Your ‘Night Routine’ Is Just as Important as Your ‘Morning Routine’
Get as much out of your nights as you do your mornings
I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person that enjoys reading up on people I particularly find interesting, people that inspire me; to the point that I enjoy learning what they love to eat, watch on TV, and even the types of books they like to read. On occasion, I’ve even gone as far as even researching their morning routines. I’ve read up on the morning routines of successful people such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Aliko Dangote, and Marie Kondo In hopes that by emulating common denominators in their routines, that I too could be just as successful in building healthy habits that would contribute to my overall success in life. And the most common practice I’ve come to learn is waking up incredibly early.
It needs to be said that waking up super early will not automatically make you successful, or even a millionaire or billionaire, like some of the aforementioned celebrities. But it will surely grant you a better headstart to the day. I’m not much of an early riser myself, as I usually have trouble sleeping most nights; I find myself having to sleep in till much later: 9 am to be specific, to compensate for the tossing and turning that goes on till 2–3 in the morning.
In spite of the late starts to my mornings, I still observe a specific morning routine, which begins with making my bed, above all else. A discipline I’ve chosen to observe since watching ‘If you Wanna Change the World, Start Off by making your bed,’ A commencement speech delivered to graduates of The University of Texas by US Navy Admiral, William McRaven, on the importance of doing little things that have a significant impact on your life. After which I proceed to read two chapters out of the nearest book by my bedside, before getting up to perform my morning ablutions.
Waking up at 5 am each day, taking a cold shower, followed by an hour of meditation, does not make you more interesting or successful than the next guy. Morning routines are “anecdotal”, unique to everyone; depending on that person’s lifestyle. They can be affected by work schedule, family life, and finances. All these factors tie into the types of routines a person has; so it would be ridiculous to expect everyone’s morning routine to look like Bill Gates’ or to model the rigorous routine of someone in the army.
Some people’s morning routines consist of a gym session for a few hours every morning, but that can’t be the case for me if I can’t even afford a gym membership. Maybe I could probably afford to go in once or twice a week, but if I can’t do it consecutively then it’s not a routine. It’s more like an activity I sometimes partake in. It doesn’t have any real bearing on what my days actually look like.
The purpose of having a morning routine is to “center” oneself, at least that’s how I see it. To center oneself before the activities of the day begin, in order to achieve the highest possible outcome on what we set out to do on the daily, with more clear direction and finesse. Now, if it’s important to center oneself at the start of the day, Isn’t it just as important to end the day just as strongly?
Lately, I’ve pondered the value of having both a morning and a night routine. I don’t deem one as being more important than the other, but I’m coming into the realization that the coexistence of the two is necessary to yield even more successful results in maximizing on time by allowing you to get more rest and by being more organized; creating that perfect balance that could translate into a much healthier and intentional lifestyle.
Your night routine doesn’t have to be this flamboyant thing. It could be something as simple as going to bed before 10 pm every night (with the exception of weekends), to get more sleep; Turning off all your devices an hour before bed and picking up a book instead of an electronic device to ease your eyes into a state of relaxation. Or fixing your lunch for the next day a night before, that way you don’t spend too much time doing it in the morning; which can alleviate the state of panic about being late from using up your time making sandwiches, and can afford you an extra 10–15mins which you can use to reply to all your tweets, and your Instagram and WhatsApp messages over a cup of tea, coffee or juice, depending on what you prefer.
Before I sat down to write this article I mentioned night routines to a few of my friends in passing, hoping I could squeeze some “thoughts” on the subject or the significance of a night routine out of them; which wasn’t much if I'm being honest. It wasn’t surprising to learn that most people, myself included, do not prioritize or see any value in having a night routine. It’s not something a lot of us spend time thinking about…we simply wing it. I found the majority of my female friends were sort of the exception, as they had intentional night routines consisting of self-care rituals for their hair and faces: Masks, cleanses, braiding their hair into protective styles…that sort of thing. Even then, most of those routines were not really night routines, just something to be done once or twice a week, or once every two weeks; depending on the person and the self-care regimen at play.
I did however have one male friend share his night routine, something he's been practicing for 6years now. It involved putting his phone down after 9 pm to pick up a book which he would read with Theta Binaural Beats playing on low volume in the background. What this did is put him in a state of relaxation which he says helped him clear his mind from all the “clutter” of the day, allowing him to sleep better.
“You have to listen for no less than 35mins before it starts to kick in,” he told me. “I always try to allow my eyes to focus on something that’s natural. Books seem more natural than a phone or a computer screen, and If there’s ever any reason I’m on my phone after 9 pm it’s probably to talk to my girlfriend, other than that, I try to get away from any distractions to help ease my brain into a relaxed state of mind that by the time I fall asleep, my mind is completely quieted down. When you try to go straight from consciousness to sleep, your mind starts to race. That’s what keeps you up at night. You have to ease your way into sleep.”
For someone like me who has trouble sleeping as earlier, that was music to my ears. I’m always looking to improve my “sleep life”, So I decided to try out my friend’s night routine for a week. Instead of going to bed at 2 am and waking up tired between 8:30 and 9 am the next day, running on less than 8hours of sleep. I adjusted my bedtime to 11 pm for starts and tried to observe more intentional and mindful practices to help calm me in readiness for bed. I’d begin to reply to all unread text messages around 9:30 pm, before turning off my data and setting my phone down at 10 pm when I’d pick up a book; something pithy, mostly collections of short stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing-Anthology or stories by H.P Lovecraft. I’d read at least 2–3 stories with the Theta Binaural Beats playing in the background and after a week of practicing this, I noticed that I woke up feeling slightly more rested and in a healthier state of mind the next day; which helped me get into the groove of my morning routine much easier than I had before I had begun to observe a more intentional night routine.
Like all important things, always start with the question, WHY? try to attach an intention to everything you set out to do if you’re to value it and understand it’s importance in your life. Otherwise, you’ll burn out quickly and won’t go very far. To know where you’re going you have to know where you're coming from. Only then will you begin to understand your WHY when you reflect and self-introspect.
So, why? why do I feel like I need to improve on either my night or morning routines? The answer for me is quite simple: to help build more discipline in my life; which is something I direly need if I’m to become the version of myself I want to become or reach the goals I’ve set for myself. I need the discipline to be consistent in giving the important things in my life the right amount of attention. It’s all about creating a healthy balance; something I’m still learning to do myself. But I’m at that point in my life where mindfulness and intention are taking precedence over anything and everything in my life. And discipline for me means freedom.
It’s the freedom to create the work I’d like to create, the freedom to pass on work that doesn’t align with my brand or values, the freedom to watch Netflix and play video games every day without a deadline looming over my head or being riddled with guilt for not reading or writing each day like I said I would…knowing that I’ve already gotten that out of the way; all in thanks to being more intentional about how I approach my day and tackle my tasks, and also from being in a healthy state of body and mind to tackle said tasks. That’s the kind of freedom I’m looking to cultivate in my life.
The importance I place on mindfulness is thanks to its many benefits like decreased stress, higher levels of focus, and overall happiness. I’m no guru on the subject, but it’s a practice that’s slowly becoming more and more important to my growth with each passing day as I work towards the life I envision for myself.
There’s a deep correlation between mindfulness and intentionality. Both are all about being aware and present in a particular moment. And ‘the now’ is the only moment we’ve got. We have to make our ‘now’ count by being present and aware, making the absolute most of our fleeting energy and time while we still have it; by using it more prudently.
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That being said, I hope you get as much out of your nights as you do your mornings. May the systems and routines you’ve created for your life work harmoniously with each other for your long term benefit.