There's a great deal of focus on optimizing your morning routine for productivity. But I find one problem with the practice of waking up at 5 a.m. to kickstart your epic two hours of exercise, meditation, reading every newspaper and preparing an elaborate breakfast.
A flawlessly executed morning routine assumes you've had an excellent night's sleep.
That's why it's equally as important to optimize how you prepare for sleep. These night-time hours are crucial for recharging your mind and body so you can operate at peak performance the next day. And, research finds that sleep is key for creative thinkers.
These simple bedtime routines will help harness your creativity so your brain works hard while you sleep. You'll wake up refreshed, creative juices flowing, ready to kick that morning routine's ass.
1. Write yourself notes
This short routine might sound a little woo-woo because it's about your subconscious, but logically it makes a lot of sense.
Keep a notebook on your nightstand. Just before switching off the light, jot down a creative problem you're having or something you'd like to accomplish. Your goals will then be literally top of mind as you drift into sleep. "Your goal is to direct your subconscious mind to create the outcomes you seek," writes Benjamin P. Hardy, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Industrial and organizational psychology. As your mind wanders as you sleep, your subconscious does its thing -- making contextual and temporal connections.
Try it. You might be surprised to wake up with a new solution or idea inspired by your notes from last night. And luckily you'll have a notepad handy to jot those ideas down.
2. Wean yourself off your phone
Creative problem solving is enhanced by deep sleep, a study from UC San Diego found. But there's one thing that's preventing a lot of us from slipping into that creativity-juicing REM sleep: our phones.
You already know the "no screen time before bed" rule. The blue light suppresses your normal nighttime release of melatonin, which confuses your brain about how sleepy you are. This keeps you awake longer and eats into the time you could be sleeping and your brain could be recharging. That's why Arianna Huffington's number two rule for better sleep is no electronic devices starting 30 minutes before bedtime.
In practice, this rule is really hard to follow. I can tell you because I've tried it. I even set a 9:30 p.m. alarm (on my phone, of course) to remind myself it was time to shut things down. I had a difficult time sticking to it and eventually gave up.
Instead, a more practical way to cut yourself off from your iPhone, iPad or late-night binge watching might be to start small. Turn everything off 10 minutes before bedtime. Once that seems bearable, bump up the time. After several weeks, those 30 phone-free minutes won't seem so long.
3. Fill your mind with words
Now that you've successfully weaned yourself off your phone, what do you do with those extra 30 minutes before bed? Follow the lead of Bill Gates and President Barack Obama, who read before bed.
The benefits of night-time reading are many. One, picking up a book or magazine shifts your brain's focus away from your work so you can distance yourself from it. And, reading literature could result in greater creativity, according to a study from the University of Toronto reported in the Daily Mail.
"This isn't necessarily reserved just for business reading or inspirational reading," says Michael Kerr, a business speaker and author who follows the habits of successful people closely. "Many successful people find value in being browsers of information from a variety of sources, believing it helps fuel greater creativity and passion in their lives."