Last year, I read Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker, an incredible book about importance of sleep and the far-reaching effects it can have on your life. An important lesson that Walker discussed in his book was the importance of maintaining a constant sleep and wake time. This practice helps you to fall asleep quickly while also aiding your ability to wake up easily and stay alert throughout the day.
This book revolutionized my perspective on sleep, and imbued lasting changes into my routines for many months that followed. However, over the last few months, many of those strong behaviors began to fall apart; I still maintained my early morning routine, but my nightly habits slowly decayed.
Recently, I have really struggled to keep a consistent sleep schedule. I would go to bed whenever I felt tired, or when my family discussions and activities began to die down. This was not a constant cycle, which resulted in several late nights (for me). Some nights, I would abandon my nightly reading; I would also struggle to stay awake while meditating the next morning.
A few days ago, I had a breaking point. These steady interruptions to my habits that I had fought to develop could go on no longer. I sat down with a pen and paper in hand, and sketched out an optimal nighttime routine which would preserve all of my good habits, while also giving me a solid framework to follow every day.
It looked something like this:
Over the last couple days, I have made a serious attempt to follow this exact routine. I promised myself that no matter what I was doing, at 7 pm it was time to check out for the day.
This has revolutionized my efforts to maintain a productive schedule.
I never expected that this would help so much. The simple act of spending 20-30 minutes to carefully craft a routine had paid dividends towards my willingness to stick with it.
I believe that the reason it has been so much easier to stick with a daily routine is the simple fact that I put in mental effort thinking about it and creating it early on. Now, I have this formula that I just follow: it’s easy. I don’t spend any time thinking or rationalizing with myself; I just do it. It’s that simple.
Obviously, the exact timings and events of my routine don't really matter. What’s important is that you have a set routine. Whether you’re going to bed at 8:30 pm or 1 am, spend time thinking about and writing out a dedicated schedule, and stick with it. Intentionality and consistency are what matters.
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