I recently took Andy Traub’s 30-day Early to Rise challenge. For two weeks, I made pretty good progress, then reality hit: I was exhausted. I was doing a good job of getting up earlier, but I wasn’t getting to bed any earlier.
This is the downside of momentum. Once you’re going, how do you stop? I’m not going to get into the virtues of getting up early here (Andy does a good job of that), but here are some of my favorite ways you can help yourself wind down and call it a day.
- Establish a bedtime routine. Just as getting up early is a habit, so is going to bed early. By developing a routine, you’ll not only get a better idea of when you need to start winding down, but your body will soon start to expect it.
- Set an alarm for 15 minutes before you need to start getting ready for bed. This keeps the evening from slipping away from you. Once your alarm goes off, only do things that are going to get you closer to bed.
- Write down everything that’s swimming around inside your head. When “Oh! I need to…” goes through your head, write it down to do tomorrow instead of doing it right then. Think of the perfect title for a blog post? Figure out the cause of that bug? Come up with the perfect anniversary gift? Write it down. Act on it tomorrow.
- Turn down the lights. When it gets dark, the body naturally produces more melatonin. Natural lighting can fool your body into thinking it’s not as late as it is, so you don’t get tired as early. Turn off any lights you can, and dim the lights you need to leave on.
- Enjoy a warm beverage. Whether it’s the tryptophan or just a reminder of simpler days of childhood, a glass of warm milk is especially good at putting you out. Herbal tea with lemon and honey is also a good choice. My personal favorite is spiced apple cider.
- Change into your pajamas. Get comfy. Let your whole body start to relax for the night.
- Put on some music. Music soothes the savage beast. This works best if you put on something without words and that you don’t know by heart. Pandora can create a station that suits your tastes (personally, I’d recommend piano solos from the Romantic period). If you don’t like music, try ambient night sounds—I like the sound of crickets at night (until I lay down).
- Pray earlier. When you leave your nightly prayers for the end, right before you flop into bed, you’re forcing yourself to stay mentally awake and coherent. By praying earlier in your bedtime routine, you’ll have more meaningful prayers and free yourself to get tired as you get ready for bed.
- Realize it’s your purpose in life to lay there. This is an incredibly freeing realization. No matter what else you have on your plate, sleep is a critical Quadrant 2 activity. Yes, you could read, study, write, or exercise instead, but if you don’t get enough sleep, everything else will suffer.
- Put first things first throughout the day. Did you know you can start getting ready for bed at 9am? Identify the most important thing you can do today and do it. Then identify the most important thing that’s left and do that. Repeat until it’s time for bed. You’ve earned a good night’s rest, knowing that you’ve spent the day the best way you could.