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Evening Ritual Challenge Day 3: Set up your tracking (and reward!)  system

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Man Standing Laughing as he Drinks From a Coffee Cup on a Balcony Beside a Lake

Welcome back to day 3 of the 5-day evening ritual challenge. If you’ve been following along you’ve set your evening ritual marker and routine.

Before we go onto to setting up your tracking and reward system, I want to address the most common stumbling block to your evening ritual routine. Trying to do too much.

Day 2 Warning: Don’t overdo your routine.

Your routine may still be in flux at this point. Maybe you got ambitious and your evening routine took over an hour to complete.

If you found that to be the case, that’s okay. You’ll likely find some efficiencies in the coming days that will get those times down. For example, you start to use a Text Expander snippet for your evening journal or place your supplements next to your bathroom sink.

For now, let’s take a few of those extra steps off of your routine. Remember, the core purpose of evening ritual is to have a consistent step-by-step sequence you go through to get quality sleep. You can add 1 or 2 actions to set your next day up. Getting that gym bag ready or planning your next day may even help you fall asleep. But doing too much too fast means that the ritual will be difficult to maintain for the long haul.

So if your ritual looks like this:


  • 9pm Reverse Alarm


  • Set electronics to charge
  • Pack lunch for the next day
  • Prepare workout clothes
  • Turn on essential oils diffuser
  • Stretch
  • Journal
  • Brew herbal tea
  • Take bath with epsom salt
  • Use bathroom, brush teeth, wash face, mix calm magnesium drink
  • Meditate
  • 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
  • Cuddle and talk about day with significant other
  • Turn out lights, close blackout curtains
  • Read fiction on Kindle Paperwhite
  • Sleep

You’ve got too much going on in your routine.

Trying to do a laundry list of good ideas before bed is hard to maintain and may even backfire. The stress making sure you journal, stretch, read, prep… can lead to worse sleep.

If you found yourself in this boat, no worries. Cut the routine down. Don’t try to add more than one or two steps the routine you already have.

For example, if your previous ritual was:


  • Whenever it felt late


  • Dim lights
  • Charge electronics
  • Use bathroom, brush teeth, wash face
  • Turn out lights
  • Sleep

Your new one can look like this:


  • 9pm Reverse Alarm


  • Dim lights
  • Charge electronics
  • Use bathroom, brush teeth, wash face
  • Read fiction
  • Turn out lights
  • Sleep

As you perform your ritual consistently, you can add steps. I’d shoot for two weeks of 90% + execution before adding any steps.

How are you going to know if you are executing at 90%? I’m so glad you asked!

You are going to know because you are going to track.

How to set up your tracking system

You don’t need a complex system. But you do need a system. Fortunately, you don’t have to build your own.

You can download both a paper and Excel tracker and instructions here:

Paper tracker

Click here to download.

We explain exactly how to track your evening ritual wins and losses by using our simple physical or digital evening tracking tools.

If you are the type who likes apps for tracking, these are the most popular habit trackers the Dojo and Rituals customers use to track their rituals:



One of the simplest trackers out there is called the Seinfeld calendar. You take a standard calendar a draw an X through each day you’ve completed your ritual.

seinfeld calendar


All these tracking methods are there to do two things.

  • First, they hold you accountable. You only really know if you’ve been following through with your intentions if you have the data to back you up.
  • Second, they motivate. By drawing a fat X on a calendar, checking a box off of your paper tracker, clicking a button in your app, or entering another day in your Excel sheet, you make the invisible visible. You’ll see your progress. And that’s motivating.

I know I’m not the only one who has added something to my to-do list after completing it just so I can check it off. This behavior doesn’t make any sense. It’s borderline insane – that is – unless you take into account the two things that motivate humans more than most anything else:

  • Growth
  • Recognition for that growth

The best part is, once you get started, the motivation to continue only grow. The tracking becomes a game.

“Man. I’ve got an 18-day streak going… let’s see if I can get every day this month!”

Tracking rewards are internal. You can add a few external rewards when you are starting out for a bit of extra motivation. Make sure it is something that aligns with your ritual goal.

For example:

A 30-day streak will result in a new Fitbit to encourage me to have a consistent evening ritual. The Fitbit will also give me more data on how much sleep I get.

Action items

That’s all for today. Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to create an ideal environment for your rituals. I love this step because once you’ve changed the environment once, you’re all set. No willpower required.

Until then, make sure to:

  1. Keep your reverse alarm on
  2. Adjust your routine or reverse alarm clock if necessary
  3. Pick your tracking method and track the last two nights
  4. Complete all the steps in your routine before slipping off to a great night’s sleep.

Note: It’s best to track your rituals immediately after completing them. The reward of tracking will create a craving that drives the Trigger > Routine > Reward feedback loop used to create a strong habit. Evening rituals are a little different. You are unconscious for the last step which can make tracking difficult. To overcome this, be sure to track your previous day when you begin your evening ritual.

*I said I would test your vocab ;-) Your maker is what starts your evening ritual. Your marker is the reverse alarm you set one day one. Other names for the marker are the cue, trigger, or reminder. 

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 Roxanne  | August 5, 2016 at 11:01AM | Reply

I will go with the seinfield method! Me – wake up at 6am daily! It has been the 5th day, as I started on 1 Aug 2016. I was awaken by alarm without much resistance. The key is to tell myself that I will wake up at 6am not matter rain or shine, and I will need at least 6 hours of sleep to function. Therefore, I will sleep by 12am. My evening ritual should be 11pm if it’s one hour. My big win for my evening ritual is to plan what I want to do the next day. It takes less than an hour. Keep going, everyone:)

Posted by Cherie  | August 5, 2016 at 2:35AM | Reply

I went with the Zproductive app to track my ritual steps. Loving it, will be upgrading so I can include my morning ritual too. Thanks AE!

Posted by Katie  | August 4, 2016 at 11:03PM | Reply

Evening ritual now added to my daily tracker that I already had in my bullet journal.

Posted by Barb  | August 4, 2016 at 8:49PM | Reply

I made a little check sheet in my notebook for doing this.

Posted by Morgan  | August 4, 2016 at 12:17PM | Reply

I also use OF for this…

Posted by Su  | August 4, 2016 at 9:57AM | Reply

Great article! Using HabitBull for now. Tracking my routine has helped me realise how much time i have simply let slip by doing something insignificant…Burst the “i dont have time for that” excuse bubble! Going in for a goodnight sleep!

Posted by toetsie  | August 4, 2016 at 9:46AM | Reply

yet habitica is my companion for a longer time now! works good for me.

Posted by Liz  | August 4, 2016 at 2:19AM | Reply

Duh! I never thought of tracking. What a simple idea. I love it

Posted by Zachary Sexton  | August 11, 2016 at 2:05PM

Simple, but effective. Glad this helps.

Posted by Janeira  | August 4, 2016 at 12:57AM | Reply

Another great post! Tracking and rewards are two things I haven’t been doing with my evening ritual. These will be great incentives to help me get to bed on time. 🙂 Thanks, AE!

Posted by Cecilia  | August 4, 2016 at 12:52AM | Reply

I had to adjust the reverse alarm….
I will use the Excel-ark!

Posted by Bruce  | August 4, 2016 at 12:18AM | Reply

This is very helpful.

Posted by Jackie M.  | August 4, 2016 at 12:04AM | Reply

You recommend tracking the following evening? Why not as part of morning routine? The next night seems so distant from the actual activity n

Posted by Catherine S.  | August 3, 2016 at 11:59PM | Reply

I will use my journal to track for now but might give your template a try. Thank you!

Posted by E. J.  | August 3, 2016 at 11:56PM | Reply


Posted by Jennifer  | August 3, 2016 at 7:50PM | Reply

love the tracking

Posted by Anita  | August 3, 2016 at 7:23PM | Reply

I started using CoachMe this week separately to this challenge and had already added a couple of habits to check off that I have built into my evening routine. So I feel good about my three day journaling streak for example

Posted by Jaki  | August 3, 2016 at 6:35PM | Reply

Senfield for me too! The challenge has helped me get 8 hours sleep on 3 consecutive days – always the goal but never previously achieved in years.

Posted by Bob  | August 3, 2016 at 5:30PM | Reply is simple and elegant on iOS.

Definitely motivating.

Thanks again for the useful tips and resources.

Posted by Hema  | August 3, 2016 at 5:01PM | Reply

Trying out, momentum.
I do get a buzz from ticking off in Omni and due app though.

Posted by Francesca  | August 3, 2016 at 4:17PM | Reply

I am adding also the ritual to put the kids to bed.
This is the step difficult to assess how much it will last.

Posted by Ellen  | August 3, 2016 at 3:50PM | Reply

Tracking system set–using the excel file in Google Sheets for now, but I might look at an app later.

Had a hard time falling asleep last night–maybe I’m too excited about the routine to wind down properly? ;)

Posted by Lenita  | August 3, 2016 at 3:34PM | Reply

Sitting at IKEA having a quick bite to eat and going over my shopping list when I suddenly remember “the challenge”. Well shopping was postponed and three days worth of work was done in the cafeteria. Believe it or not feeling calmer at this moment than I have been in awhile. As I leave; plan is in place, my wallet is still full and I’m feeling good. Can’t wait for tonight.

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

Seinfeld calendar will work for me. It’s visible immediately and like you said very encouraging!

Posted by Randy  | August 3, 2016 at 3:20PM | Reply

I like the Seinfeld Calendar method. I worry about getting too many apps involved in simplifying my ritual.

Posted by Eric Bunk  | August 3, 2016 at 1:47PM | Reply

I also have my evening ritual in Omnifocus (as a checklist). That way, I have it always with me. Checking it off is easy and fun.

Posted by kmax  | August 3, 2016 at 1:39PM | Reply

this is one thing i have never tried in my routine… tracking and rewarding it… i have for goals and other habits i’ve formed (tracking part)… but never thought of it as a means to reward.

sounds like something worth adding on to see how it goes.


also, i made a few adjustments (you were missing october tab) to create a quick dash… feel free to update your spreadsheet for everyone .

here’s my dashboard for your tracking spreadsheet: – this spreadsheet is an ongoing update

Posted by Stephen Roe  | August 3, 2016 at 1:37PM | Reply

How did I just now discover this challenge!? This is amazing! I’m a huge fan. Setting my reverse alarm clock now.

I’m going to change one thing that might be helpful for other readers as well. I work at home. As anyone in the same boat knows, that’s both a blessing and a curse. In my old job, I’d wake up at the same time every morning because I had to, but now my schedule varies depending on how I feel. There isn’t the pressure to wake up on time.

Anyhow, the slight change I’m making is that I’m not choosing my ideal wake up time just yet. Like you mentioned in your warning, Zachary, don’t overdo it. For me, I’m going to aim not for my ideal wakeup time of 5-6 am, but an average of my wake up time for the past few weeks. I’ve been keeping track, but even if I wasn’t, an estimate would do.

For me, that’s (rather sadly) 8:33am. So to make the routine easier on myself, I’m going to base my alarm and reverse alarm on that and slowly move earlier, rather than start at a near-impossible time of 6:00am. That’s the ultimate goal, though.

I’ll be back tomorrow for part 4!

Posted by Sandip Bhowmik  | August 3, 2016 at 11:18AM | Reply

I’ve started the challenge. I’ve noticed some resistance around certain steps in my ritual (like journaling). Any tips on overcoming this friction?

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

Well, I will just use the Seinfeld calendar method then. It seems like the fastest and easiest way to do.
In addition, I will also draw a star whenever I finish reading a book on the calendar so I will know how many books I have read in a month or year.

Posted by Peter  | August 3, 2016 at 9:48AM | Reply

I entered the Evening Ritual in my Omnifocus.

When clicking on the different topics of my evening ritual I enjoy marking them “done”.

Posted by Katherine  | August 3, 2016 at 9:13AM | Reply

So about 15 minutes before my reverse alarm went off, I got a notice that I needed to update my software for my all-in-one. What should have been a simple thing turned into an hour project so I was behind from the beginning. I was able to do some of my ritual in between clicking things on my screen and progressing with the update so I actually got into bed only a half hour late. I left the relaxing things like prayer and reading till after the update was done. No more evening updates for me!

Posted by Katie  | August 3, 2016 at 6:49AM | Reply

I have really been enjoying using Habitica lately, so I’ve added my evening ritual to my daily habits :) I kept mine quite simple because I’ve previously fallen into the trap of making it too complicated and long!

Loving this little 5 day challenge, AE Team!

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