You guys, this post has been a long time coming.
After seeing the popularity of my Motivating Morning Routine Post day after day (it's my second most popular post ever), I thought it was finally time to make the Morning Routine a mate.
I'm a firm believer that what you do just before you sleep, and just after you wake, has an incredible impact on the outcome of your day. And it's not just belief, it's evidence. Yes, a lot of it is personal experience, but much of my experience is backed by science— and we're quite fond of science here. Your morning and evening routines can set you up for having brilliantly productive, mega-creative and fulfilling days, or they can hand you a heap of frustration, fatigue, and failure. Here are my top 5 steps to engineering restful nights and gorgeous productive days.
1. READ BEFORE BED
The list of the benefits of reading is a long one, in fact, you might say it could fill a whole book (did you see what I did there? Did you like that?) In fact, I'm inclined to say that reading before bed is probably the best thing (next to flossing) that you can do before bed. Why is that?
Reading clears the mind. This may seem counter intuitive, but I can say as someone that has a high-speed inner monologue running at nearly all time, the brain simply doesn't slow down for me before bed unless I pick up a book. The average time it took me to fall asleep when from about an hour and a half to about ten minutes. That my friends, is a reading miracle.
He's not in bed, but he's probably reading.
But that's not all reading does for you. If you're already a reader, there's a good chance you've heard of the study that stated reading fiction makes us more empathetic, but it also reduces stress. As little as SIX minutes of reading before bed brings down stress levels and helps reduce the occurrence of insomnia. It also keeps your brain sharper into old age (and I'd link this study, but they make you pay heaps for it).
So... can I read just any old book? Well, an old book would certainly do, but a e-reader does not. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that up to ninety percent of Americans interact with digital devices right before bed. This would seem to be a big, BIG, no-no. During the study, those who read with a digital book vs. a paper book before bed experienced a 50% drop in melatonin (the hormone that causes sleepiness) leading to a longer go at falling asleep, and a reduction in REM sleep. Participants the next day were groggy, unmotivated, and unfocused.
In short, digital devices emit light, which screws with your circadian rhythm, delaying the release of hormones that get you straight to a good sleep.
Don't be that guy.
2. WATER BEFORE BED
I said water when you wake up, so it's not really surprising that I'm saying water before bed. For me, drinking water often is a big struggle. I'm almost always cold, and I must honestly have a bladder the side of a walnut. Either way, it's not a really pleasant experience. But the more I look at water like preventative medicine, the easier it gets. Winters here are very dry, trigger an endless spastic season of sinus pain. The solution? Water, baby. Water. Although our body does regulate fluid use while we sleep (thanks, body!) you're nonetheless going 6-8 hours without any liquid at all.
Getting some throughout the day but also before you sleep will help keep you hydrated, allow you to sleep better, and help prevent the feeling that your face has been pumped with expanding foam in the middle of the night (is it just me? Maybe it's just me). I aim for an hour before bed, so I can deal with the pesky walnut bladder. TMI?
3. BUILD A PRODUCTIVE TOMORROW
Can you guess what I'm about to tell you here? If you've been on this blog for more than twenty seconds, probably. It involves lists. More specifically, goal planning. I actually look forward to this part of my night with a borderline unhealthy enthusiasm. Planning my next day not only helps me get the stresses of the day off my mind, but also allows me to fall asleep with a sort of optimistic contentment. No matter the ills and annoyances of today, these are all of the wonderful things I'm going to get to tackle tomorrow, and it's going to be sensational.
Start hammering out a few specifics. Firstly: how do you want to feel tomorrow? Motivated? Calm? Happy? Powerful? Influential? Write that down in your notebook/planner/journal with some big-ass letters. Next, you'll want to set your three most important tasks for the day. I personally write massive lists, because it like to dream big, but I still underline, star, and draw boxes around the things that MUST happen. I also review what's coming up in the week briefly, so I can wrap my head around how the following day fits into the rest. If I feel behind on something or got ahead, I can do a little adjusting and fall asleep peacefully knowing that it's all sorted.
The best part about this method is that you don't need to waste time in the morning planning your day, especially when you may not be feeling particularly motivated. The list is made, your important tasks are there, and after a step outside and a proper cup of tea, you're ready to tackle that list head on. Get it down on paper, and you won't spend an hour trying to fall asleep thinking about what might happen tomorrow.
4. SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Your daily struggles and successes may be completely different from mine, but there's no doubt at all that getting some of those things out of the way before heading to bed will make getting out of bed with a spring in your step way easier. There are an awful lot of people out there who struggle with the individual act of getting out of bed, let alone getting up early, and this one is for you (I relate with you in the Winter when my eyes dry out so badly I'd rather lay in bed that open them and face the sandpapery morning).
Consider: What do you dread the most about getting up in the mornings? The desert that sprung up overnight on your tongue? The freezing cold floors? Do you need a serious caffeine fix before you can even look at other human beings?
Do these things the night before. I may be channeling your mother right now, but the fewer things that looming dreadfully over your morning, the quicker and happier you will relinquish the warm cocoon of slumber. Set up your coffee maker the night before, or, if you're a tea drinker, get the loose leaf tea in the pot, the tea bag out, the cup and spoon and kettle ready. Put some slippers right by your bed. Hell, I dread the cold so badly that I sleep with a sweater over top of my blankets, so I can open my eyes, and pull on the sweater before even getting out of the blankets. Put a glass of water beside your bed, and a small snack like a granola bar or a banana if you're one of those folks that wakes up ready to go to war over an empty stomach.
The point is, make your mornings luxurious and smooth-running ahead of time, and you'll be so much more likely to succeed and head into your day with a fresh optimistic perspective. The less of a hassle you encounter, the quicker you can get to the things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Hell yes?
5. GET GRATITUDE
Want to fall asleep enveloped in calm joy? Gratitude is the thing that will get you there. It's a common misconception that happiness begets gratitude, but it's actually the other way around. Take a few moments each night to think about what you're grateful for: even if your day has been shit, I guarantee you will find some things. Even the little things. It's so easy to feel as though you've had a bad day, or your whole day has been ruined by one event. Why do the happy events not have the same effect? Take this time to reflect on your success AND your failures (yes, I'm saying be grateful for your failures. With each failure is a lesson. With each lesson is room to grow and become a better person than you were yesterday).
If you're lucky enough to have someone to fall asleep beside, share your thoughts of gratitude with them. It can often help to put things into perspective if you're feeling a little off kilter. For the ultimate gratitude booster? Write down each of these things in a journal, and if you're feeling funky, look back over it and revel in the abundance.