The best preparation for tomorrow starts the night before
Mornings can be very chaotic, especially when we add babies, toddlers or kids into the picture. What used to be waking up to the sound of an alarm clock has transitioned into waking up to the sound of screams, cries and when I am lucky, the softer sound of laughter and giggles. But let’s be honest, it’s mostly just screams and cries at 5:00 am–some of which are echoing from my own mouth.
Once I soothe my toddler and wipe the sleep from my own eyes, I habitually would become bombarded with the litany of things that must get done to get the crew out of the house on time for school and work. As much as I love battling my toddler about which socks to wear, while my coveted coffee becomes cold and stale, I thought there must be a better way.
And it starts with how I end my night before.
Prior to integrating a night routine, I started my day by writing a lengthy to-do-list that included the likes of picking up the dry cleaning, getting an oil change, picking up a birthday card, and so on. Let’s not forget about everything that needed to be achieved at work like completing presentation decks, answering emails and attending meetings.
While I thought I was being organized by listing out my to-dos that morning, I found that I was getting overwhelmed and stressed thinking about everything that needed to be done. This was draining and a bit demotivating. Now, fast forward years later and add a kid to the mix. Writing a to-do list in the morning with the constant murmurs of “Mom, mom, mom… mom, mom, mom” in the background is anything but zen.
That’s when I reached a breaking point and had the epiphany—what if I planned my next day of to-dos the night before? The results–less stress in the morning, more smiles and greater productivity.
My night routine has evolved beyond just doing a to-do list and here is what the night before ritual now looks like:
1. Involve Our Child in the “Fun”
My husband and I ask our 4 year old to pick out what he wants to wear to school the next day and to place the clothes on his chair in his bedroom. Not only does this empower him with a decision but it eliminates the morning battles of not knowing what to wear. As much as I love the hysterical falls to the ground with the cries “I have nothing cool to wear” or “Mom, I don’t like that shirt” this makes our morning more efficient.
We also ask our child to pack his backpack with the essentials for the next day, including his show-and-tell, folder, notebook and snack. Just for the record, I give him a choice of 2 snacks and it’s his decision which one he prefers. It’s not a freefall over here and he doesn’t just pick the snack, willy nilly.
2. Lead By Example
Monkey see, monkey do. The best way our child learns is by watching us lead by example. What? I know, shocking. Both my husband and I plan our clothes for the next day and pack our bags for work. Recently, this has evolved into a family game to see who can do it with super hero speed. The winner gets the holy grail of prizes—the power to decide what show or movie we watch as a family after dinner.
3. Tidy up the house
As a Type A personality, clutter and disorganization stresses me. Waking up to dirty dishes in the sink or toys strewn about the living room can send me into a tailspin. The remedy to this is yet another family-style game. As the three of us softly giggle “teamwork makes the dream work” we race towards our designated rooms to begin the tidying. Minutes later, joyful shouts of “I win!” echo throughout each room.
4. Quality Time with My Family
It can be challenging to turn off my work-brain and I’ve gone as far as setting up rules to help govern myself. From 5 pm – 8 pm, it’s family time. This is non-negotiable. I keep my laptop turned off and I place my phone on silent, in another room. I still occasionally need the gentle reminder from my husband to not check my phone and to be more present but it’s a work-in-progress.
Shutting my work mode off for these 3 hours also gives me the necessary decompression from the problem-solving and strategic thinking that I exerted throughout my day.
5. Reflect & Give Gratitude
Research has proven that practicing gratitude contributes to deeper and longer sleep. It has also led to a greater appreciation within my family for the small things in life and for the seemingly mundane things that we do for one another.
This can be a fun exercise to practice as a family. At dinner, we share one experience from the day that each person is grateful for. This is especially important to do when one person has a bad day because it helps us all to see the good in the bad, and to shift our perspectives.
6. hydrate, hydrate & hydrate
Drinking water helps release toxins and keeps my body hydrated. And let’s be real, my skin isn’t getting any younger so I need all the help I can get to keep it glowing. Not only do I drink at least 2 glasses of water at night but I also set a glass of water on my nightstand so it’s waiting for me when I wake up.
7. Plan my next day
Both my husband and I make a to-do list for the next day. We have our own personal list and a family-specific list that may include the likes of making a doctor’s appointment, calling the utility company or going grocery shopping. Based on both of our personal to-do lists, we can better determine who has the ability to take on some of the family-specific responsibilities. Not only does this help keep us organized but it allows us to eliminate one more thing to do in the morning.
8. Turn off Electronics One Hour Before Bedtime
Technology is such a blessing but it could be a curse if we don’t allow ourselves adequate time to disconnect. Screen time before bed, whether the tv, tablet or smartphone, can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can negatively affect our sleep. In the hour leading to us turning into bed, we turn off the electronics and this has been very beneficial to our sleep cycles.
how to prepare for the next day
These are just a few of my nighttime rituals that lead to a better and more productive morning. As a mommy, I need these small wins because let’s face it, parenthood is a battlefield. But preparing for the next day, the night before, has given me a little more control and a little more sanity to deal with the unpredictability that lies ahead in the morning hours. Best of luck as you find your nighttime routine to give a you little more peace in the mornings.