Evening Pages

I wrote about the value of writing for a few minutes every morning with Morning Pages.

In this piece, I want to talk about the value of writing for a few minutes toward the end of each day. I call it Evening Pages.

As Socrates has said:

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Take a few minutes every day in your evening routine to make time for writing Evening Pages. It’s important that you do it in solitude. Block time for this when planning your week. Then, it’s a matter of doing this every day before going to bed.

When writing this, first run through your day in your mind from morning until evening. Reflect on your behavior from things you did. Think about the conversations you had with others, and think in terms of what worked well, what you could improve, and what you’d be better off not doing.

When thinking of what to write, first focus on the positives, such as things that are working for you, etc. Then, focus on the “negatives” (problems), such as things that are challenges/opportunities for improvement. It’s all in how you use the language.

As you write this, you may also have things on your mind. These can be incomplete/unfinished thoughts about things you may have as artifacts from the day. Putting those things down will help you sleep better. You won’t have to worry about losing those thoughts because you’ve captured them in your journal and can always refer back to it if needed.

Here are some ideas (prompts) for writing:

  • What did I learn today?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • What’s the best thing that happened today?
  • What was the best part of my day?
  • What were my wins today?
  • Did I fulfill my commitments? Why not?
  • Did I do my best to…?
  • What is my greatest challenge right now?
  • What am I committed to doing better tomorrow?
  • What am I most excited about in my life?

When writing answers to these prompts, focus on yourself as opposed to what’s wrong with the outside world. This forces you to stay proactive and ensures that you don’t blame others for your failures.

Besides writing answers to some of these questions, write about things that have your attention, and then save any ideas that might be potentially meaningful in your trusted system to deal with later.

You can use different templates for writing if that helps you frame things better so you don’t have to think about what to write about when it’s time to reflect. An example of such a framework would be writing in terms of your health, work, and relationships. Another example could be thinking in terms of relationships (character) and results (contribution). Yet another example could be practicing Ben Franklin’s virtues as a way to measure effective living.

It can often be difficult to do this kind of reflection on your own, in which case you can get someone else to help you with it. You can hire a coach (or an accountability partner) to ask you the same set of questions that matter to you every day at the same time. The important thing to note here is that you define the questions and that your partner reads your answers back to you. The questions you come up with as part of doing this process daily should be a reflection of your values. Once you’re done answering questions with your partner, it’s your turn to ask them questions that they have defined. This way, you can both benefit from this process. This process works particularly well for those trying to make behavioral change, which can be notoriously difficult.

Writing Evening Pages forces us to confront whether we’re actually living our values every day. Reflecting on our day makes us aware of our actions and offers scope for improvement. It allows us to look at things from an elevated perspective, which can often be challenging during the day because of the demands of work-life.

Doing so forces you to keep your focus on things that matter most to you every day. It helps you live your purpose and keeps you focused on the essentials.

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