. Just get started again when you can.
Step 3: Build your collection of daily reflections in your personal knowledge management system
Look at your notes in the morning
You will feel better getting those thoughts out of your head– so long as your mind knows you'll look at them again tomorrow. Add a reminder to your calendar for tomorrow morning to check the notes you made this evening. If you want this daily evening ritual to really feel relaxing, your mind needs to feel reassured that you were going to see these notes and reminders at the appropriate time. You need to set up a way to bring them back to the forefront when you need them.
Build a database of your journalled notes to track your progress and spot patterns down the road
But the most powerful part of creating this evening ritual is saving these daily reflections and thoughts in your personal knowledge management system. When you have a personal knowledge management system set up, you can easily find your notes tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, or next month. You'll be able to monitor your progress, see patterns, and get a big picture of what you've accomplished. You'll also see if there are any sticking points or recurring stresses that you can recognize and take action on.
Build a mindful digital note-taking system with the Calmer Notes method
If you're a creative person who would like to create an intentional, mindful, flexible personal knowledge management system that fits your busy life, the Calmer Notes method might be just what you've been searching for.
I've created Calmer Notes: Personal Knowledge Management for Busy People based on my own two-decade experience with personal knowledge management. The Calmer Notes method will take you through the process of creating and maintaining a tailored, mindfully-designed personal knowledge management system to organize your digital notes and files.
This self-paced course (which includes digital book + workbook + PKM app database) is now available for purchase at Gumroad.
- What personal knowledge management (PKM) means -- and why busy people need a PKM system to stop feeling overwhelmed 📚
- How to identify the existing pieces of your PKM system 🔍
- How to choose the right note-taking app that actually works for you (instead of switching apps every few months) 📝
- How to design and create a personal knowledge management system that works for the reality of your right-now life 🕰️
- Years of hard-won, first-hand knowledge about personal knowledge management I've accumulated after years of completing a PhD, an MD, and working as a physician while parenting 👩⚕️
If you'd like to learn more, check out an overview of the Calmer Notes approach or visit Calmer Notes. You can also download your free guide to the 5 biggest note taking myths (that might be getting in the way of you building a note taking system you love) when you sign up for my newsletter below. 👇
Wishing you all the best on your personal knowledge management journey!