Since I started learning about habits, and about stitching habits together to form routines or rituals, I’ve been using a morning routine to start my days. I’ve found this is helpful in making sure I get important things done that I probably wouldn’t get around to doing if I left them until later in the day. This includes meditation, exercise, and the most recent addition to my routine, learning a new skill.
The idea behind routines is that if you consistently do the same things, in the same order at (more or less) the same time each day, the routine will become ingrained in your brain and you’ll do it on auto pilot, without having to think about what comes next. One of my favourite websites for information on setting up routines (and on why habits by themselves aren’t effective) is Asian Efficiency, which has heaps of advice on how to do this, as well as some paid programs if you want to explore further.
So after about six months of experimentation, I have a fairly effective morning routine (which falls apart slightly on weekends, but which is mostly successful in getting me out the door on time with everything done on weekdays), but I’ve struggled putting a doable routine for my evenings together and sticking to it.
I’m sure there are many reasons for this. Despite having an ideal bed time, my actual bed time is a lot more fluid than the time I have to leave in the morning. I’m tired at the end of the day and I don’t want to be doing stuff, I just want to fall into bed. I’d rather be checking my phone. I don’t see the end of the day things as essential as the things I do in the morning, and if I’ve had a couple of drinks it’s very easy to have a couple more and stay up until after midnight. (This is not a Good Idea when you’re getting up relatively early in the morning to undertake said morning routine – but the 30 days alcohol-free challenge has eliminated that excuse – at least for 30 days.)
When I’m tired it’s easier to flop on the couch and check my phone than it is to get up, brush my teeth and go to bed, so I tend to stay on the couch. And check my phone.
I’ve been gradually working on changing this, so Challenge #3 is to develop and stick to an evening routine that allows me to get everything done I want to during the evening and to go to bed at a sensible time. My goal is for a 10pm bedtime every night to try and at least approach the number of hours sleep I probably need.
There’s actually three subroutines involved that I think I need to do to achieve this.
- What I want to do when I get home from work (not crashing on the couch and vegging out on my phone).
- What I want to do after dinner (not crashing on the couch and vegging out on my phone).
- What I want to do before I go to bed (actually getting ready for bed instead of crashing on the couch and vegging out on my phone).
Part of this challenge will be working out the best subroutine to put each task into and I’ve already started work on this. For example, taking my contact lenses out is something I used to do before bed, and was one of those jobs I dreaded doing and put off for hours. I’d stay up late just because I couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch and do it. So one of my first changes will be to add “take out contact lenses” to subroutine #1 (when I get home) instead of having it in #3 (before bed).
What I’m hoping to have achieved by the end of the month is to have put in place a series of routines and habits that I can do every night that will make me feel properly ready for bed and that will make sure I’ve done the most important things I need to have done each evening.
I’m not sure how this will pan out over the first couple of weeks because I’ll be on holidays, so it will be a great opportunity to holiday-proof my routines. I’ll be interested to see how well I can maintain them and work out what are the main causes of me falling down. It will be a good learning experience.
Speaking of holidays, I’ll be blogging about our adventures on TravelPod (right here), so just watch me try to maintain two blogs while I’m travelling. Now taking bets as to how long this will last!