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Evening Ritual Challenge Day 2: Write Down Your Evening Routine

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Female hands with pencil writing on notebook

I hope everyone had a great night’s sleep.

Yesterday you took the first step to creating your evening ritual.

Reminder: An evening ritual is how you wind down your day. It is the step-by-step sequence you go through to get quality sleep.

The reverse alarm you set is the reminder that initiates the evening ritual. The ritual is going to help you get the sleep you need to perform at your best.

Other fancier names for reminders include:

  • marker
  • trigger
  • cue

I like to look fancy. So I’ll be using all these words to describe the reminder that begins your evening ritual. And yes. There will be a vocab test at the end of this challenge ;-)

How to change your bedtime behavior

BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford and expert on habit formation, believes there are three parts to lasting behavioral change.

To change a behavior you need:

  • the motivation
  • the ability
  • a trigger

We could stop the evening ritual challenge at day one and it would be a big win for many of you.

The cue to start prepping for a good nights sleep could be just what you needed. With the motivation to get more rest and the ability to fall asleep, the trigger was all that was missing.

But if you are still struggling with the motivation (just one more episode of Stranger Things) or ability (I can’t shut my mind off), don’t worry. We still have 4 more days to go.

Yesterday was the trigger. Today is going to be the routine.

Benefits of routine

Your body loves routines. There are many time and energy benefits to packing your days full of them. Here are a few reasons for adding a routine to your evening:

The wind down effect. High performers tend to get a wound up when they’re excelling at things during the day. An evening routine helps you wind down, relax and simply slow things down at the end of the day.

Close the loops. You’ll often have many tasks, projects, and appointments that still need doing, processing, or attending. Your evening routine is a chance to release those thoughts for the day by journaling, reviewing, planning or prepping for the next day.

Peace of mind. From knowing that you will have a good night of sleep and wake up energized and ready to go.

Building your routine

Man turning off light switch

You likely already have some parts of your routine in place. You brush your teeth. You wash your face. You dim the lights.

Today is the day you get clear on those evening ritual steps. You may even add a step or two.

For example, here is my evening routine:

  • Dim the house lights
  • Set phone and computer to charge in living room
  • Fill up water bottle with lemon water and set next to bed
  • Use bathroom, brush teeth, wash face, mix calm magnesium drink
  • Cuddle and talk about day with significant other
  • Turn out lights, close blackout curtains
  • Read fiction on Kindle Paperwhite
  • Sleep

When I started intentionally crafting my ritual, I already did most of the steps on the list. I only added:

  • a specific time marker
    • reverse alarm set for 9pm
  • two actions to help me fall asleep faster
    • magnesium drink
    • read fiction
  • one action to set me up for the next day
    • fill water bottle with lemon water to drink first thing in the morning

Other evening routine ideas include:

  • Stretching
  • Journaling
  • Brewing and drinking herbal tea
  • Bath (with epsom salt) or shower
  • Light Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Writing or thinking about the people or things you are grateful for
  • Breathing routine (e.g. breath in for 4 seconds – hold for 7 seconds – exhale for 8 seconds)
  • Getting in sleep specific clothes
  • Turning on humidifier
  • Applying or diffusing essential oils (lavender and orange are my favorite)
  • Packing a lunch for the next day
  • Preparing your workout clothes for the next day
  • Writing down your most important task for the next day
  • Writing a list of accomplishments you had that day
  • Giving yourself a problem to solve or an intention for the sleep
  • Turning off all screens
  • Snacking (I like cherries and greek yogurt. Turns out cherries have melatonin, the sleep onset hormone, in them.)

Write a list of the routine in the order you’d like to perform them. Put that list someplace visible. I used my whiteboard. My sister taped a note to her bathroom mirror. Some people I’ve talked to have put it next to their phone’s charging station.

Action Items

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how you can make this evening ritual stick. For now, all you need to do is:

  1. Leave your reverse alarm clock reminder on your phone
  2. Select 3 to 10 steps you’d like to have in your evening routine (hint: they should not take more than an hour to complete)
  3. Write the steps to your routine down in the order you’d like to complete them.
  4. Put that list someplace visible (hint: next to where your first ritual step takes place)
  5. Complete all the steps to the routine before slipping off to your great night’s sleep.

*Note: The easiest trigger/marker/cue to start your evening routine is time – for example, starting your evening routine at 9pm. But the reminder does not need to be a digital notification. In fact, natural markers can work well if you have a more flexible wake up schedule.

You could start your evening ritual when:

  • finishing dinner
  • coming in after a night out
  • closing your journal entry for the day

The natural evening ritual marker must be something you do every day. If not, the ritual will be inconsistent and not give you the full benefits you’d see with this daily habit.

Let’s keep the reverse alarm clock on for the 5 days of the challenge. You can go au naturel once you get into a rhythm.

The live challenge is over, but you can follow along to the next day here. You can also enter your name and email address below to join us on our next challenge! 

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Posted by Aaron McKeehan  | October 18, 2016 at 8:13PM | Reply

I like this idea! My evening ritual:
1. Roll bed covers over
2. Get in bed
3. Fall Asleep

It works for me every time :)

Posted by Katie  | August 4, 2016 at 11:42AM | Reply

So many great ideas. I am going to sit and mull it over this afternoon to determine what will be the best for me. It never occurred to me to do an evening routine so I’m excited to try it tonight.

Posted by toetsie  | August 4, 2016 at 9:38AM | Reply

what an idea, to charge elsewhere.. i was as far as totally turning off computer and phone. But not into the bedroom is a think that will help.

Posted by Rachel  | August 3, 2016 at 8:17PM | Reply

Make lunch for tomorrow
Clean kitchen
Get dog out
Gym bag ready for next day
Wash up
Lights out

Posted by Cherie  | August 3, 2016 at 6:15PM | Reply

It was really helpful to write everything down yesterday, first time I’ve done that. While most of my evening routine is on automatic pilot, I’m adding some really good changes, like reading instead of playing games on my phone. Two nights of successfully getting to bed on time and two mornings of successfully getting up and exercising. I think we’re on to something here!

Posted by Francesco  | August 3, 2016 at 5:25PM | Reply

-Trigger at 22.30 Rome time
-Clean the kitchen as sign of gratitude towards my wife for a wonderful dinner
-Set up room for tomorrow exercises
-Bring a bottle of water and a glass near the bed
-Water our plants
-Pick a book to read some pages
-Brush my teeth
-Breath exercise in bed
-Kiss my wife

Posted by Randy  | August 3, 2016 at 3:02PM | Reply

Planning has helped me to have a more organized calm down period.

Posted by Duncan  | August 3, 2016 at 2:00PM | Reply

An interesting side affect of writing down the ritual and posting it visibly is that my wife sees it, which helps her realize how important this is to me, and puts her in a position to support me in this effort.

Posted by Adele  | August 3, 2016 at 10:35AM | Reply

The reverse alarm clock is an excellent prompt to begin (though a natural rhythm would be fabulous). I have structured my before-bed actions into a specific order rather than a random assortment and concentrated on things that give me a flying start in the morning followed by things that help me ease into sleep.

Posted by Anita  | August 3, 2016 at 10:01AM | Reply

Made my list. Travelling for work so will do amended version (no lemon water).

Posted by Darlene  | August 3, 2016 at 9:45AM | Reply

WOW!!!!! I just want to say, “WOW!!!” and THANK YOU!!! Holy smokes! I cannot believe it, but I ACTUALLY got a full 7 hours and 37 minutes of GOOD sleep last night!!! THAT hasn’t happened for months and months!!! I’m STILL in shock! =) This morning I awoke refreshed and feeling ready for the day – I FEEL FANTASTIC =)))))
I’ve read about evening rituals and always thought, “hmmmm…interesting idea….”, but never took that leap to actually give it a try until your challenge =) I have a hard time backing away from a challenge – lol…. Your blog posts and steps are both engaging, motivational, and easy to follow – if you make the commitment and put in the work =) Looking forward to Day #3 and seeing if I truly can make my new evening ritual a long-lasting habit! THANK YOU!!!

Posted by Ellen  | August 3, 2016 at 3:52AM | Reply

Evening routine written down! Identifying the specific benefit each item brings is very motivating.

Posted by Liz  | August 3, 2016 at 3:32AM | Reply

I am starting on this slowly. Just four items on the list. Currently leaving out any prep work for the next day.
One question. How do you cope when you are out in the evening so get home at erratic (but not badly so) times and all hyped up?
I go to classes two or three nights a week, then when I get home I have less than an hour in which to finish up and let to bed.

Posted by Morgan  | August 3, 2016 at 2:16AM | Reply

Just need to shorten my list a bit more…

Posted by Suzanne  | August 3, 2016 at 2:14AM | Reply

I will keep it simple for now and will expand as I succeed.

List things to work on tomorrow.

Brush teeth
Wash face
Do a puzzle on ipad.
Breathing routine.

Posted by E. J.  | August 3, 2016 at 12:21AM | Reply

I’ve been working on getting my morning routine solid do I’m sticking to 3 tasks right now. Computer off 1 hour before bed, water for tomorrow and prep lunch.

I’m interested in the magnesium drink!

Posted by Julian  | August 3, 2016 at 12:09AM | Reply

The reverse alarm is great and has worked for the 2 nights although my organisation is falling down. I didn’t even give myself time to put the minimum 3 items into my evening ritual.

I try to read before bedtime but it never occurred to me (duh!) that fiction would be more relaxing than self-help/productivity books. Fiction was the only thing I did.

I’ve been trying on and off for months to get into meditation and it’s just not working for me – it hasn’t ‘clicked’. I’ve got a raft of work and personal issues at the moment that have disturbed my sleep because I’m unable to put them aside. Argh!

Posted by Jennifer  | August 2, 2016 at 11:24PM | Reply

I slept so well and woke up refreshed this morning. Thank you

Posted by Janeson  | August 2, 2016 at 10:53PM | Reply

This is tricky because I need rituals that have an ending. I don’t tend to brush my teeth for longer than the requisite two minutes, but limiting journaling and reading time is a challenge. I’m up to it. (I hope you don’t notice that I’m writing this past my nominal bedtime…. ;-) )

Posted by Lachlan  | August 2, 2016 at 10:32PM | Reply

Ok, first night was a win. Reverse alarm went off, and was in bed by the destined time AND woke up without an alarm clock!

Task two: Write my action steps, which are here:

9pm – Reverse Alarm
Review 90 day year sheet + Mentally prepare or write 3 MITs for tomorrow
Foam Roll
Brush teeth
Fish oil & glass of water
Be in bed by 10pm.


Posted by Wayne  | August 2, 2016 at 10:29PM | Reply

Checklist made. Looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge.

Posted by Bruce  | August 2, 2016 at 10:17PM | Reply

I have the same problem.

Posted by Barb  | August 2, 2016 at 10:17PM | Reply

I try and do most of my prep for the next day in the kitchen while I’m tidying up because most of the stuff will be in there (water jug, kettle, coffee machine etc) so I do all that then, and then get the hell out of there for the night!

Then I do my journalling and drink herbal tea as the end of my after dinner routine.

Once my 9.20 “finish up” alarm goes off, I aim to clear the decks/close the loops in 10 minutes and shut down all my screens. Then I get my clothes out for the next day, get myself ready for bed (wash face, brush teeth etc), say goodnight to hubby, check on my son and get into bed. I might read a bit or just reflect on the day but I usually drop off to sleep pretty quickly.

Posted by Bruce  | August 2, 2016 at 10:15PM | Reply

My proposed evening ritual is too long. It includes too many items that don’t have to occur every day. So I need to have a simple evening ritual and then create a Monday Ritual, Tuesday Ritual, etc for activities that need to be done regularly but not daily.

Posted by Eric  | August 2, 2016 at 10:08PM | Reply

Lots of great ideas here. This is a post worth mulling and working on. I’m putting it on my to-do list as I want to really reflect on this. Thank you.

Posted by Diane  | August 2, 2016 at 7:22PM | Reply

I already have had a ritual for bed and have been able to consistently go to bed at 9 to get up at 5. My problem is that I don’t always stay asleep and often still feel very tired when I get up. There is no problem getting to sleep just staying asleep.

Posted by Catherine S.  | August 2, 2016 at 6:04PM | Reply

You’re right, I already have a nighttime “sequence of events” that I go through before bed. Now it’s just time to write them down.

Posted by Amy  | August 2, 2016 at 5:48PM | Reply

I added my personal bedtime routine to my chore list so hopefully that works!

Posted by Hema  | August 2, 2016 at 5:16PM | Reply

Thanks Donna for the summary!

Trigger already in Due app alarm from yesterday.
Now I’ve committed to a routine which I’ve put in omnifocus (I’ve been trying different things out over the last few weeks).
So far so good….

Posted by Bob  | August 2, 2016 at 4:40PM | Reply

Thanks for the tips. I decided to make the bed screen free. Phone is now kept on the other side of the room.

No more scanning the news at night ( or in the morning. I think can recover an hour a day this way and probably improve my sleep quality.

Now I will focus on enjoying the music on my stereo.

Good night.

Posted by Katie  | August 2, 2016 at 4:22PM | Reply

Done! I already do a lot of what you said (I even take magnesium to help with sleep), but it is scattered throughout the evening. Pulling it all together, it looks like a good progression to sleep!!

Posted by Katherine  | August 2, 2016 at 3:30PM | Reply

I actually made a list. I never have trouble sleeping but don’t accomplish much in the evening as I tend to fall asleep on the couch while reading and then get up hours later and go to bed. While I sleep eight hours, it’s interrupted sleep so am not getting the full benefit. My goal is to actually start out in the bed rather than the couch.

Posted by Cecilia  | August 2, 2016 at 3:23PM | Reply

Evening routine written down!

I am also curious about the magnesium drink!

Posted by Sarah  | August 2, 2016 at 2:08PM | Reply

I ended up making my evening ritual for tonight clean and simple:

Wash face and brush teeth
Meditate 20 minutes
Go to bed

It usually takes me a while to fall asleep, so I realized the less I do before bed or think about tasks, and the more I meditate, the better I sleep. If I start being able to fall asleep more quickly, I may add more to my routine but I think this is a good starting point for me.

Posted by JL  | August 2, 2016 at 1:51PM | Reply

Done! (was already written in Omnifocus!)
Some steps are not written, as they are “natural”.
I just wrote extra steps I want to improve.

Posted by Thanks Zac  | August 2, 2016 at 1:41PM | Reply

I have bought the evening ritual when it was issued, but this habit never remained.
I am sure that giving it another try during vacation will help to stick with it.

Posted by Thanks Zac.  | August 2, 2016 at 1:37PM | Reply

I have bthe nigh

Posted by pamela  | August 2, 2016 at 1:10PM | Reply

I start my evening routine right after cleaning up the kitchen from dinner each night. That way I don’t feel too tired to do some of the things I want to make a habit.

Posted by Donna Woodwell  | August 2, 2016 at 12:59PM | Reply

Might as well make it even simpler — your list, rearranged. :-)

Prep for tomorrow
• Fill up water bottle with lemon water and set next to bed
• Set phone and computer to charge
• Pack a lunch for the next day
• Prep workout clothes for the next day
• Write down your most important task for the next day
Prep space for sleep
• Dim/turn out lights
• Close blackout curtains 
• Turn on humidifier/air filter/AC
• Diffuse essential oils (lavender and orange are my favorite)
• Turning off all screens

Prep self for sleep
• Use bathroom, brush teeth, wash face
• Bath (with epsom salt) or shower
• Getting in sleep specific clothes

Take Sleep aids
• Take supplements/apply essential oils
• Brewing and drinking herbal tea
• Snacking (I like cherries and greek yogurt. Turns out cherries have melatonin, the sleep onset hormone, in them.)

Reflect on Day
• Journaling
• Write or think about the people or things you are grateful for
• Write a list of accomplishments you had that day

Relax Body
• Light Yoga
• Stretching

Clear Mind
• Meditation
• Breathing routine (e.g. breath in for 4 seconds – hold for 7 seconds – exhale for 8 seconds)
• Set an intention for your dreaming mind

Wind down
• Cuddle and talk about day with significant other
• Read fiction on Kindle Paperwhite

Posted by NN  | August 2, 2016 at 12:50PM | Reply

I have always been on top of/looked forward to my morning ritual but somehow always struggle with my night ritual. I realized just now that it was because I never did anything that give me a sense of “closing the loop,” signaling eod. So now I start my night ritual with the same ios 5-min journal app I use in the morning, writing down 3 awesome things that happened today vs. 3 things I could do to make today great – and it seems so natural and easy. Can’t believe it didn’t hit me until now that I can easily close the loop just like that!

Posted by Jaki  | August 2, 2016 at 11:25AM | Reply

I have very inconsistent wind down routines and get into bad habits so the reverse alarm clock will help me sticky earlier nights and getting more sleep. Would like to know more about magnesium drink too.

Posted by Shawn  | August 2, 2016 at 11:01AM | Reply

Great, it’s near my sleeping time now.
Here’s what I’m going to do right now and make it my evening ritual:
1. Set my alarm as trigger
2. Switch off everything and get into bedroom
3. Brush teeth and wash my face
4. Do some affirmations
5. Get to bed and take 5 deep breaths and sleep

Thanks for this challenge, I’m feeling all fired up. However, I failed the first day challenge. :)

Posted by Lee  | August 2, 2016 at 10:45AM | Reply

OK – you got me! You’re right about a nightly routine. I have a morning routine, but I need to end well. I find that I try to get a few extra things in at night and I pay a price. Thanks for the encouragement and direction.

Posted by Brian Ramdhan  | August 2, 2016 at 9:55AM | Reply

Please share with us more on this magnesium drink that helps you to sleep.


Posted by Peter  | August 2, 2016 at 9:31AM | Reply

With the blog post I rewrote my evening ritual and decided to write it in very little steps. It will be a kind of challenge to implement the “new” ritual because the “old” one is so engraved.
But it will make me concentrate more on the different steps of the ritual and “break” to routine that exists since a long time.

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