“Revenge bedtime procrastination.” Have you heard of this? It’s fascinating.
Last week I read this article: The Psychology Behind Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and it was the first time I had heard of it. But the concept was all-too familiar.
According to that excellent article, Revenge Bedtime Procrastination refers to staying up way too late doing things for yourself when you know you should be sleeping.
This one really hit home. In fact, this was my basic mode of operations for years. Decades, probably. Only this year have I been able to get a handle on this, and I can now say I’m proud to call myself a recovering Revenge Bedtime Procrastinator.
Here is a video recorded live on The Essential Musician facebook page where I talked about this.
Everything is connected
I had a life coach for a couple of years. Actually, I thought I was getting nutrition counselling, but it turned out to be life coaching, and it was exactly what I needed. We didn’t manage to upgrade my nutrition too much, but she did get me thinking about all the little things in my life that needed upgrading. Everything is connected, no?
At the basis of all my complaints, and what affected everything else in my life, was my inability to get to bed before 1:00am. Ever.
I love those deep, dark hours. They’re quiet, most reasonable people are in bed by then, no one calls or messages or emails – or if they do, they don’t expect a response. Reasonable people are fast asleep by then.
But work schedules don’t give a rat’s butt if you don’t sleep enough. So, I was stuck in that vicious cycle of not getting enough sleep, dragging through my day, barely getting the dishes cleaned up and the kids to bed, then the rush of cortisol to get me through evening practicing and time for myself.
That cortisol kicked in like clockwork around 11:00 every night, I could almost set my watch by it. That was my favourite time for deep work, especially for practicing. But the lack of sleep was killing me, and I had to change it.
Staying up too late on a regular basis means morning wakeups are really, really hard. When the first lockdown happened in March of 2020 it was all too easy to sleep in. I was setting a really bad example for my kids and I needed to get things done. So, I set about changing things.
The first thing I implemented was a morning routine. I wrote about my morning routine in this post: Essential Oils for Dolphins (or, how to get going when you don’t want to get up). In it I described exactly how I managed to start getting up a reasonable hour, and the things that motivated me to do so. Spoiler alert: essential oils play a prominent role in this routine.
My hope was:
- that my morning routine would be awesome enough that I would look forward to it
- that getting up earlier on a consistent basis would make it easier to get to bed at night
Eventually, that did work. My morning routine consists of filling diffusers, journaling (which I love), exercise (which I don’t love), and setting my goals for the day. I’m up at 6:25, and at my desk in my home office, ready to go, at 9:00 am sharp, every single day.
This alone was a massive improvement on my mood, health, and productivity, and it was a major victory.
What’s really going on
I thought I was carving out time to protect my morning journaling habit, which is true. Journaling in the morning just works better for me than to do it at night. What I didn’t realize was the deeper change: by injecting my “me time” into the morning, I became less dependent upon that “me time” at night.
My evening routine is already en pointe and has been for years. I used to have terrible sleep habits (quelle surprise), so I take my evening routine very seriously.
Here’s my bullet-proof evening routine:
- fill the bedtime diffuser in the bathroom and run it there while getting ready for bed
- bath (or shower) every night, good and hot
- Epsom salts and essential oils in the bath, or essential oils in the corner of the shower
- read a few pages of a book (in the bath, obviously not in the shower)
If I don’t do these things it takes far longer to drift off.
After this, next I used to head to bed and play Candy Crush for a while or scroll social media or whatever. It drove me crazy that I did this, but I did it for years. My excuse was that I needed my iPad for the alarm (which I really like), and it was too tempting to have it in the room.
Spoiler alert #2: it wasn’t the iPad’s fault. (No sh*t, Sherlock.) Now I don’t have any trouble going straight to bed, no more screen time needed. The iPad (and its lovely morning alarm) gets to stay.
Rock solid WFH boundaries
My dear readers likely know that I am Chair of a university music department. If you know this, you also know how much I hate it. You likely have heard me complain about how it’s my second round as Chair too.
When I was Chair the first time, I had no clue what I was doing. The very worst part of my first-round Chair experience was the absolute nonexistence of any work/home boundaries. Admittedly it was a crazy time for the department, with a building move and a host of other challenges.
That’s no excuse, however. My scrolling-during-bedtime activity often involved sending work email and sometimes getting responses. I wasn’t doing my colleagues any favours by sending them midnight emails, and I was killing my spirit, and myself, in the process.
I had to make some serious changes for this second round, or I knew it would certainly have dire consequences for my health. Add the lockdown to this situation and we had the potential for a work-from-home (WFH) boundary disaster. (Let’s not even talk about running a music department entirely online. That’s a story for another day.)
The surprise benefit of learning to run a side hustle
This is where my new interest in running a business on the side became my unexpected ticket to an upgrade. I have always been deeply interested in self-development, likely because I knew my “self” needed many developments. I have written about some of my favourite productivity upgrades in recent posts:
- A Useful Organizing Tool for Busy Musicians
- Clear Your Inbox, Clear Your Mind, Go Practice
- Your Diffuser: your work-from-home productivity hero
- Pen-to-Paper Productivity
This self-development journey was important to me. I knew if I wanted to continue to build this business that I adore, and wanted to keep the day job that pays the bills, and not completely lose myself in the process, I had to do something.
My Chair experience in this second round is drastically different from the first time. I have firm boundaries around my time. 9-5 M-F is work time. If I can’t do work-related tasks during that time, I don’t do them. I have done work homework twice in the past 8 months. Twice, total.
That means the time outside of this belongs entirely to me, without guilt. I stay hyper-focused and productive during the workday, relying heavily on my oils to help me do this. Then when 5 pm hits, we’re done. I apply some Cheer to mark the end of the workday and that’s it for the day job until the next day.
Life upgrades in baby steps
I didn’t just wake up one day and change everything. It kind of snuck up on me over time. For so many years our one New Year’s resolution was: “To bed, lights out, by midnight.” For years we had this goal. This was finally the year we made it happen, and it happened before we fully realized it.
But it didn’t make sense why it happened until I read about Revenge Bedtime Procrastination. It all works together in a beautiful ecosystem:
- morning journaling motivates me to get up
- morning exercise on automatic pilot before I can talk myself out of it
- super-productive 9-5 M-F workdays
- guilt-free non-work time outside of the 9-5 M-F
- clear strategies for making the most of found pockets of time
- meaningful time with the family, without distractions
- nutrition upgrades and time for cooking
- genuine gratitude for this life that I love, and a secure job that pays the bills
Now when I get to bed, I don’t feel the need to fill the time with Candy Crush and mindless scrolling. I do some of that during the day, but I do it completely without guilt. My “me-time cup” gets filled daily.
Dishes get done after dinner because I have enough energy to do them then. That gives me clear evening time to work on my business without distractions. I write my blog posts on the weekends, without guilt.
Coda: upgrade gratitude
Many people ask me how I do it all: department Chair, performer (well, not right now), piano teacher, piano examiner, blogger, dōTERRA business, mom, wife, friend.
It’s funny how this crazy time of lockdowns has been a blessing in some ways for some people. I am deeply grateful for the time with my family, furry office assistants, and a salary that continues even when the gigs have disappeared.
We have clawed back some time for ourselves, to reconsider our priorities and have the time to make changes. I finally let go of the thinking that these personal changes are temporary, to disappear when “things go back to normal.”
This is my new normal. This.
But I’m not going to lie, I do miss those deep, dark, hours.