Bill Gates’ Evening Routine Is Key to His Decades-Long Success. It Depends On 2 Surprisingly Simple Things.

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Morning routines are all the rage — and have been for decades. They set the tone for our day, kick off productive schedules and habits, and take advantage of early-day energy.

But evening routines can be just as important to one’s daily performance. The right one can calm your mind, release stress, and prepare you for a recuperative night’s sleep. The latter is gold: a healthy number of zzz’s is critical to physical healing and mental health.

So what’s the magic formula for a winning evening routine? Much like with morning routines, that depends on you. But Bill Gates has utilized a couple over the years that explain why he’s been successful — as a business leader and philanthropist — for decades.

First: He washes the dishes. How does that help? It provides a meditative calm often lacking in a business leader’s hectic day-to-day. Imagine it: Your mind has a chance to disconnect from constant analysis and planning and focus on a rote task. Rinse, wash, dry, repeat. Zen.

Second: He reads. There are plenty of reasons reading is a good habit to get into — increased empathy (owing to the exposure to new and different characters), the accumulation of critical knowledge, appreciation of different perspectives, and so on. But before bed, it’s especially valuable: Just 30 minutes can reduce your blood pressure and feelings of psychological distress, according to research published in the Journal of College Teaching and Learning.

The more you examine these two simple activities, the clearer it becomes that a successful evening routine is not about cramming in to-dos so you’re primed for work in the morning. This results in a buzzing mind that’s hard to shut off, which makes sleep (good sleep, at least) a monumental challenge.

Instead, it’s about gently resetting. However passionate you are about the work you do, you need to give your mind a chance to disconnect. A rote activity or meditation — like washing dishes — helps you reach a quasi Zen state that prioritizes calm and clarity over angst and frenzy.

Reading in the evening, meanwhile, allows your mind to explore avenues it wouldn’t otherwise, which fuels creativity and imaginative thinking — especially if you explore topics, authors, or genres you wouldn’t otherwise. This isn’t restrained thinking, but “mental wandering,” and it can support outside-the-box innovations key to business growth.

If you’re finding morning routines are not your thing, or you struggle to keep them going, try an evening routine instead — and my recommendation is to start with the two simple cornerstones of Bill Gates’s evening ritual.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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