How Do You Make Your Evenings Productive?

Hard city sunset, originally uploaded to Flickr by angelocesare.What are the best ways to recharge after work — and reclaim those hours as a productive time for you? Reader R wonders:

Do you have any tips for recharging after work so you can have a more productive night? I keep reading about how mothers like Sheryl Sandberg go home and do another 5 hours of work after they put the kids to bed, but I’m exhausted by then! All I can do is stare at the TV with a glass of wine. Help!

I totally agree, R! I’m curious to hear what the readers say because evening productivity has always been one of my biggest struggles. (Pictured.) I’ve never been very successful at doing work work at home in the evening, but I have had periods where I’ve felt my evenings weren’t a total waste. Things I’ve done in the past include:

  • use the hours after work for socializing time — this way you can leave most of Saturday and Sunday for your own projects.
  • change the clock so that instead of *having* 5 hours of waking time after work, set an absurdly early bedtime and then get up early to cherish those quiet hours, completely recharged.
  • redefine productivity. Are you going to write War & Peace in the after-work hours? Probably not. But again — look at the projects you do in the mornings (when you do have energy) and on Saturday and Sunday. Maybe it’s making lunch for yourself — maybe it’s sorting the laundry. Shift those projects to the evening hours so you can reclaim the “good” energy for yourself in the mornings.

The one thing I’ve found in common is that I have to avoid the couch at all costs if I have bigger plans for the night. In fact, if you can avoid your apartment or house at all — and just meet friends or head to the gym or classes straight from the office — then I find that you have a much better chance of having a productive evening.

OK, readers, let’s hear it — how do you use the evening hours to be productive? How do you recharge after work?


  1. Not in law, but when I get home I do my workout immediately. I just can’t get up early to workout, so I don’t even try. I get home around 6 p.m. and I immediately change and go to the basement to workout for 30 minutes.

    It’s “rough” in that I barely see hubby, but when I am done I do have more energy. I play with the kids and then put them to bed. When they are down, because of my “late” workout, I have energy to do a load of laundry or the dishes. I suppose I could use that time to work if I needed to/wanted to. I choose not.

    I will also spend time studying for certifications or volunteering at my kids’ PTO events. So some nights are “odd” when i do these extra things.

    I also try to get in about 20 minutes or so of downtime before bed. That can be checking out stuff online or watching TV. I purposely try to get inactive so it’s easier for me to fall asleep. I’m normally in bed by about 10:30-11.

    Am I working for those 5 hours when I get home? No, but I’m productive.

    • A couple of nights a week, I work out right after work (well, after my hour commute, but I don’t go home first). Other nights, I either get stuck late at the office, meet friends for dinner, or run errands on my way home. By the time I get home, I’m not going to work more unless I have a really early meeting, but I do sometimes try to be productive with my “home” to-do list. And other nights I sit on my couch with a glass of wine, the tv, and the laptop. Guess which tonight is?

  2. Doesn’t anyone have a spouse they want to spend time with? I am a hard worker, but when I go home it is time for my spouse and me to spend time together. There’s no way you can grow and learn if all you do it work.

    • It’s good to remember that what is right and possible for you is not necessarily right or possible for everyone else.

    • I hang with my spouse at the very end of the day/night. After the kids are in bed, and it is just us, passing out watching tv, etc.

    • My spouse works even more than I do. So we’ll have dinner together and watch a sitcom (or two on wild nights…) and then he works until late at night. I’ll put the baby to bed and either veg out in bed with a glass of wine and some crappy reality TV, or if I have to, I’ll get to work.

      Having that several hour break with my husband does help recharge me some for having to work after putting our son to bed. And knowing that I’m not actually missing time that I would normally spend with my husband does make working at night a little easier.

  3. Russia Repeat :

    I find I’m more productive in the evenings at home if I come home on the early side before I’m too tired. I try to unwind on my commute (train, so I read a magazine or play games on my phone) and when I get home, have something to eat as soon as I come in, and then get to work. I bring my bag over to where I’ll be working (same place I eat usually), so once I’ve eaten it’s low-threshold to get into working. Like Kat mentions, I try to stay off the couch and eat and work at a table/counter.

    Also, know what you can and can’t do at home in the evenings. Long, challenging reading may make me feel sleepy, but going through cases and taking notes, especially when they’re cases (mis)cited by my opponent usually keeps me interested because I’m thinking about how I’m going to use them in my response. Tedious stuff that can be done with a baseball game on in the background also works for me.

  4. GO. TO. THE. GYM. Just go, no matter how tired you are. You will have a ton of energy afterwards.

    • I wish I had the energy to go to the gym after work. I just can’t do it!

      • Just go! Make yourself. If you can make yourself get out of bed in the morning, you can make yourself work out. And after a few days of working out, you will have more energy all day long and then it won’t be hard to go to the gym after work anymore. Just go!

        • I know you are right, but sadly, I am a lazy slug. I also have a heavy mommy guilt complex, so I can’t justify not going straight home after work.

          I have a great Precor elliptical machine in my home gym, and I do occasionally use it when my kids are settled down, but not to the point of breaking a sweat. More like a leisurely stroll, which is pretty good for stress relief.

          • Can you go at lunchtime? Or at least go for a walk at lunchtime?

            Your kids deserve to have an energetic and healthy mommy! (How’s that for a mommy guilt trip?)

          • harriet the spy :

            Bluejay: good job on the mommy guilt. Now I feel fat AND like a bad mom because I’m not going to the gym. The only way I could pull off the gym is if I started getting up at 5. Ugh.

          • Oh no, sorry! FWIW, I don’t actually think that. I was just trying to help DivorceLawyerNY justify going to the gym.

        • I wish that were the case for me! I’ve kept up aerobic/weight training exercise faithfully (like 4+ times per week) for months at a time several times in my life and never seemed to feel anything but wiped out afterwards. Never found that it gave me more energy during the day or on my off days, either. That’s why I never seem to stick with it.

          • long term lurker :

            Ditto. Just makes me more tired and SUPER hungry.

          • This.

            I get SO wiped out by a 20-30 minute aerobic workout plus 15-20 minutes of weight training that all I want to do afterwards is sleep. The thing I have found when I stick with it, is that I sleep MUCH better, and then wake up more energized. Sadly, hip tendinitis is keeping me from the gym these days.

    • Introvert :

      I. HATE. THE. GYM. I hate having to get dressed and the. Drive through rush hour traffic to have to wait for a machine. Now I work out at home or walk to the park across the street. My success rate is much better this way than it was when I tried to go to the gym. I do not really have much energy after the gym either. It is more mentally exhausting for me than it is physically. I think people need to figure out what works for them and not worry about what others find normal.

      • Well, what I really meant is exercise. You don’t have to go to an actual gym. I like the gym, so my comment was biased in favor of my own likes.

        • Agreed. and re mommy guilt– exercise controls weight, improves health and, relieves stress–all good values to teach our children. Why not kill two birds with one stone and exercise with our kids? catch, tag, swing, throwing ball, walking pets together ….

          • Senior Attorney :

            My son and I did karate classes together for years, starting when he was 6 and continuing until he was in high school It was awesome!

      • Senior Attorney :

        I go to a small private gym and I love it. No waiting for machines, no crowds, no nothing. Twice a week it’s just me and my trainer for a private session, and then the other days I go to a small “indoor bootcamp” class with a maximum of 12 people (but it’s usually around 6). So. Awesome. It’s expensive but it’s some of the best money I spend because I love it so much I want to marry it.

        And BTW, the letter-writer in Kat’s post above says “Stare at the TV with a glass of wine” like it’s a BAD thing. What’s up with that? ;)

        • Senior Attorney :

          And although I love my gym and I love exercising, I have no opinion on whether the rest of you should excercise or not. Just offering an alternative to those who might be interested in exercising but hate the big gym.

        • Staring at the TV with a glass of wine is one of the best things ever.

          In fact.. I would be doing it right now if there was anything on. Instead I’ll drink wine and read posts here :)

          Wait, I clicked on this thread for ideas on how not to be lazy after school/work… oops.. back to outlining!

          • My son loves to go to the gym with me. I work out and he plays raquetball by himself. Or, I walk and rollerblades in circles around me. Kids love it.

    • Totally agree! I mostly work out after work. I have a treadmill at home but go to the gym to lift weights after work. I’ve also been knitting more and that’s so relaxing.

    • To quote the very wise comment left above by DC Jenny:

      “It’s good to remember that what is right and possible for you is not necessarily right or possible for everyone else.”

      You seem way over-invested in whether the rest of us exercise after work. Maybe it doesn’t make sense for us, or we don’t want to, or *GASP* don’t prioritize exercise over other things.

      • Yup. I get two hours at night with my son generally, from 6-8. After 8, I’m getting everything ready for the next day, finally taking some time to myself, or working. I’m not going to spend my only free two hours during that time working out.

      • I’m sorry, I thought this was a thread wherein we were requested to post our suggestions for how to make our evenings more productive. I must have been sorely mistaken.


        • wedding fun :

          it is. but just because going to the gym = productivity for you doesn’t mean thats the case for everyone. i know you trying to be helpful but pushing someone to go to the gym with mommy guilt (see above) comes off as harsh.

        • Blue Jay,

          I did not take your comments as harsh at all. In a perfect world, I would have ample energy and no mommy guilt, and therefore, no excuses. I admire all of you who can make the time to exercise on a near daily basis. One day, I will join your ranks!

        • Yes, but ALL CAPS directive that YOU MUST GO TO THE GYM is really off-putting. Not mention the insistent follow-up. If you think that’s a “suggestion,” I suggest you re-read the original question and your original post. And then look at a dictionary. No one likes to be harangued, much less told by some stranger what their children “deserve” from them.

          • You’re out of line, Whoa. Bluejay was clearly well intended — what I gathered from her is that exercise has been a happy force in her life, and it’s something she hopes for others, too. Her intent was rooted in kindness, while you seem bent on being offended.

    • I promised myself that after we moved in July, I’d work out in the new home gym all the time. Every day or more. Instead, it is the location for all the boxes we have not yet unpacked, including the absolutely awful ones that the movers we hired for the last minute panic threw together in a completely chaotic way.
      I’d get it all sorted out faster if I had more energy, which I would have if I were working out, if only I had a place to do so!

    • Bluejay, two advice questions: (1) what do you do about food when you go to the gym after work? When I go right after work, I eat a small snack before, but then am starving by the time I get home for dinner around 7:45. I also like to cook fresh clean meals at home but if I do that I don’t sit down to eat until almost 8:30! (2) what do you do when coworkers have after work activities? I’ve been traveling for work and at least once or twice there is a happy hour event and the partners/managers notice when someone is absent from the event.

      • I’m kind of stumped on this one, because I’m actually less hungry after a workout. I eat something proteiny around 5pm, work out for an hour at about 6:30, and then I don’t get hungry until 9pm or later (which is a problem in itself). Maybe your snack is too light? I usually eat a Clif bar, an apple and an ounce of cheese, nuts and a bit of chocolate, something like that.

        I have given up on cooking at home on weeknights. It’s healthy takeout (like the Whole Foods bar) or prepackaged for me. I realized that I simply cannot make time to both cook and work out.

        I basically flat out refuse to go to after work activities more than one night per week. I am sort of known as a party pooper, but salty food and booze make me feel bloated and gross, whereas going to the gym four nights a week makes me feel good. But we don’t really have mandatory fun at my office; it sounds like you’re strongly enocuraged to attend these events. I guess if I were in your situation I’d stick to a non-alcoholic beverage and then leave early to go to the gym around 8pm, but that’s not ideal because you’d be starving by then.

        • Great advice, thanks! I think the bigger snack thing might be my solution. I normally just eat a cup of cottage cheese or yogurt so maybe that’s why I’m fading before I get home. And I am totally already known as the party pooper at work, too. Tough job but someone has to do it, right? Thanks again!

  5. I already work 10 hours a day, I have no burning desire to work another 5 hours at home after I’ve been in the office all day. That being said, if I want to do work from home it’s usually extra or catch up work. I usually do that on the weekends – I find it alot easier to roll out of bed Saturday morning, sit down at the kitchen table and pound out a few hours of work then to try and get the same amount of work done after I’ve already worked all day.
    If there’s something “productive” that I need to get done after the work day , I find it’s best to do it right after work (like putting on my running clothes as soon as I get home or going to the grocery store before going home).

    • I agree! Maybe we’d all be happier human beings if we were less productive after work. There’s something to be said for actually relaxing. I try to compartmentalize my life so it isn’t all about work. It already takes up so much of my time and energy! I need a little LIFE in my life.

  6. I Do Not Like the Cone of Shame :

    I find that “productive” and “recharging” after work opposing concepts. I get up early and work out before work, so by the time I get home at night, my agenda is a dog walk, a glass of wine and TV – and I am darn proud of it : ) F*** Sheryl Sandberg and her additional 5 hours of work. My brain is so fried at night that it’s totally unproductive to work. If I can get in a load of laundry or take a class that’s an over-achieving evening.

    Maybe I might work on a Sunday morning – I’m relaxed and it’s quiet at home.

    I get more accomplished in 9 hours when my brain is fresh than 12 hours of exhausted.

    • I love this comment so much.

    • Statutesq :

      preach it sister!

    • Indeed. I have the additional issue that it’s an achievement for me not to need a nap in the evening, so if I can do some washing, cook dinner and watch some trashy TV before going to bed, it’s been a good evening. If I tried to work in the evening I’d never sleep properly.

    • In my i-banking days, everything we did that generated an expense had to be assigned to a client code or, if we didn’t have a client at the time, to the group’s cost code.

      I feel like the fixation (in this society, not trying to slam this blog post) on productivity, is turning every activity of my life into something that’s got to be assigned to some code or performance-review-worthy “well-defined goal.”

      I may be a cog in the great corporate machine, but I don’t always want to feel like one. I think I’m more than somebody’s utility function.


    • TO lawyer :

      I like this! I feel guilty for sitting in front of the tv sometimes (especially since my SO rarely just chills – he’s always working or going to the gym in the evenings, so I feel like a big slacker by comparison) but honestly, sometimes I just need 3 hours to zone out in front of the tv (with a very large glass of wine) so I can function the next day.

      I know I need this when I bring work home with me and can’t even bring myself to get it out of my bag because I’m so fried.

    • I like your style! I don’t want to work in the evenings either. Or if I do, I want to do my own hobby projects, not a project for the office.

    • long term lurker :

      I am late to all of this, but I view my downtime/recharging/having wine on the couch as productive. Why? Because I need to recharge. I cannot work all the time. I recall 12 hour doc review days early in my career and by the end of that day I was not productive, I was goofing off, half asleep, on the internet, etc. For some people maybe the gym gives them this feeling (see upthread). Not me. I sometimes find if I have extra energy cleaning/organizing gives me a little boost. I like to see things being accomplished. Sometimes I’ve spent all day at work on the phone and have nothing tangible to show for it. So if I have a clean kitchen that feels good. Other days its all about dumb tv and wine and giving myself a BREAK so I can be productive when it counts.

  7. We have a small child so our early evenings are a whirl of getting him fed, playing with him and the bedtime routine. Half the time we don’t even eat dinner until after he is down. My husband likes to relax in front of the tv, I either play around on the laptiop or putter around the house. We don’t really have the time or energy to have planned activities at this point. Maybe in a year or two. Who has 5 hours to work after they deal with kids? Personally, I’d rather get into the office really early than work at home really late. Besides, I go to bed around 10 and am very protective of my bedtime.

    • Amen, sister!
      I would love nothing more than to come home and workout, make dinner, get some housework done, maybe some work, then relax a bit. But I have a baby, a toddler, and a husband who has late grad school classes this semester (he has morning duty, i have evening duty). When I have finally wrestled my three year old to bed at 8:30 i am lucky if I have the energy to feed myself something semi-healthy! And THEN I have to look forward to at least 2 late night nursing sessions with the baby. fun!

      But you know what? I wouldnt trade it for the world. My kids are only this young once, and though its hard, I love being able to spend those hours with them. I will be productive when they are older I guess?

      • Don’t count on productivity when they are older, unless by “older” you mean, in college and no longer living at home.

        I spent 3 hours last night helping make a greek warrior armor out of tinfoil for a 7th grader.

        I too had this illusion when he was little, that somehow he would require less time when he was older. It was an illusion. The time is spent doing DIFFERENT things, but it’s time nonetheless. I make him do his own homework, but in an effort to force parental involvement, he gets a shocking amount of homework that requires my assistance. (Not because it’s hard, I mean literally, me doing something is part of HIS assignments.)

        • OMG! The homework is INSANE! Sadie, please push back on this. And, if you are Facebook, ask to join Stop Homework. If the homework is age and grade appropriate, I don’t need to be involved. Yes, I still am involved, but I give every teacher my opinion, every time. I am sick to death of having the teachers and school dictate my evenings because the entire competition with China is on the head of our kids.

  8. My commute home is actually too short (only five minutes) so I can’t really unwind on my way home.

    When I get through the door, I go straight to my closet to change out of my suit and heels and shed my lawyer persona. Once I am in my sweats, I immediately feel calmer and less stressed. Then I can start my real job — getting food on the table for my kids and doing homework, bedtime etc.

    • SoCalAtty :

      Mine too! Only 10 minutes. I barely have time to do “phone duty” which is calling whichever relative I haven’t talked to in a few days. When I get home I get out of my “lawyer skin” as fast as possible.

      Recently, with me not being totally healthy, I haven’t been doing anything at all other than flopping onto the couch with a book or to catch up on whatever is on the DVR…good thing I don’t have kids yet, I’d be in trouble!

    • anonymous101 :

      It’s funny you mention this because whenever I feel the need to be “productive” when I get home from work I keep my work clothes on so I still have that binding feeling (only problem is that the pet fur gets all over it but I use a lint remover once I’m done). Once I get into my house clothes it’s all bets are off: wine, iPad, tv, meandering around the house…(i don’t have kids).

  9. I think it depends on what kind of work one has to do.

    Also, for me to be any kind of productive at home I have to just basically avoid turning on the TV when I first walk in and not sit down at the computer. Then, magically, lots of things get done.

    • Yes – I was just noticing this for myself. If my husband and I watch TV or a movie during dinner, then I’ll stay on the couch for the whole movie or we’ll watch “just another episode,” or I’ll end up on my laptop during the movie and then keep laptopping for an hour after until it’s too late to get anything done. If we eat at the table, the table gets cleared right away, the dishes get done, and then I have extra time to right away do laundry, cleaning, cooking for the next day, etc. (I very rarely do additional work-work at home, except reading and writing comments on longer documents.) The downside is it’s less time spent relaxing together, although he’ll help me with a lot of the stuff so there’s still sort of time together.

      I also agree that recharging and being productive are not necessarily evening plans that go together. A glass of wine and a book or a movie = recharging, but not necessarily “productive.” Cleaning the kitchen or doing 3 loads of laundry = being productive, but can be exhausting in its own right.

  10. I basically use my bus ride home as my “unwinding” time. I relax, read my book or listen to music, depending on how I am feeling. By the time I get home I am usually ready to make dinner and proceed with my evening. It does help that I view cooking as a “relaxing” activity and not a chore.

    If I have things I want to accomplish in the evening, I usually make a list before I even leave work. Otherwise it is way too easy to just sit and watch TV. If I have particular goals in mind, then I know I’ll feel guilty if I don’t hop to it after dinner.

    On nights when I go to the gym, I do that straight after work. Once I get home, not a chance that you will pry me out of there to work out.

  11. This is really timely for me. We do a gym class that meets at 7:45pm most nights of the week. I usually get home by 6:00, so there’s technically about an hour I could use to do some work but I often wind up just surfing the web or doing something else mindless. After class, by the time we shower and have dinner, it’s often close to 10:30pm, which is bedtime for me (I get up at 5:30). Being able to use that hour would be hugely useful because I have an insane schedule right now and an extra hour of productivity a night would make a big difference. Still trying to hit on just that right sort of task that I can sit down and bang out between work and gym.

  12. Ladies, can we please stop heaping Sheryl Sandberg expectations upon ourselves? She’s someone to admire, but anyone who is at her level and can work at that level for 16 hours a day is a different breed than most of us. The majority of us — even if we are overachieving chicks at work — get tired and have personal lives to deal with once the workday is over. There is no shame in that.

    • Preach it, sister.

    • kerrycontrary :

      Agreed, and it’s nothing that I aspire to be like at all. I would not brag that I worked an additional 5 hours after putting my baby to bed, that sounds miserable. I figure if I can get a workout in, walk my dog, do the dishes, and make lunch for the next day then I’ve been “productive” for that evening. I agree with all the comments about avoiding the TV until the end of the night.

      • Somewhere along the line, I think many of us misinterpreted the message of “you can do anything!” to mean “you SHOULD do EVERYTHING!” Well, no, most of us shouldn’t. At 32, I consider this my hardest-won lesson of adulthood so far.

        • Agree with this, though I’m still trying to internalize it.

        • Yep. And frankly, I think society encourages it because women who are burned out trying to achieve perfection and punishing them for every perceived failure aren’t going to be rethinking the status quo. It’s like the section of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth where she talks about how the pressure to spend huge amounts of time and money on appearance acts to keep women at a power and political disadvantage, except expanded out to every facet of our lives.

      • SoCalAtty :

        I agree, that sounds awful. If I had an extra 5 hours a day, I certainly would not spend it working. Maybe working in my garden, or on some fun project…but not working.

    • I’ve been thinking about this lately–the aspirational figure, whether for work or something else. In a way, it’s good to have an example to strive for, or even kind of a mythic hero. But at the same time, I agree: past a point, it’s just like “you win.” After my Dad died and I asked for a teeny, tiny bit of slack at work, I had one supervisor tell me how when both of her parents were dying, on the other side of the country, she still did 100% of her duties throughout while flying back every weekend. I just didn’t know what to say. She could do that, and I could not. It happens.

      • Honey Pillows :

        Wow, that sounds incredibly unsympathetic, and honestly unhealthy for her psyche. It’s one thing to distract yourself with work until you can process your feelings, it’s another to ignore the sadness and pretend nothing is wrong.

        • Yeah, she was awful all around, actually. I could post plenty of worse stories, but the only thing that fits here is that she took this superhuman feat and turned it into an expectation for everyone. I will add, too, that her salary was many multiples of mine and she had all kinds of institutional and outside support and resources that I didn’t. Same obviously goes for Sheryl Sandberg.

          • Anonymous :

            WOW, that’s shocking. What could be worse, I am now curious! War stories on this site always leave my chin dropped to the floor (even though I have plenty of my own).

          • anonymous101 :

            WOW, that’s shocking. What could be worse, I am now curious! War stories on this site always leave my chin dropped to the floor (even though I have plenty of my own).

    • Yes. Maybe if I got a Sheryl Sandberg-level salary, I would put in that amount of hours, but until then, no.

      • I don’t want a Sheryl Sandberg-level salary because I would have to put in those hours.

    • Not to mention that I seriously doubt she cooks breakfast and dinner for children, cleans her toilets or does laundry or any other bazillion things that *most* of us do because we don’t make a zillion dollars.

      • Exactly what I was thinking. And I also wonder if her vacations cause her the travel stress of having to deal with flying commercial (Gatwick, I hate you) and whether she has to drive herself everywhere or has a driver and can make that time productive. Going back to the vacation thing, I wonder if she spends hours on the internet searching for affordable yet appealing options. I could be unproductive for the rest of the afternoon coming up with ways tht her life and mine are utterly different. I refuse to even think about holding myself to her standards.

    • I love this series of comments! I’m one of the ones who puts in 5 hours after the kids are in bed. It’s nothing to brag about. It’s miserable! I work at a large law firm and I see what the partners do. They never sleep either. I’m supposed to aspire to be like them?

    • Anon in Midwest :

      I agree. Each woman gets to make her own choices, and the fantasy that you can have a very time-consuming job, be involved in the lives of your kids (and spouse!) in a meaningful way and have a bit of your time for yourself is just that, a fantasy. Sheryl Sandberg herself blames women for the gender gap in corporate leadership by saying that women need to have more ambition. In an ideal world, financial considerations aside, each woman gets to make her own decision about how she spends her life – pursuing an ambitious career, raising children full-time, or striking her own appropriate balance between the two.

      I’m a lawyer, and when my kids were little, I was in private practice, doing M&A work at the junior partner level. Balance then was leaving work by 6pm to spend 2 hrs with the kids before bed (as well as eat, do chores and see my husband). Then after their bedtime, it was back to the laptop and working in my pajamas for 3 hrs until bed. No time for exercise or personal interests. I saw most of my partners doing the same, with no end in sight – constantly chasing the next deal and making as much money as they could. To me, that seemed unsustainable.

      Now I’m in-house, with more reasonable work hour expectations, and I’ve reclaimed those 3 hrs as “me time” for exercise and whatever the heck else I feel like doing. I actually have hobbies now. I feel more recharged during the work day, and the trade-off in compensation is definitely worth it.

  13. Exhausted :

    Anyone want to share a typical daily routine / schedule? I’m trying to find more time in my day and think it might be helpful to see by comparison where I’m spending too much time… beyond the obvious at work. FWIW, married law firm associate trying to meet billable hours and wanting to start family in next year or so.

    • I’ll bite.

      5:45 – Wake up, shower, get ready. Feed cat & do any last-minute morning things.
      6:30 – Wake up DS, get him dressed and ready for daycare.
      6:45 – Attempt to eat breakfast. Hang out with DS.
      7:05 – Leave house and drop off kiddo at daycare.
      7:30ish – Get to work.
      Rest of morning – Work.
      Noon hour – Do personal errands when I can. Plan meals & figure out what needs to be done at home. I try to make this as efficient as possible so I can leave early.
      Afternoon – Work.
      4:45 – Pick up DS at daycare. Then pick up DH at his office.
      5:30 – Get home.
      5:30 – 7:30 – Make dinner, eat, play with DS.
      8:00 – Kiddo goes to bed. We’re strict about bedtime.
      Rest of evening – Chores. Cleaning. Packing lunches for the next day. Running errands that can’t be done during workday. Usually watch TV with DH right before bed.
      9:30 or 10:00 – Go to bed.

      Working out and personal time are things of the past, unfortunately.

    • 5:45- Wakeup, shower, coffee, talk to DH, etc
      6:45- Toddler is up, feed and dress him (this can take a while)
      7:45- Out the door, daycare drop-off
      8:45- Get to work
      5:30-6 Leave work (DH handles daycare pickup)
      6:15- 7:45 Dinner, family time, bedtime for kiddo
      8-10- Time with DH, dogs, etc.
      10- Bedtime

      This can change with work, meetings and other commitments. Biggest difference in time management after child, losing those hours in the morning and early evening. That’s a choice for me though. We could move faster in the morning, but I like taking 5 minutes for a snuggle and having him eating a proper breakfast at the table. Same with the evenings, I may work a bit later, but rarely miss bedtime. I am at a “lifestyle” firm and it makes a huge difference.

    • Wake up between 7:30 and 8 (depending on my hearing/client schedule)– to work no later than 9. No lunch break (or lunch break for a boot camp class or run). Leave work between 6 and 6:30. Workout if I did not do it at lunch. Dinner around 8. Clean house, make lunch, pack workout clothes for the next day, etc. Bed around 11. No kids, so my life is relatively routine and easy as long as my office-life is not flying out of control (but sometimes it is).
      I try to meet friends for working out if it is after work– just makes the process more enjoyable to do a run with a friend and then have a glass of wine and gossip afterwards before heading home.

    • Prefacing this by saying I’m not in law and I just started a new job so I’m not sure this schedule will continue…

      6:30 – Wake up, make tea, get dressed, etc
      6:45 – Drive to T station
      7ish – Get T. Read my kindle.
      8ish – Get to work
      Lunchtime – Gym (the hour depends on whether there’s a class). Today I had too many long meetings.
      4 – 4:30ish – Leave work. Read kindle on T.
      5:30ish – Errands, market, drycleaning, gas, etc.
      6ish – chill, change, have a snack
      7:00 – play EASportsActive II for wii
      8:00ish – dinner and a glass of wine
      10ish – bedtime

      Also, I wash my hair every other night and I either do that before or after I play wii.

    • Married 5th year associate with an 8-month old son.

      6:00: Wake up and start getting ready
      6:30-7ish: Son starts stirring so get him up, changed, and fed. Put him in play pen or somewhere else to entertain himself while I get ready
      7:30: Leave, and depending on schedule, either I or the husband drop off baby with caretaker
      8-8:30: Arrive at work (no later than 8:30) and have breakfast in my office. Usually a protein bar or apple with peanut butter.
      11:30: Lunch with friends/coworkers. This is my personal, relaxing time on days when I can afford an hour for lunch.
      5:00: Leave to pick up baby (or stay until 6 or 6:30 if husband is picking up baby)
      6-8:00: Have dinner, feed baby, get him ready for bed, spend time with husband, watch some TV together

      After 8, my husband works and I get everything ready for the next day and then either work to make up hours, to get things done, or chill out in front of some Real Housewives. I’m asleep usually around 10:30 if I don’t work, or 12 if I do have to work.

    • darjeeling :

      biglaw with 2 young kids and schedule is pretty exhausting:

      – up at 6:45, shower and get toddler fed and dressed
      – 7:30 husband and toddler leave for daycare/work and I get baby dressed and fed and finish getting ready
      – 8:15 leave for work
      – 7:30 (goal) get home, and mad scramble to put baby to bed, feed toddler if not already done, and order food for the adults
      – 9 toddler to bed, often followed by drama
      – 9:30 laundry, pack lunches, more work from home and maybe a Daily Show from the dvr
      – 12 collapse into bed and steel myself for several middle-of-the-night wake-ups from baby

    • 6:30-7am – wake up
      1hr(ish) get ready
      30 minute commute
      work until 8pm (average)
      8:30pm home, eat dinner
      9:30pm hour of TV, if that
      10:30 or 11pm sleeeep

      Lately I’ve been at the office much later and much more often, so “productive evenings” are kindof a laughable concept, as are 5 hours of work once I do get home. Lately I’ve also been fairly miserable at work. Correlation? I think so.

    • Honey Pillows :

      Wow, I am amazed at everyone who gets to leave work before 5pm! And jealous!

    • Anastasia :

      I’ll bite: Non-law. Married, no kids but pregnant and dreading what my schedule will look like when the baby is here (I’m quasi-looking for a new job with a shorter commute and/or telecommute options)

      6:00-6:30 – wake up
      7ish – leave for work
      7:30-745 – arrive at work
      work work work. lunch break, but still in work location because I can’t walk anywhere and if I lose my parking spot, I will never find another one.
      4:30-5 – leave work
      5:30-6 – get home, immediately discard work clothes, eat snack
      [two days a week: 5:50 – leave for class, 6:30-10ish. home again by 10:30. Immediate shower and bed]
      other days: Homework, make real food for dinner, and/or exercise. Usually have success with only one of these. If there’s no food in the house, sometimes walk to the grocery store or a restaurant (which I then can count as exercise!)
      7-8ish- dinner
      After that, clean kitchen(unless it’s DH’s turn), do one other “housework,” try to convince myself to do the other productive things. Often fail and veg in front of TV with DH for at least an hour.
      Eventually shower and get ready for bed. In bed by 10:30-12.

      All errands and longer workouts/fun things get banished to weekends.

      • for the sake of variety, this is a pregnancy schedule that evolved to accommodate frequent waking and still let me function during the day. very glad my firm is flexible about timing.

        11:30 p.m. – 4 or 5 a.m.: sleep
        4 or 5 a.m. -7 a.m.: wakeful. DH leaves for work at 7
        7-9 a.m.: sleep again
        9-10:15 a.m.: shower, dress, breakfast
        10:30 a.m.: work
        7 p.m.: leave work
        7-8 p.m.: run errands, walk dog, open mail, etc. DH gets home at 7:30
        8 p.m.: make dinner, eat dinner with DH, clean up after dinner
        9 p.m.-11 p.m.: winding down… catch up on TiVo, read on couch, take a bath, computer gaming, whatever
        11 p.m.: bedtime, read a little

    • 6:30-7:15 (sometimes earlier – either to get to work earlier, or to take the dog for a run) wake up, shower, downstairs for coffee, make lunch, and some time with the dog
      7:15-7:40 upstairs to dry hair, do make-up, get dressed
      7:40-8:40 walk 1 mi to Metro, take Metro to work. I typically read something work-related on the train.
      8:40-12:30 work
      12:30 lunch at desk
      12:30-1:00 work
      5:00-6:00 leave work to go home
      6:00-6:30 If dog was at doggie daycare, pick up dog.
      6:30-7:15 change for gym. typically surf the web (but should be working!) or chat with Mr. TBK/snuggle the dog
      7:15-7:45 drive to gym, get ready for class (Mr. TBK and I take this class together so this is couple time as well as work out time)
      7:45-8:45 work-out
      8:45-9:00 drive home
      9:00-9:30 do something about dinner
      9:30-9:45 shower
      9:45-11:00 (earlier if getting up at 5:30 instead of 6:30) work, surf web, or watch tv (or all three at once) usually with a glass of wine or some herbal tea and, if I’m lucky, with a dog snuggled up next to me. Sometimes also (or instead) clean the kitchen/do laundry/clean bathrooms/throw things in the oven to cook for later in the week.

      [Note: all the extra working is because Mr. and I have a company we’re working on getting off the ground. So the 8:30-5:00 work is the one with the paycheck. All the other work is our company, which needs WAY more time than I can ever devote to it, but it’s definitely the work I love doing.]

    • Married, no kids, 4th year associate:

      5:45 wake up, put on gym clothes, take dog out
      6:10 leave for gym
      6:30 bootcamp class
      7:30 steam room, get ready for work at gym
      8:45 arrive at work
      12:00 lunch, either at my desk if I’m busy or fast food with co-workers if we can get out
      1:00 work
      6:30 leave work
      7:00 arrive home, walk dog
      7:30 dinner (DH cooks it) & TV with DH and pooch; some nights have a volunteer meeting, work event, or tennis lesson
      10:00 clean up kitchen, get ready for bed
      10:30/11:00 bed time!

    • health care anon :

      Non Lawyer, in my job for four years, western US
      515-600 wake up, do a load of dishes, shower, feed dogs
      6-630 wake up son and step daughter, breakfast, pack lunches
      630-700 get everyone dressed and hair done (I should add my husband goes to work before 6 most mornings, hence his absence in this part)
      7-730 drop off
      730-5 (or 530) work (I typically try not to leave during lunch) If husband is off on time, he gets the kiddos from preschool-son- and daycare -step daughter- and starts dinner, cleans up the house
      6-715(ish) run/cycle/class (I have a wonderful husband who shares all of the household responsibilities with me and who is very supportive of my working out for my sanity)
      7-8 dinner and bedtime
      8 kids in bed, husband to the gym or for a run, I do laundry (I refuse to let anyone else to my laundry. weird, yes. but better weird than shrunken clothes), hang out with the dogs (I suppose when the kiddos are older I might run the dogs around the block a couple times, I always feel like of all my family members, my dogs get the shortest end of the stick :( )

    • 6:45 – wake up, shower, get dressed
      7:15 – leave house to walk to bus stop
      8:45 – arrive at work after bus & two trains
      9:00 – officially start work
      13:30 – lunch, go to the supermarket, bank etc
      14:30 – work
      17:30 – leave work
      19-19:30 – arrive home, depending on making connection from second train to bus, start making tea, put on a load of washing
      20:00 – boyfriend comes home, have tea, hang washing out, do dishes, water plants, check facebook, housework etc
      21:00 – lie braindead on couch
      21:45-22:00 – bedtime

      No idea where I would fit kids in there. The boyfriend & I are both out of the house for twelve or thirteen hours a day. That’s too long even for slow-cooking :(

  14. CPA to be :

    I totally second AIMS. One time after work, but when it was still light out, there was a power failure. It was *insane* the amount of stuff I got done in an hour when there was no TV or computer to distract me. It made me realize how much I could truly get done if I wanted to. Then the power came back on and it was all back to normal again. Hah.

    I occasionally replicate the power failure experience by using the selfControl app I downloaded for my laptop. It blocks you from certain websites for a specific amount of time. If I need to do something (e.g. study for the CPA exam), but I keep playing around on this website or facebook, I just turn on selfControl, and am actually able to get things done. That said, there is value in realizing when you are burned out, and every once in a while just drinking wine and watching Friends rather than being “productive.”

  15. I’m lucky in that I do not have to take home work (right now). I get to work at 6:30 and leave at 4, then when I get home (about 5), I put on my workout gear and go. I sometimes work out in my apartment, but I recently discovered that my apartment complex gym is essentially barren. I am pretty “productive” when I get home, in that I workout, shower, make a meal, make lunch for the next day and breakfast, feed my cat, and see my boyfriend at least twice during the work week. After I get those tasks done, I let myself do what I want. Sometimes that means watching Netflix with a beer, sometimes it means cleaning up a bit.

  16. Anon Analyst :

    I am not a night owl, so if I have tasks/chores to do around the house, I try to get them done right when I get home from work. I’ve started removing my makeup and doing my nightly skin care routine pretty soon after I get home. I know myself and if I wait til later, I’m more likely to go to sleep with makeup on. I also change right away into comfy clothes.

    My evening routine usually consists of making dinner and then we’ll watch a movie or something on the DVR while eating dinner.

    After sitting in front of the computer all day at work, I rarely get online once I’m home. However, my husband doesn’t have a desk job and he likes to stay up late, so I’ll usually head to bed while he’s on the computer.

  17. karenpadi :

    Sheryl Sandberg is not normal. That’s probably why she’s crazy-successful.

    I think working out or some kind of exercise is so so important to maintaining my mental health. I try to have an easy-to-prepare/heat up dinner. I only do small chores during the week: small, necessary loads of laundry; paying bills; pick up dirty dishes and run dishwasher.

    If I have to work at night, I usually only start working again after 10pm or I (preferably) stay late at the office. Everyone I know who works “after the kids are in bed” usually leaves work earlier than I do so I think they aren’t quite as “work-exhausted” when they log back in as I would be.

  18. Motoko Kusanagi :

    This seems like a good thread for this recommendation –

    As a preface, I have zero affiliation whatsoever with this author (other than having purchased her books independently and really, really enjoying them).

    Brene Brown. Check her out. She has a few TED talks and she just published her third book.
    Her research focus is on vulnerability, authenticity, shame, courage, and living a wholehearted life. It is good, good stuff.

    TJ over. Just wanted to throw this out to the C’rette universe.

  19. Motoko Kusanagi :

    Reposting because the ModBot got me…

    This seems like a good thread for this recommendation –

    As a preface, I have zero affiliation whatsoever with this author (other than having purchased her books independently and really, really enjoying them).

    Brene Brown. Check her out. She has a few TED talks and she just published her third book.
    Her research focus is on vulnerability, authenticity, shame, courage, and living a wholehearted life. It is good, good stuff.

    TJ over. Just wanted to throw this out to the site-that-shall-not-be-named universe.

    • YES. Her ideas seem so simple on the surface, but I’ve found myself re-reading chapters as needed to process everything. It’s sad that we’ve gotten to the point where living intentionally and authentically feels foreign and takes real work to achieve. I love that she admits she’s a Type A woman at heart and this stuff is hard for her, too.

      If you need a primer, look up her TED talk on YouTube. She’s very down-to-earth, funny, just very real.

  20. Diana Barry :

    If we need to be productive, we do our budget or something. I can’t do more of my work at night, my brain is fried. Occasionally I can rally to help my H with his work. Also can’t do much after putting the older 2 in bed (8p) before my/baby’s bedtime (930).

    Last night I went out with a friend and got pedis + dinner. SO AWESOME. I am looking fwd to doing that more when our baby is bigger.

  21. Anon because this totally outs me :

    I miss my public transportation commute *so* much. I didn’t realize how much I relied on that unwinding time until it was gone. Now I have a driving commute carpooling with my husband, whom I love dearly and enjoy talking to, but all I want to do after dealing with people all day at work is sit in silence and listen to the radio or read a book. (Yes, I am a huge introvert. Alone time is VERY important to me.) I can’t bring myself to treat him like my driver, though, so I chat and then I get home and all I want to do is nap/collapse on the couch.

    I also need to start dragging myself out for exercise again. I used to go before work, but the carpooling schedule doesn’t allow for that (I can’t get up at 5. It just cannot happen on a regular basis. full stop.). I don’t know which is more significant, but I am convinced the combination of irregular workouts and lack of enforced “me time” en route home is just stealing all my energy.

    One thing that DOES help: keeping my apartment clean. It sounds ridiculous, but when I walk through my front door and am greeted with tidiness, it makes me feel SO much more productive. If the first thing I see is a mess, the couch looks that much more appealing. I’ve become a little neurotic about this, to the point that I will make both of us late for work so that I can straighten up for 5 minutes, unload the dishwasher and start a load of laundry before we leave in the morning.

    • You are me.

      My husband has had trouble getting the whole introvert thing (also the clutter thing, too). But, he tries. Could you talk to your husband about giving you the chance to just put headphones on in the car on your commute home? He might just be chatting with you because he feels obligated, just like you do, and would maybe enjoy the quiet time as well.

      I told my husband that the time to talk to me is not when I first walk in the door, but after I’ve changed out of my suit, then it’s fair game. And he (usually) complies. That helps a lot. And, I started telling him ahead of time when I need alone time, and he’s cool with that too.

      The problem with being an introvert is that we live in an extroverted world. But, that doesn’t mean we have to suffer–you deserve your alone time!

  22. I’m curious. How many people here make family dinner a priority, and how many either eat on their own or with spouse after kids are in bed? People who live alone, do you set the table and eat a “proper” meal, however you define it, or do you grab something on the go (or on the couch)?

    • Family dinner is a priority for us. Even though it sometimes feels chaotic with a toddler, it’s nice to sit down and enjoy that part of the day together. I figure in a few years, we’ll have after-school activities that make it difficult to have a regular meal every night, so why not enjoy this time without so many distractions?

    • Anon Analyst :

      I’m married, no kids. We always eat dinner together, and we’re on the couch watching TV. Depending on the day, I’ll cook dinner or we’ll get carryout. We never sit at the dinette table unless we have people over. We carpool to/from work so we catch up on our day during that time.

    • I live alone. I always eat breakfast at the table, and a hot lunch at work, also at a table, with a decent lunch break. Dinner is mostly on the couch, but not with the computer on, and using plates, crockery etc. If it’s been a busy week (this one’s been horrible), then the food *on* the plate might not exactly be a proper meal though!

    • I live with my fiance and we make an effort to eat together every night. I will usually cook but we do not set a proper table. We end up sitting on the couch watching Big Bang Theory and chatting about our days.

    • Empty nester now, but we eat together every night that it’s possible (if he’s not due home until 9 PM or later, then I class that as not possible). We eat meals together at the kitchen table.

      When my daughter was home, we all 3 ate together every time possible. Eating together as a family is a big deal for me.

      What we eat may be leftovers and we may be zapping it in the microwave, be we eat together.

    • Family dinner is a huge priority for us. We eat dinner together (me, husband and three kids–ages 12, 4 and almost 2) every single night. Even on days when I get home about 30 minutes before my husband leaves for work, we eat early but together.

    • We always do home-cooked family dinner on nights when my (high-school) stepson is home with us (we share time with his mom). If it’s just me and DH, we usually eat together, but we tend to slack more on the cooking. And those are the nights we pick to work late, run errands, etc., even if it means not eating together. We get enough QT without forcing the dinner thing.

      Oh, and our family meal is sometimes at our kitchen island, sometimes on the couches, and rarely in the dining room. We use it as hang-out / check-in time, so we don’t stand on ceremony at all.

    • kerrycontrary :

      I live alone and I eat at the table or on the couch depending on the night, but when its me and my boyfriend on a weeknight (or even on the weekend) we always eat at the table. I don’t know why but its just become a habit for us. We both grew up in households with sit down dinners at the kitchen table so maybe that has something to do with it?

    • research lawyer in SV :

      Family dinner is a priority in our house. I meal plan for the week and use my slow-cooker a lot. With a 5 yr. old in the house you need to be able to put it on the table pretty quickly. We also eat breakfast together.

      • Meal planning for the week AND extensive crockpot usage? You are my new role model. Any veggie recipes you can share?

  23. Anne Shirley :

    I live alone, and eat a proper cooked at home meal most nights, but only rarely at the table. If I had someone to talk to I would, but I like watching tv and sitting on the couch with my meal.

  24. I don’t work in the evenings, but I do feel like I am pretty productive. I typically get home and have dinner with the kids and my husband. Hopefully the oldest has done her homework. If not, then we work on that. Then we play with all three kids, sometimes going to the park or out for ice cream or something like that. Then once the baby goes to sleep, I work out (at home.) Then the older two go to bed and hubby and I will do any picking up, dishes, laundry that need to be done and then spend some time together.

  25. Does anyone else feel like this is a gendered topic? Ever since I read Caitlin Moran’s book, I keep asking myself: Is this something MEN would do? Is this something MEN would worry about?

    Are men asking themselves, “how can I make my evenings more productive after I put in a full day at work?” Okay, probably some of them are, but I don’t know any of them! We women put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all, have it all, be perfect. Eff that! Go home and do what makes you feel good, I say!

  26. After work fun ideas... :

    I spend as much time as possible with my husband but he travels and works a ton so that really isn’t too many hours. So here’s what I propose for singletons or ladies married to very busy partners, sans kids:

    Cultivate close friendships with girlfriends and care for each other, work out or work to reach a fitness milestone, learn a new language or improve language skills. Plan a trip. Volunteer for something that really brings meaning to your life or the lives of others; I bet any of the women reading this have a lot to contribute! Do something creative and artsy. Get involved in a faith community. Cook or do a fun home design project. Read a fantastic book. Work on perfecting your finances and saving and giving away even more. I do all of these things and they all bring me great joy.

    Just, at whatever cost, stay away from the TV. For me, when I think back on my life I don’t want to remember the hours I watched TV. I’ll do movies, which to me feel more like learning experiences, and I sleep a ton. I just plain avoid the the TV as I really do see it as unproductive (unless I’m at the gym).

  27. Blonde Lawyer :

    I think this post is less about wanting to be crazy productive and more about struggling to meet billable hours. I will frequently bring work home because I didn’t bill enough during the day. Then I end up on the couch with wine, not getting it done, and even more stressed that I didn’t bill enough. Then I start the next day stressed about not meeting the previous days billables. It is not that I want to be the hardest working person. It is about having to work at home sometimes to make the minimum standards.

    • Ugh, I do not miss biglaw. (Not be unsupportive… YOU CAN DO IT, etc., etc.)

      • SoCalAtty :

        My mid sized law firm was like that, too. The year they laid me off was a year I billed 2300 and something hours. So I felt like all that work was a waste! In my tiny law firm, I keep track of time, but whatever it is, it is, and the partners are all about quality no matter how long it takes me, which is still really hard for me to adjust to/believe after billing hours. We still bill, just not like I did at a bigger law firm.

      • LOL @AEK — you’re so convincing.

  28. I’m convinced the billable hour model will slowly drive you insane. Believe me, I’ve been doing it for 20+ years, and I am OVER it. I agree on not feeling the need to spend 5 hours after work being productive, although I do try to get at least one little household task done. I would love to see the schedule of Sheryl Sandberg like those posted above! I just don’t buy that she can productively work that much at night. Finally, my family (1 15-year-old girl) always tries to eat dinner together. It may be at 8:30 or 9:00 after practice or a game, but we eat together. Thankfully, my DH is a wonderful cook, and he’s become a master at crockpot meals!

  29. In-House Europe :

    Just to stick up for Sheryl….she also said she was leaving work at 5 pm – WAY earlier than my friends with somewhat comperable jobs (I’m thinking BigLaw here).

    I loved the schedule breakdown…what it made me realize was how much more I would get done if I got up earlier than DS. As it is, in lovely socialist Europe, my schedule is:

    7 am – woken up by DS, get him and myself ready and fed (with significant help from DH)
    7:45 – leave the house
    8 am – drop off DS and daycare
    8:10 – into work
    12 t0 1 – either gym or lunch with a work friend
    Between 4:30 and 5 – leave work and pick up DS
    5-8: play with DS, get stuff done around the house, have dinner together
    8 – DS down, TV or book time
    10 – sleep.

    Yeah…I need my 9 hours!

  30. I’ve been dealing with this a lot lately. I’m working part-time, a full-time grad student, and between these two things (plus a new dog), I feel like I have no free time. And that free time, I’d rather spend relaxing, recharging, than being productive. But that means, the apartment gets messy, the laundry doesn’t get done, the toilet gets cleaned. This for me is the hardest thing. Plus, being on a student budget makes it hard to feel I can indulge in some outside help with the cleaning.

  31. I am a mom with twin children (2 year old) and entreprenur. Very early on I realised that I CANT DO EVERYTHING.
    today I set my priorities and I try to mix things. I dont do ANY sports but I walk the kids to and from the daycare and the few hours I am with them I play with them but in the garden or running around in the house. I think this gives me the physical activity I need. I also always take the stairs (no elevators).
    For Food I go the market on saturdays (yep french way of living), all the vegetables are steam cooked so I have then ready for the most part of the week. This way I only have to cook some fish/meat and the dinner is done. Always in big portions so that my husbond and I have ennough for lunch.
    Both dish washer and washing machine have timers so I set them do wash during the day. When I come I put into clothes into the tumble dryer or hang it to dry.
    If we think a little creative we can all come up with great ideas of how to improve our daily lifes and gain a bit of time here and there.
    good luck

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