The Best Night Routine for a Productive Day

Even if you don’t consider yourself a productive person, you still have some type of morning routine to kick off the workday. If it’s a daily mad sprint to the train stop with coffee in one hand and a breakfast burrito in the other, there’s probably still at least some forethought (breakfast burritos don’t just happen).

But a bedtime routine? If yours consists of just falling asleep during The Daily Show with a cocktail, you’re doing it wrong. A productive tomorrow begins tonight, and a nighttime checklist can help establish sleep-positive habits that will carry you through the day, as opposed to dragging yourself to five o’clock.

According to Hilary Thompson, a sleep expert for, you’ll also be healthier: “Trouble falling, and staying, asleep can lead to chronic fatigue, mood and memory issues, a slower metabolism, and decreased immune-system functioning,” she says. “A routine can help you get the most out of your night and, ultimately, your day.”

Before you plan on going to sleep, try implementing some (or all) of these steps to set yourself up for a better, more productive morning.

  1. Step Away from the Spreadsheet. Shut off your brain and stop working. The tasks will still be there tomorrow—plus some more, because work. They can, and should, wait.
  2. Look Back, Look Ahead. Review what you accomplished today, then make a to-do list for tomorrow. But don’t feel that you must list everything for tomorrow—the top three biggies will suffice. And don’t make these lists too close to bedtime, as per the shut-off-brain/stop-working directive above.
  3. Cool It. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for shut-eye is around 65 degrees. The cooler you are, the sleepier you become, so turn down the thermostat.
  4. Cut Off the Alcohol (and Snacks). At least two hours before bedtime, cut off the booze, food, and—you’d be surprised how non-self-explanatory this is—stimulants (not just coffee and soda, but also sugary desserts and even fruits). “Digestion and sleep don’t mix well,” says Hilary Thompson.
  5. Clean It Up. Waking up to a messy household isn’t the way to start the day. Tidy up the kitchen, your bedroom, your workspace, and everything else within eyesight before you hit the sack for a clearer path in the morning.
  6. Dress for No Stress. It worked when you were a kid, so why not now? Plan and lay out tomorrow’s clothing ensemble tonight, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about. “And, if your first outfit of the day is gym clothes for a morning workout, even better,” adds Thompson.
  7. Relax with a Book. Get in some light reading before bedtime—but not that kind of light. Good old-fashioned print is preferable to an iPad or Kindle. “The light from the screen of your tablet or phone is blue-spectrum light … it tells the brain to stop secreting melatonin [a natural sleep-inducing biochemical],” says Lisa Medalie, PsyD, a University of Chicago behavioral sleep-medicine specialist. “Even a few minutes of exposure signals your brain to stay awake.”
  8. Fade to Black. Again, it’s a melatonin thing—the darker the room, the better the slumber. Ever notice how much sounder you sleep in a hotel room? Consider investing in some blackout blinds, or at least an eye mask.
  9. Nix the Netflix. As per the above, shut down all screens an hour or two before bedtime, including TVs and computers. If you absolutely must squeeze in one more episode of Iron Fist, try some blue-light-blocking sunglasses.
  10. Pause the Paws. Sorry, pet lovers, but letting dogs and/or cats on your bed isn’t helping your sleep—when they toss and turn so do you. Keep your four-legged friends out of the bedroom, or, if you can’t bear to be apart, set them up with their own bed across the room.
  11. Block the Clock. Yes, even the LED light from your bedside clock can mess with your sleep—especially if you’re up all night staring at it, so turn it to the wall. “Even a small amount of exposure to the clock’s display can interrupt melatonin flow,” Thompson says. “As long as you can hear the alarm in the morning, there’s no need to see it.”

And, when morning comes …

  1. Snooze (Button), You Lose. “The worst thing you can do is stay up late then hit snooze in the morning,” success author Laura Vanderkam tells Business Insider. “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?”

Try out a few of these tips tonight, and you’ll thank yourself when you have a productive tomorrow. Happy sleeping!


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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