A big determiner of whether you have a productive day tomorrow begins the night before. You can take several steps during your evening hours to ensure that the next morning gets off to a smooth start, and you accomplish your goals for the day.
Create your to-do list. Throughout the day, we have fleeting moments when we remember that we need to do something … and then, poof! The thought is banished from the mind, replaced by something else. The only surefire way not to forget important items is to write them down (or use an app, if you want – there are several such apps out there designed for list-making). This exercise is also a smart move for your sleep. Instead of tossing and turning while you consider everything you have to do the following day, a to-do list allows you to transfer those thoughts from your head to your paper. You’re able to clear your mind before bedtime and reduce stress.
Schedule time to check email. It may sound counterproductive to read your email in the evening hours, but you’re doing yourself a big favor by making this a habit. Have you ever started your day with an inbox so full that you become overwhelmed? Answering some of those emails the night before allows you to whittle down that inbox and start your day on a more relaxed note. Of course, you don’t want your email to encroach on your family time, so block out this time later in the evening (but not so late that it keeps you awake). Oh – and after your allotted 20 or 30 minutes is up, walk away from the phone … no matter how tempting it may be to start scrolling through cat videos.
Organize your gear. Gather anything you’ll need for the next day, and set it in one spot (preferably by the door). Encourage family members to do the same, so that a child’s lost homework or spouse’s lost car keys don’t become your morning crisis. This will give you peace of mind that everything is ready for a great morning.
Check your tech. Make sure your smartphone is charged adequately before you head to bed, so you don’t start your day disconnected. And while we’re on the subject, charge your devices away from your bedroom – in your kitchen, for example. A buzzing or illuminated phone can seriously mess with your sleep.
Establish a wind-down window. You don’t want to work right up until bedtime, then shut off the light and expect to fall asleep immediately. Your brain needs time to gear down. Give yourself 30 to 45 minutes of relaxation time before lights out. Meditation, relaxing music and light reading are all great ways to unwind. If you’re reading, it’s worth noting that some scientists believe that the light from e-readers can interfere with melatonin production, which is necessary for sleep. Go old school – grab a printed book or magazine, instead. And again, think pleasure reading: light, uplifting and entertaining.
Practice good nutrition. What you eat and when you eat it can impact both the quality of your sleep and the kind of day you’ll have tomorrow. There are various opinions about when you should stop eating before bedtime. In general, the earlier in the evening you can eat dinner, the better. Digestion can interfere with your sleep, as can alcohol and caffeine consumption. If you’re hungry later in the evening, try one of these snacks about 30 minutes before you go to bed: a handful of almonds, a small banana, a tablespoon of peanut butter spread on apple slices, cheese and whole-grain crackers, Greek yogurt, a mug of warm milk or decaf herbal tea, even a small bowl of whole-grain cereal and milk. Carbohydrates, protein, calcium, magnesium and tryptophan can all help you enjoy a more restful slumber – and a better tomorrow.
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