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Set yourself up for a GREAT day — the night before!

For 15 days, we’re exploring the topic of making our health and well-being a priority as part of the 15 Days to a Healthier You series. You can read Day 1 hereDay 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 hereDay 5 here, Day 6 here, Day 7 here, and Day 8 here

Do you struggle to get up and going every morning? Does your day start with you feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, need to do, and feel you should do?

I truly believe that a successful day begins the night before. Setting yourself up for success before bed is an amazing way to not only have more peace in your day, but it’s a way to feel calmer and happier — and to have time for those things that matter most to you.

3 Things You Should Do Every Night

If you want to make the most of your days, you can’t just expect to jump out of bed without a plan and somehow have all of the pieces fall into place for a very productive day. No, a productive morning is usually the fruit of planning and preparation. And it begins the night before.

To change your morning, you need to first change your evening.

If you go to bed late and the house is a mess, the dishes are piled in the sink, you’re way behind on laundry, you don’t have food for breakfast or lunches the next day, and you don’t even know what appointments or events are scheduled for the next day, no wonder you wake up feeling frazzled, stressed, and behind!

If, on the other hand, you go to bed at a decent hour, your house is picked up, you have clothes laid out to wear, breakfast is in the crockpot, lunches are made, and backpacks and your purse and keys are by the door, you’ve given yourself a huge head start on a successful morning.

Instead of trying to get up at some too-early hour and cram in a crazy amount of things in the morning, focus on changing your before-bed routine first. You might find that this is the thing that transforms your morning much more than getting up early does.

In fact, if you prep well ahead of time in the evening, you just might be able to sleep in a little bit more in the mornings. (I bet all of you non-morning people just let out a collective shout of “Hallelujah!”)

How to Set Up a Successful Evening Routine

1. Determine Your Bedtime

What time do you need to get up in the morning by in order to be out the door in time or start your day off on the right foot? Write that time down and then count backward by 8-9 hours. Whatever time you land on is your new bedtime.

This is the time that you must be in your PJs, have everything finished for the night, and be in bed. No ifs, ands, or buts. I’m your new drill sergeant and you must do what I say, okay? 😉

Sticking with a consistent bedtime just might be your number one key to morning success. When you’re well rested, you have more energy, more clarity, and more productivity. Not to mention that you usually are less stressed, less irritable, and life just looks a lot rosier when your sleep tank is full.

2. Pick Your Top 5 Evening Must-Do’s

Once you have your bedtime determined, then it’s time to determine the five things that you are committing to do every evening before bed. I know you might want to come up with a list of 25 things that seem like they’d really be good to do, but let’s keep it simple and just pick the top five must-do’s.

To figure these out, start by listing off everything that comes to mind. Then, go through the list and star the most important priorities that will make a huge impact on your life.

Keep in mind that you can’t realistically do everything. {I know, I know, I wish I was superwoman! Sadly, she doesn’t exist!}

As you’re analyzing your list, look for what Charles Duhigg calls “keystone habits“. These are habits have a positive trickle down effect on all other areas. This could be something like going to bed earlier, or exercising before bed, or taking vitamins that give you more energy, or spending time with your husband.

Possible Evening Must-Do’s

  • Clothes Laid Out for the Morning
  • Kitchen Cleaned Up
  • Lunches Made For the Next Day
  • Breakfast in the Crockpot (Or cereal out and cereal bowls and spoons set out on the table.)
  • To-Do List Made for the Next Day
  • Quick 15-Minute House Clean-Up
  • Everything Together and Set By the Door That You Need For Tomorrow

Once you have figured out your Top 5 Must-Do’s, write them down on a piece of paper and put them in a conspicuous place. You could even print them off in a cute font, laminate or stick them in a page protector, put this on your fridge, and then use a dry erase marker to mark each item off as you accomplish it each evening.

3. Create Your Realistic Evening Routine

Think realistically how long it’s going to take for you to accomplish your Top 5 Must-Do’s and then work backward from your bedtime to figure out your Evening Routine start time. In most cases, your start time is going to be at least an hour before your bedtime. I’d add in some extra time, just to be on a safe side and to give yourself a cushion in case something comes up.

Write this start time down on your Evening Routine, set a timer or an alarm to go off to remind you when you’re supposed to start, and just do it. You can stick with just 5 simple things, or you can flesh your routine out a little more — like mine below.

My Current Evening Routine

  • 6:30 p.m. — Clean up the kitchen, plan tomorrow’s list, refill water bottles
  • 7:30 p.m. — Snuggle, talk, and hang out with kids
  • 8:00 p.m. — Kids in bed, make tea
  • 8:10 p.m. — Drink tea & plan my FB Live and Periscope shows for the morning
  • 8:30 p.m. — Take my vitamins, wash my face, lay out my clothes for the morning
  • 8:45 p.m. — Bath & read or time with Jesse (some nights he wants to stay up and work on a project or read, some nights we hang out together and talk or watch something)
  • 9:15 p.m. — Lights out

4. Commit to stick with it for 21 days.

When you stick with something for three weeks, it’s much more likely that it will become habit. It becomes a part of your life and something you don’t even have to think about!

At the end of three weeks, you can tweak your evening routine and even add a few more things, if you’re sure you’re up to it. If you miss a few days or have a few hiccups along the way, don’t be discouraged, just pick back up where you left off the next day.

3 Things You Should Do Every Night

If you need some ideas of ways to set up your evenings for success, here are three practical ideas that have made such a big difference in my own life. These are not hard or difficult or time-consuming, but by doing these three things almost every single night before bed, I set myself up for success every morning when I get up.

1. Clean Up the Kitchen

Waking up to a clean kitchen does wonders for my spirit. I don’t know what it is, but when my kitchen is clean, it feels like my whole house is clean!

Jesse and I usually work together to clean up the kitchen at night before we head to bed. Not only does this mean that we don’t wake up to dishes with food crusted on them that then we have to try scrape off, but it also makes me feel like I have a fresh head start on the day.

A few tips: I’ve found that if I make sure the kitchen is completely clean after breakfast and after dinner (here’s our simple system for keeping the kitchen clean), it makes it so much easier to stay on top of the kitchen. It seems like letting it go for more than two meals makes for an almost insurmountable job!

Also, if you have a dishwasher, use it. And if you don’t, maybe consider simple meals and paper plates as often as possible?

3 Things You Should Do Every Night

2. Pick Out Tomorrow’s Outfit

When I dress in an outfit that makes me feel great, I tend to feel happier, more energetic, and more productive. Taking a few minutes each night to pick out an outfit — down to shoes and jewelry — not only saves me time in the morning, but it makes it so much easier to actually get dressed in something I love.

A few tips: I found that keeping my closet simplified (here’s my system for keeping my closet pared down) and only owning what I love, makes it much easier to put together outfits that I feel and look great in.

I also have found it so valuable to wear things that are my type and style (here’s the course that changed my approach to how I dress).

3. Plan a Time-Blocked To Do List

Every night before bed, I write out a prioritized to-do list. It’s simple and it only takes a few minutes, but it has revolutionized my productivity, helps me sleep better, and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and calm.

I check my Google calendar to see what projects and activities are already planned for the next day and then I write down a to do list with time blocks for each item on the list. (See my system for creating this to do list here.)

I aim to focus on getting the hardest tasks done first because I’ve found that when I “eat my frogs” early in the day, I have a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment to carry with me the rest of the day.

Day 9 Project

1. Determine a bedtime. Follow the steps above to figure out what a good bedtime is for you and commit to go to bed at that time every single evening for the next three weeks.

2. In addition, pick your top 5 Evening Must Do’s, write them down, and commit to following them for the next three weeks.

3. Leave a comment telling us what bedtime you’re committing to stick with and what your you determined were your Top 5 Evening Must Do’s.

More Helpful Resources:

  • Read my post on How to Get More Sleep and How Getting More Rest Has Changed My Life.
  • Download Day 1 of Make Over Your Mornings (it’s FREE!) — my 14-day course to help you jumpstart a successful day.
  • Grab a copy of Rest Assured or The Abundant Mama’s Guide to Savoring Slow for inspiration to incorporate more rest into your life.
  • Sign up for the FREE 21-Day Go to Bed Early series from my friend, Beth.
  • If you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, check out the book, The Adrenal Reset Diet, for some practical ideas. (Read my full review and thoughts on this book here.)

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  • Janell says:

    Where do you begin…how do you go to bed at a decent hour when the kitchen IS a mess and you DON’T have a plan for tomorrow… Kind of a chicken or the egg question. Which comes first??? Go to bed early, or do the kitchen and the plan?

    • Jo says:

      I’d say that unless you have a TON of energy, go ahead and go to bed and then set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier and spend 20 minutes on the kitchen and 10 minutes on making a plan for the day. Then, commit to start working on cleaning up the kitchen after dinner + making a plan for the day as soon as you possibly can (or even give yourself grace to use paper plates for a week while you work at getting caught back up on sleep + getting more organized!)

  • Anne says:

    I have a 3.5 year old with mild special needs and a three week old. I’m giving myself lots of grace during this season, but nonetheless, our son seems to have put himself on a predictable feeding schedule! Thus, in the evenings, I pick up the house for just five minutes (my husband does the dishes), put away clean laundry and start a load in the washer, look at the calendar for the next day, take my supplements and drink water, nurse the baby and go to bed around 8:30-9pm. My husband gives him a bottle for the 11pm feeding so I’m getting a good chunk of sleep before the 2am feeding. My days are so much better if I get that first stretch of sleep 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    I love the points here, thanks for all the great advice! Do you have any suggestions for an irregular schedule? I have a grad school class 2 days/wk that ends near 10pm, and it’s been really wrecking havoc on the rest of my week. Any help would be great:)

    • Sarah says:

      Same here. I work full time and I’m taking 3 classes, 2 days/week, so I don’t get home until 10:30pm. In addition, it takes hours to complete the assigned homework.

      It’s exhausting but I am looking at it as a season in my life and I’m just winging it. I do know that I need to plan my schedule better but I can’t figure out where to start.

    • Jo says:

      Could you set up Evening Routine A and Evening Routine B — one for the nights when you have Grad School Class and one for nights for when you don’t?

  • Cathy @ says:

    Thanks for the great tips you mentioned in this post. One of my most important thing to do in my evening routine is to make sure
    1. all the dished are washed,
    2. tidy up the kitchen,
    3. wipe down counter tops,
    3. sweep the floor
    4. if i have time I will mob the floors.
    Doing this every night has really helped me start off each morning with less stress.

  • Teresa says:

    I once read: Live like it is tomorrow, instead of trying to catch up from yesterday. So true, a little prep work and you wont always feel like you are always behind. We are just starting to think about the new school year. I finally have the classes scheduled, so now I can plan when we should get up, eat, and bed what all will come between. I find we have to adjust our schedule some throughout the year as we start or end new activities. Always giving ourselves grace during those really busy seasons of life.

  • Pamela says:

    My five things:

    1. prep the next day’s dinner (we get home from work and everyone’s starving so I literally cook dinner one day ahead and then just re-heat it when we walk in the door)

    2. wipe down the high chair

    3. fold and put away one load of laundry

    4. dinner dishes

    5. shower

    I am for a 10pm bedtime – with a 5:45 wake up time and a toddler going through a restless phase, this helps me get a semi-decent nights’ sleep! I do sure look forward to my morning coffee, though!

  • Sara K. says:

    My season of life is about to change because I’m going back to work as a teacher for the first time since having my girls (ages 2 and 4). This will be new for all of us as they will start attending a Montessori school. My goal is to be I bed with my lights out at 10:00 and wake up by 5:45.

    My five evening to dos are:
    -make lunches for tomorrow
    -clean up the kitchen
    -lay out our clothes for tomorrow
    -make tomorrow’s “6 List”
    -load our stuff in the car so all I have to grab in the morning are lunches

    Crystal-How are you planning to change your evening and morning routines when your kids start their new school?

    • Jo says:

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      We’ve prepped all summer long to get into a routine that will (mostly) work once school starts. Our plan is to just bump the morning and evening routines back by 30 minutes (so that they are going to bed 30 minutes earlier/getting up 30 minutes earlier) and we think that should (hopefully) work. The kids are going to be in charge of making their lunches the night before and they’ll also be in charge of getting their backpacks, etc. ready to go. They are pretty used to this since they do this multiple times per week on the days they are at figure skating and swimming.

  • Aimee says:

    I loved reading this because it’s exactly the reminder I need right now. My son returns to school in a week so I’m using that as my jump-start back into rising early. I’ve given myself grace to sleep later (6:30/7) this summer but I find that our days are much better throughout the school year when I am up and dressed BEFORE the kids.

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