It’s nine o’clock and I haven’t eaten dinner yet, so I order takeout. When it comes, I mindlessly eat while I’m on the computer doing work. Then I agonize over what happened that day, crawl onto the couch, scroll through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and then I start adding things I barely need to my cart on Amazon. Once I finally get into my jammies and get under the covers, I again pull out my phone to send some emails and do a little more online shopping. Just as I’m drifting off, I remember that I didn’t wash off my makeup, so I get up and go to the bathroom to wash my face, which wakes me back up. I set an alarm for as late as I can while still making it humanly possible to arrive on time for my first meeting. By the time I finally fall asleep it’s after midnight.
Sound familiar? I know, I know, you want to seize the night. But the best way to do so is to seize some time for yourself, and set the tone for productivity in your waking and dreaming hours. So, your bedtime routine is important and mine was not a good one.
What if it looked like this instead: You mindfully eat dinner at a reasonable time. After dinner, you watch thirty minutes of your favorite show, or take your dog for a walk. Then, you take a few minutes to write down your goals for the following day in a journal so that you don’t have to obsess over them while you’re trying to fall asleep. Next, do whatever little bathroom routine you like. Then, after plugging in your phone in another room (I like to leave mine in the kitchen, right next to the coffeemaker), get your booty into bed. Read something soothing, like poetry or an old favorite. It calms you down and makes your eyes tired, as they should be at this time of day. Zzzzzzzzzz.
Of course, sometimes you need a night off to put the goal-setting aside, have some fun, or just relax. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stick to the basic structure of your daily routine. Now, outline your own night. Yes, there are a lot of variables—a cranky husband, crying kids, a broken A/C—that can rile you up and keep you from getting to bed. But the more you can stay on track when those things don’t happen, the better you will feel. Here are some of my best suggestions for making the most of your evening hours:
Take a few minutes to clean up, whether it’s your room, your desk, or loading the dishwasher. An organized space gets you in a better headspace to keep your time organized as well.
Take a bath
Dodie Smith, one of my favorite children’s book authors (hello, The Hundred and One Dalmatians!), once said that “Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.” I agree. A bath will help sore muscles, clear congestion, and help you detox your body and your mind. Don’t have a tub? Fill a large bowl with warm water and a few tablespoons of Epsom salts for a spa-worthy foot soak. Ahh.
Research has shown again and again that we sleep best in total darkness, so make sure your bed is facing away from any windows if possible, or look into buying blackout shades. If you are restless, try using a white noise app to relax and block out street sounds. You don’t need me to tell you about the many benefits of a good night’s sleep. But studies show that routine sleep behaviors, not just the amount of time you sleep (BTW, seven hours and six minutes is the magical number for optimal sleep time), are a huge contributor to Emotional Wellness and your overall health. Lack of sleep is linked to stroke, heart attack, and depression. Super Women deserve to live long lives, so we can all grow up to be the real-life Golden Girls. (And, yes, we can all be Blanche.)
A routine is just another kind of ritual that you perform for yourself every day. Like many spiritual rituals honor a higher power, your own rituals are a way to honor yourself and tap into your superpowers. It’s important to get your house in order with consistent self-care as you build a healthy relationship with yourself—before going on to build your empire.
A version of this story was published January 2020.
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Nicole Lapin is the New York Times Bestselling author of Rich Bitch and Boss Bitch. She is the host of the nationally syndicated business reality competition show, “Hatched.” She has been an anchor on CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg. Her latest book, Becoming Super Woman, is available now.