The very last thing you do before bed tends to have a significant impact on your mood and energy level the following day, since it often determines how well and how much you sleep.
Successful people understand that their success starts and ends with their own mental and physical health, and that it’s almost entirely dependent upon them getting enough sleep. That’s why bedtime routines are a key ritual for so many of them – and why the very last thing most successful people do before bed is read.
Reading is a great way to unwind, says Laura Vanderkam, author of "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.” “It both expands your mind and relaxes you.”
Of course, everyone is different, and there’s no one set routine that will guarantee success. “It’s really less about your activities and more about your state of mind,” says Michael Woodward , Ph.D., organizational psychologist and author of “ The YOU Plan .” “That being said, there are certainly behaviors that can help.”
Here are nine things successful people do before retiring for the night:
1. Read. Experts agree that reading is the very last thing most successful people do before going to sleep.
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of " You Can't Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work ," says he knows numerous business leaders who block off time just before bed for reading, going so far as to schedule it as a “non-negotiable item” on their calendar. “This isn’t necessarily reserved just for business reading or inspirational reading. Many successful people find value in being browsers of information from a variety of sources, believing it helps fuel greater creativity and passion in their lives.”
For example, while some successful people use this time catch up on news stories from the day, skim tech blogs, or browse Reddit and Twitter, others enjoy reading fiction novels and ancient philosophy just before bed.
2. Meditate. Many successful people use the 10 minutes before bed to meditate. Dale Kurow, a New York-based executive coach, says it’s a great way to relax your body and quiet your mind.
3. Reflect on the day. Kerr says many successful people take the time just before bed to reflect on, or to write down, three things they are appreciative of that happened that day. “Keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ also reminds people of the progress they made that day in any aspect of their life, which in turn serves as a key way to stay motivated, especially when going through a challenging period.”
Vanderkam adds: “Taking a few moments to think about what went right over the course of the day can put you in a positive, grateful mood.”
4. Make your to-do list. “Clearing the mind for a good night sleep is critical for a lot of successful people. Often they will take this time to write down a list of any unattended items to address the following day, so these thoughts don’t end up invading their head space during the night,” Kerr says.
5. Disconnect from work. Truly successful people do anything but work right before bed, Kerr says. They don’t obsessively check their email, and they try not to dwell on work-related issues.
Woodward agrees. “The last thing you need is to be lying in bed thinking about an email you just read from that overzealous boss who spends all their waking hours coming up with random requests driven by little more than a momentary impulse.” Give yourself a buffer period between the time you read your last email and the time you go to bed. The idea is to get your head out of work before you lie down to go to sleep.
6. Spend time with family. Woodward says it’s important to make some time to chat with your partner, talk to your kids, or play with your dog.
Vanderkam says this is a common practice among the highly successful. “I realize not everyone can go to bed at the same time as his or her partner, but if you can, it's a great way to connect and talk about your days.”
7. Plan out sleep. “Much has been written around the dangers busy people face running chronic sleep deficits, so one habit I know several highly successful people do is to simply make it a priority to get enough sleep — which can be a challenge for workaholics or entrepreneurs,” Kerr says. One way to do that is to go to bed at a consistent time each evening, which is a key habit all sleep experts recommend to help ensure a healthy night’s sleep.
Vanderkam further suggests that you plan out when you're going to wake up, count back however many hours you need to sleep, and then consider setting an alarm to remind yourself to get ready for bed. “The worst thing you can do is stay up late then hit snooze in the morning," she says. "Humans have a limited amount of willpower. Why waste that willpower arguing with yourself over when to get up, and sleeping in miserable nine-minute increments?”
8. Lie down on a positive note. It’s easy to fall into the trap of replaying negative situations from the day that you wish you’d handled differently. Regardless of how badly the day went, successful people typically manage to avoid that pessimistic spiral of negative self-talk because they know it will only create more stress. “Remember to take some time to reflect on the positive moments of the day and celebrate the successes, even if they were few and far between,” Woodward says.
9. Picture tomorrow's success. Many successful people take a few minutes before bed to envision a positive outcome unfolding for the projects they're working on, says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.” “For most, this is not a task or exercise; they're wired with a gift of solid resolution skills that come naturally.”
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