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The 8 “Secrets” to Ensure Getting to Bed on Time Every Night

This post was first published on my Medium blog—follow me there for the most up-to-date entries!

With almost no effort, I found several online articles about how to get to sleep more quickly. But for many of us, getting to sleep isn’t the issue. We struggle with getting to bed on time.

I’ve heard from others or discovered for myself some of these “secrets.” Use the ideas below to climb into bed on time, every time.

Be intentional about getting to bed on time

Being intentional about something is key to actually getting something done.

Make your plan long before bedtime. Perhaps before eating dinner. And, ideally, write that plan on paper. The act of writing it and seeing that notation in plain sight will help. You could write it in your planner as part of your work shut-down routine. Or you could write it on a scrap of paper. Just write it.

Try using visualization

I have no affiliation with EnVision, but I’ve found the app enormously helpful to execute my plans. Some of the visualization exercises are only three minutes in length; the longest one is about 10 minutes. Visualizing is a little different than intentionality, but it’s related.

Make it part of another habit or ritual

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the importance of habit stacking. Basically, it’s pairing one habit with another.

Perhaps letting your dog out is the last thing you do at night. If so, resolve to go to bed immediately thereafter. Perhaps your favorite TV show ends at 10 PM; do your evening hygiene before the show starts, and resolve to go straight to bed immediately after the show ends.

Remind yourself of the rewards of getting to bed on time

Reflect on how you felt today or yesterday or a week or a month ago when you woke up early. It had a positive effect on your entire day, right? Remembering that feeling can motivate you to set yourself up for it once again.

I like to remind myself that the only time that’s really my own is shortly after rising. And if I don’t get to bed on time, I can bet that I won’t get that morning routine accomplished.

Remind yourself of the consequences of putting it off

Think about how crummy you’ll feel if you don’t go to bed on time. If necessary, make a list of the consequences and post the list where you can easily see it.

Getting to bed too late means you can’t drag yourself out of bed in the morning. Hence, before you put your slippers on, you’re already beating yourself up for procrastinating. Ugh.

You’re telling yourself the wrong story

My friend Sandra Reich is a psychotherapist in Montreal. Once she was describing how people do or don’t certain things.

Needing a little clarification, I asked, “Sandra, are you saying that people do or don’t do [whatever we were talking about] because of the story in their heads?” She said, “Oh Marie. For all of us, it’s always all about the story in our heads.”

I never forgot that.

Ask yourself why you’re not getting to bed on time. Here are possible stories in your head:

· “I didn’t get all of my stuff done so I can just knock out a few more tasks before I go to bed.”

· “I was pushing hard all day. I deserve some time to just do my own thing.”

· “I’ll just watch this one last episode and then I’ll go to bed.” Or, “It’s a two-part show, I have to see the next one now.”

· “Well, my spouse is still up, so I might as well stay up, too.”

· “It just started raining. No sense hopping in bed now because the rain keeps me awake.”

That story in your head is what’s messing you up.

Set a reminder

I have a little chime on my iPhone that’s set for 40 minutes before my anticipated bedtime. That gives me time to finish what I’m doing and start heading for the bed.

At first, I fought it. You know — sort of like fighting your wake-up alarm in the morning. But then, I reminded myself that I had set it for a reason: To wake up to a better tomorrow.

Finally, I realized that I had become like Pavlov’s dog: When I hear the chime, I start positioning myself to go to bed.

Break up your bedtime routine

Sure, you might have a bunch of things to do before getting to bed. But try to group those tasks together. It might look like this:

Plan for tomorrow:

· Set up the coffee pot for morning

· Open your planner to tomorrow’s page

· Set out the clothes you plan to wear

Wind down from today:

· Do nighttime hygiene

· Have quiet time: Prayer, journaling, or reading

· Ensure good sleep habits. (I lower the room temperature, put a few drops of lavender on my pillowcase, don my heavy-duty sleep mask.)

As you think about getting to bed, which of these suggestions will you try first?

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Part of a series on routines: learn to maximize your Morning Routine, Work Startup Routine, Workday Shutdown Routine, Evening Routine, Getting to Bed on Time, and When Your Routines Aren’t Working

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