An Evening Routine is More Important Than a Morning Ritual

Darshak Rana

The perfect morning routine starts with bedtime.

Most productivity gurus and successful superstars attest that the perfect morning routine enables you to achieve incredible goals. I don’t deny this fact.

But, mornings routines are elaborate, complex, and cumbersome to follow. Why do I say so?

One person recommends waking up at 5 am and meditating, while another person argues exercising and morning journaling is the key to maximum productivity.

There’s nothing wrong with these productivity tips. The problem is the number of steps. Even if you succeeded in memorizing those tasks, you need a herculean commitment to stick to them.

I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I remember and follow a morning ritual. Neither do I have a sharp memory, nor do I have the will to make it work for life.

That’s why author Craig Ballantyne’s idea presented in his book, The Perfect Day“perfect morning starts with a bedtime routine,” resonated with me.

The 10–3–2–1–0 evening formula is easy to remember, follow and sustain for life. You don’t need a will; you don’t need commitment. All you have to do is minor adjustments to your evenings.

I have been following this evening ritual for the past three years. I’ve never faced a lazy morning. I’ve never lacked focus, energy, and motivation. Also, I’ve got rid of onset insomnia and bedtime “high-performance anxiety.”

I am sure this evening ritual will enable you to enjoy deeper sleep, greater levels of productivity, and supercharged mornings. So, let’s get started.

10 hours before bed = No caffeine consumption

After consuming caffeine, it is dispersed throughout the body within minutes, passing the blood-brain barrier. It then inhibits the sleep-inducing chemical in the brain called adenosine receptors.

That’s why caffeine helps you stay awake.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that one cup of caffeine’s half-life is between 3–5 hours. The half-life of a substance is the time it takes to diminish its effects to half. This fact implies that caffeine takes up to 10 hours to vanish from your system 100 percent.

So, if your bedtime is, say, 11:00 pm, you should have your last cup of coffee at around one-ish in the afternoon.

However, people react differently to caffeine. Some are caffeine sensitive, while some are immune to it. So, vary your coffee times and see what works for you.

Also, here are some foods and drinks containing caffeine you might want to keep a check on if you wish to doze off at your desired bedtime:

  • Energy drinks
  • Back and green tea
  • Chocolate
  • Soft/Aerated drinks
  • Espresso candy bars
  • Over-the-counter medications like Excedrin, etc

If you can’t live without your 3:00 pm coffee, try decaf. It contains a small amount of caffeine that’ll do less harm than your regular coffee.

You can also try different herbal teas like chamomile, valerian root, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, etc., that are scientifically proven to induce sleep.

Afternoon coffee time plays a significant role in your sleep quality, which then affects your next morning’s productivity. You won’t feel sloth-ish in the morning if you sleep on time.

3 hours before bed = No alcohol consumption

I know that nightcap, ten sips of wine or beer before bed, helps you sleep faster after a hectic day. It’s because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that induces sleep by slowing down brain activity.

But, alcohol-induced sleep is silently robbing you of a good night’s sleep.

Here’s how.

According to Sleep Foundation, your night sleep is divided into stages/cycles. Deep, peaceful sleep is more common in the first few hours, but it drops in the second half. As the night progresses, REM (dreaming sleep) takes over.

If you have alcohol in your system when you go to bed, you may not sleep very deeply or for very long periods. You may wake up in the middle of the night because the sleepy effect of alcohol wears off as it is metabolized.

“Alcohol in your system puts you in lighter stages of sleep, which increases the rapid eye movement (REM) and stops you from achieving the deep sleep you require.”

Cleveland Clinic says alcohol has been associated with many other sleep problems like vivid dreams, nightmares, sleepwalking, parasomnias, sleep apnea, and breathing problems.

Even if you somehow survived these side effects of alcohol, you can’t escape from the next one.

You will feel groggy and grumpy the following morning. Your body will try to make up for the loss of quality sleep you didn’t get, and your alertness, focus, and motivation may suffer as a result.

So, as experts recommend, the safe window to consume alcohol before bedtime is 3–4 hours.

2 hours before bed = No more work

One last email. Just one reply. One final phone call. Sounds tempting, I know.

But it’s imperative to say no to work two hours before sleep time.

Struggling to wind up the day is a common problem in this day and age where people are working 70–80 hours a week, juggling between a 9–5 job and a side hustle. This is exactly the reason why you shouldn’t work 2 hours before sleep.

Your next day’s productivity depends on the state of mind before sleeping.

Any pending work increases the thought process and makes the brain hyperactive. You start thinking about the incomplete tasks, to-dos and start worrying. The mind becomes restless, and a stressed mind can never sleep peacefully.

Here’s what I do 2 hours before bedtime:

  • Create only three micro tasks to be done in the morning. This prevented bedtime performance anxiety and morning overwhelm.
  • Jot down all the pending work from the day and prioritize them for the next day.
  • Do a brain dump on a piece of paper that creates a soothing effect on my mind.
  • Select next day’s clothes and prep up my morning breakfast.

These activities hardly take fifteen minutes.

1 hour before bed = Turn off all screens (TVs, phones, ipads, and computers)

I won’t repeat the same advice which everyone gives on “screen time.” We all know the devastating effects of blue rays from screens on brain cells. If not, read the Harvard research here.

Here’s how I keep screens at bay 1 hour before sleep:

  • Relocate the charging dock to a place away from the bed. This prevents me from using phones before sleep and after waking up.
  • Get a traditional alarm clock that glows in the dark. This way, I prevent the urge to use my phone for the time.
  • Meditate
  • Read autobiographies to feel motivated (No e-reading or kindle books)
  • Listen to an audiobook. I came across this amazing app Bookey that rejuvenates me with the key insights from any book I like. With this app, I could extract the gist of any book without having to read them from the first page to the last. All I have to do is listen to the thirty-minute audio that’s power-packed with the essential takeaways from the book I select.
  • Put all the electronic devices on DND (Do not disturb)
  • Reflect on my day. Think about what went wrong and how I could have changed by acting differently.
  • A warm shower

I am sure these activities will help you succeed in putting screens away without using will/force.

0 = Result: The number of times you’ll hit the snooze button

If you follow all these steps correctly, I bet you’ll never snooze your alarm in the morning.

The last thoughts you sleep with will be the first ones when you wake up.

Since these activities silently reprogram your subconscious mind to relax and energize before sleep, you wake you with 2X focus, energy, and motivation.

Try this evening formula for a week, and let me know in the comments below if it makes a difference to your morning productivity.

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