Give Yourself a Bedtime

We’re revisiting one of the most simple, yet impactful books I’ve read in the last year, Tranquility by Tuesday by Laura Vanderkam. In the book, she shares her 9 practices to make time for what matters. Since reading the book back in January of 2023, I’ve tried to add one of the practices intentionally into my routine every month or two over the last few months. So far I’ve started Planning on Fridays, establishing that Three Times a Week is a Habit, doing Effortful things before Effortless things, planning One Big Adventure and One Little Adventure each week and Taking One Night for Me.

One that I’ve focused on more recently is to Give Yourself a Bedtime. This is actually Habit 1 of her 9. Because most of our days are determined by our evening routine. She’s not the only one to share just how important sleep is. It was one of the early chapters in You’re Too Good to Feel this Bad by Nate Dallas and I have quite a few other books on my shelf specifically about sleep. We know it’s important, but it’s one of the first things that seems to go when our plates are full or we’re feeling higher levels of stress.

If you think about it, getting the appropriate amount of energy for the day through sleep should be easy. Most adults need 7-8 hours. So if we know what time we plan to be up in the morning, we work backwards about 7-8 hours and plan to be asleep by that time.

But that’s where it all goes wrong.

I’m not sure about you, but if I plan to get up at 6, and plan for about 8 hours of sleep, that means I should be in bed asleep around 10 PM. But somehow, I think that means the time I should start making my way to bed, rather than when I should be asleep.

In my current season, my evening routine looks like letting the dogs out one last time, doing a 10 minute tidy of the downstairs, attempting to make sure all dishes are already taken care of, washing my face, brushing my teeth, reading for a bit, and going to bed. Let’s be clear, that takes at least 30 or so minutes, but likely is closer to 45-60.

So instead of going upstairs around 10 PM, this means I should be starting around 9 PM with those things around the house before bed.

When I give myself a bedtime, let’s say 10 PM in this case, then my routine needs to start at 9 PM. If I actually fall asleep right around 10 and don’t get sucked in by Instagram or a book, then I should be waking up around 6 AM refreshed and full of energy, especially if I’m practicing this regularly. That then means, that I’m more likely to have the energy for effortful before effortless things, I’m planning on Fridays for my big and little adventures. I’m taking one night for me, and continuing with my habits. Our intentionality in our weeks are going to flow directly from giving ourselves a bedtime.

And just in case you’re thinking, “Yeah, I agree but by the time my kids are down for bed…” or “By the time I can finally relax after the day..” the last thing you want to do is go right to bed. You want time for you! I hear you and I’ve thought the same thing.

Consider these 2 questions. –

  1. Is the time you’re having after kids are in bed, or after you’re done with work or things around the house when you’re doing something of quality or is instead an escape and attempt to zone out?
  2. What if you knew you had a night just for you coming up within the same week? And that you knew you had a big and little adventure planned during the week? Would that convince you that you didn’t need to stay up and watch another few episodes of Suits before going to bed?

I’ve heard the quote that your morning routine starts the night before.

What if your first thought when you woke up wasn’t “Ugh, I didn’t get enough sleep”? What if you weren’t in a constant rush every morning before you head out the door? What if you didn’t miss breakfast again because you didn’t have enough time to make something?

What if you didn’t feel behind before the day even really starts? What if you actually had time to make or pick up a good cup of coffee? What if you woke up feeling energized and ready for the day? What if you could connect for a few minutes with a roommate, spouse, or child before heading out the door? What if you could have a truly peaceful morning?

What would it take?

Consider your answers to those questions and then work backwards. First determine when you plan to be up, and then when you should be in bed, and when that means your evening routine should start. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder. Tell the people you live with so they know. Then, start it and make tweaks along the way. The purpose isn’t to be perfect, but rather to implement a bedtime so that you can spend your days with intentionality rather than feeling tired and spent before the day even starts.


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