With all the hype on what successful people do in the first few hours of their days, it’s no wonder that we’re associating mornings more and more with productivity. (Hint: A simple search of “morning productivity” on Google will swamp you with more than enough results.)
After all, if there are people out there being extremely efficient before breakfast, squeezing in 11 to-dos before going to work, and, dare I say, getting 90% of their tasks done before noon, surely we can be just as productive, right?
Yes! Especially if we give ourselves a head start by doing a few things for tomorrow before we go to bed tonight. I’m talking about taking control of the 30 to 40 minutes right before going to sleep. Even if your bedtime routine currently consists of nothing but scrolling through Instagram, that doesn’t mean you can’t take the steps to build a new one today.
The best part? All of these things can be completed within five minutes. Well, apart from the last one, but you’ll see why when you get there.
1. Plan Your Three MITs
Setting your MITs (or Most Important Tasks) before getting shut-eye probably isn’t the most relaxing activity. But you’ll thank yourself tomorrow morning when, after waking up with a foggy mind, you see the three major tasks of the day clearly laid out before you. Leo Babauta, creator of zen habits, describes his MITs as “the three things I must accomplish today.” These are, by no means, the only things Babauta does that day, but they’re the items he wants to “be sure of doing.” If you, too, want to wake up knowing your priorities, write down your non-negotiable to-dos before hitting the hay.
2. Collect Your Mind’s Residue
Ever feel like there are too many random thoughts and unresolved issues flowing through your brain? If this sounds familiar and you’re constantly trying to clear your mind before sleeping, consider collecting the day’s residue in a journal. Besides there being proven evidence that writing has therapeutic benefits for your body, the process of documenting your thoughts can free up your mind to think about other, less-stressful things. Come tomorrow, you can use your brain to think about fresh ideas, and your journal to remember any leftover matters that were important.
Don’t have anything to write in? Knock Knock has a number of themed journals with humorous, but encouraging, prompts. And if you want to keep a digital record of your thoughts, Moleskine’s Evernote notebook gets your pages into the cloud with a single photo.
3. Check the Weather Forecast and Pick Out Your Clothes
The more you get done before sleeping, the less you have to do in the morning, right? By checking tomorrow’s weather before bedtime, you can select your outfit and save the time you would’ve spent fumbling around the closet. (Oh, and if you’re an aspiring gym rat, you’re that much more likely to exercise if your workout clothes are prepped and ready.)
Tired of the standard weather app from your smartphone? Poncho gives you personalized weather reports with a beautifully designed interface, and Funny or Die Weather supplies you not just with an accurate forecast, but also with an endless supply of weather jokes.
4. Declutter Your Handbag or Briefcase
Every quarter, I start off carrying a light bag. By the end of the quarter, however, my bag is almost always overflowing with coins, random flyers, and receipts from no-idea-where, and I end up wasting time digging for the important items.
Do yourself a favor and remove unwanted items from your handbag or briefcase. That way, you don’t have to start your day searching beneath random things and layers of germs for your valuable belongings.
5. Relax With Your Favorite Activity
Finally, to jump start tomorrow, you should get plenty of rest tonight—even before you actually go to sleep. And there’s no better way to relax than by spending time on your favorite activity.
Whether that’s reading a book (yes, a real one, with pages), watching an episode of Game of Thrones, or talking to a loved one on the phone, make an effort to lock in time, even just 30 minutes a day, for what you love. By removing yourself from the hustle and bustle of the day and giving your mind the rest it deserves, you’re much more likely to get a better night’s sleep, too.
Even if your evening routine currently includes nothing—well, nothing productive—it’s not too late to introduce these habits into your life. At the end of the day, an intentional evening ritual will help you take better control of your time and help you move closer to your long-term lifestyle goals.
Have another bedtime routine that’s not mentioned here? Let me know about it on Twitter!
Photo of man in bed courtesy of Shutterstock.