Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Help with Habit Formation {Going to Bed Early}

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Of all the habits I'm seeking to develop this year, going to bed earlier has got to be the most difficult. I want to get more sleep at night- I really do- especially since I rarely get to sleep through an entire night {I'm looking at you, my 3 children 4 and under}.

But I also cherish kid-free time at night with my husband. Once I've crashed on the couch with Niall, Netflix, and a snack, it is really hard to get up again. Even when I'm tired and our show is finished, I often find myself stuck there, mindlessly browsing my phone because getting up and ready for bed just sounds like too much work. Very pathetic, I know. But very true.

I recently sat down and drew up a serious, strategic battle plan for making my desire a reality. Of all the habits I need to change, this would be a significant, keystone one- if I could just get to bed earlier, a lot of other complications in my life would clear up. When I go to bed earlier, I'm able to get up earlier. When I get up earlier, I get so much more done and just plain feel better. We're four and a half months into this new year, and it's time to batten down the hatches and make it happen.

For developing these practical steps towards habit formation, I am highly indebted to Gretchen Rubin and her book, Better Than Before- a wonderful book all about habits, happiness, and human nature.


1. Keep a Record. As Rubin is so fond of saying, we manage what we monitor. I keep a bullet journal to track my calendar, daily schedule, and to do's; so I've also put a little monthly habit tracker in there. If I go to bed on time, the next morning I get to color in the box. Theoretically a pretty chain of colors should inspire me to keep the chain unbroken.

2. Set an Alarm. I'm setting an alarm for nine each night to remind myself that it's time to begin winding down and heading towards my bedroom for the night. This is an hour before I want to turn the lights out, so it gives me plenty of time.

3. Get Ready for Bed Early. As soon as I get my kids down for the night, my goal is to brush my teeth, wash my face, and get into pajamas. Then I'll tie up whatever lose ends there are around the house, or watch t.v. with my husband. That way it should seem a bit mentally easier to get off the couch- with most of the getting ready for bed done, there are less steps to take from the couch to my bed.

4. Be Accountable. Accountability is highly effective for me. I need to get one, preferably two, friends to check in with on a daily basis. If I know that someone is expecting a text from me the next morning giving an exact time I shut off the lights, I will feel more of a push to follow through. Especially if they are developing the same habit! Knowing my faithfulness can encourage them in their progress provides extra motivation.

5. Frame it Positively. Early lights out can feel like a bummer- less kid free time at night. But if I think of it as MORE SLEEP! HOORAY! I hope that will encourage me to persevere :).

6. Crash in Bed, Not on the Couch. It's way easier to achieve lights out on time if I don't have to switch locations. Once I'm ready for bed and the day's work is done, I want to habitually hang out in my bed instead of the couch. I can read there, or watch a show on the laptop with Niall. Honestly we generally have self-control to turn off a show when we're done watching what we set out to watch. It's the whole getting up once it's done thing that is hard for me.


7. Reward for Consistency. I haven't figured out what exactly yet, but I'd like to reward myself for little milestones. Like if I go to bed on time every night for a week, I can enjoy an early Saturday morning coffee out... or something like that. An early Saturday morning might not seem ideal, but if I've been consistently going to bed earlier, it will be- feeling more energized earlier in the day is a natural benefit of going to bed earlier.

8. Make Screens Inconvenient. My phone and laptop can be definite hurdles to shutting down in a timely fashion at night. After my head to bed alarm goes off, I will plug them in to charge in the living room, then head to my bedroom and stay put. If they are less convenient to access, I'm less likely to get stuck on them.

9. Healthy Treat of Reading in Bed. I love the luxury of reading in bed... like, really, really love it. Again, it's something that flows naturally out of following my bedtime prescription. If I get in bed shortly after nine, I have a whole hour before lights out that I can spend just reading, snuggled under the covers. Which will probably also contribute to feeling more rested.

10. Consider it Obligation to my Family. When I'm tired and cranky, I'm not a naturally sweet wife and mommy. In fact, under those circumstances my natural, ugly tendency to yell, lose my temper quickly, and speak unkindly to my kids and husband comes out in full force. If I view an early bedtime as an act of sacrificial love for my most important loved ones, I hope it will inspire me to follow through.

11. Implement a Nightly Routine. Routines are wonderful things- when we develop wholesome routines, we don't have to think about doing what we ought to anymore. We just do it. My routine has already been kind of covered in pieces here- get ready for bed as soon as kids are tucked in, finish up housework, then read in bed til lights out.

12. Make my Bedroom a Nicer Place to be. Keeping my bedroom neat, tidy, and cozy will make it a more appealing place to be at the end of a long day, thus encouraging me to head there sooner. I'm concentrating extra efforts on putting clothes, jewelry, and other assorted items away immediately, as opposed to letting piles collect on the floor and other surfaces. I'd also like to make a few more efforts in the decorating department.



Theoretically and hopefully, setting all of these structures into place will assist me as I seek to go to bed earlier, habitually. I'm printing this out on pretty paper, committing to review it every night... so I'll let you know how it goes. I'd love to hear your hints and tricks for getting to bed on time, and developing any new habit in general.

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