How to Establish a Better Routine


It’s been six months since I first wrote about establishing a better morning routine, and I’ve got nothing to show for it.

But from what I’ve been reading lately, it seems that perhaps I’ve been going about establishing those new habits all wrong. It turns out that if you want a better morning, you should try looking at your evening routine instead.

Right now, too many of my nights tend to look something like this: Spend an hour putting the kids to bed with Aron. Flip through my phone to catch up on news or Instagram while we wait for Skyler to actually fall asleep. Do a bit more work and then stay up way, way too late binge-watching something with Aron. Maybe fall asleep on the couch, maybe not. Maybe wash my face, maybe not.

Bedtime routine? For the kids? Elaborate. For me? Embarrassing.


In my mind, the lead-up to sleep should involve more structured daytime work hours, more cooking, less phone, more reading of things in physical print, and an appropriate bedtime with a wind-down that doesn’t involve a screen.


About the search for a “calm, deliberate morning,” Kristen Wong writes about starting with the evening routine: “it’s not just about the things you do an hour before bed. What you do throughout the day can have a big impact on your sleep schedule, too.” She suggests: 

Leave work at work. Don’t focus on work after hours. To do this, it helps to plan your first task for the morning. The more prepared you are for the next day, the less likely you are to think about work after work.
Get outside during the day. Studies show that daytime light exposure leads to better sleep at night. Try to take outdoor breaks during the day.
Eat meals earlier rather than later. Consider having dinner earlier in the evening, so your sleepytime isn’t spent digesting food. It also helps to avoid alcohol, which can mess with your sleep quality during the night.
Find a relaxing activity before bed. Some people read. I used to do word search puzzles. Whatever the activity, try to avoid a TV or phone screen too close to bedtime. They emit a blue light, which suppresses melatonin.

For the record, I’m pretty solid on the third one. The kids are ravenous around 5:30pm. I could do a lot better on the others—especially leaving work at work. The very same flexibility that I love about blogging can also mean it’s tempting to fit in some browsing, some writing, some social media here and there throughout the day.

Then, assuming the evening routine made it easier to get up and start the day, Catherine Lavery advocates keeping the first hour of your day as routinized as possible: “We only have a certain amount of energy and willpower when we wake up each morning, and it slowly gets drained away with decisions. This is especially true if you’re making hundreds of small decisions in the morning that mean nothing yet will affect how you make decisions for the remainder of the day. Try to have the first hour of your day vary as little as possible with a routine.”

My routine usually involves a the sound of 4-1/2-year-old feet scampering across the house and into our bedroom, abruptly followed by some declaration of bodily function, or question of time. “I have to go pee pee.” Or “How much longer until I can get out bed?” If Aron is home, I get to delay. If not, I peel back the covers and invite Hudson in. That degree of variability and uncertainty is probably not ideal.

But I have a hard time imagining an alternative where I actually set an alarm.


So: more structured daytime work hours, more cooking, less phone, more reading of things in physical print, and an appropriate bedtime with a wind-down that doesn’t involve a screen.

It’s a lot to ask, but it sounds more reasonable than “become a morning person.” That just sounds completely batty.

What’s your routine like? What would you change? Any tips? 

P.S. We have roughly 25,000 mornings in our adult lives. A post first discussing this morning routine business, just after having a baby.

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