PP8: 10-3-2-1-0 rule – Countdown to a good night’s sleep

(Part of the series: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

8. 10-3-2-1-0 rule – Countdown to a good night’s sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential to working productively the next day. Sleep experts recommend that you go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. But what if you have trouble falling asleep at night? Then it is harder to get up at your set time in the morning, which throws off your morning routine, which can then throw off the rest of your day.

In many ways the most important time of the day is the time you fall asleep. Falling asleep sets your body clock for the morning which sets the pace for your whole day.

This is where the 10-3-2-1-0 rule comes in. This is a great little rule that has helped me to fall asleep regularly at a set time each night. In turn this helps me get up at the set time in the morning, which helps set the pace for the rest of the day. Here is how the rule works:

10: No caffeine ten hours before bed
  3: No food three hours before bed
  2: No work two hours before bed
  1: No screens one hour before bed
  0: No remaining in bed when the alarm goes off in the morning

I go to sleep at 10:00 each night and wake up at 5:00 in the morning. So, I start “getting ready for bed” at 12:00 noon each day. 12:00 noon is ten hours before I go to bed, so I stop drinking any caffeine by noon each day. I don’t eat food after 7:00, I don’t do any work after 8:00, and I don’t watch TV or use the computer, tablet or phone after 9:00. I spend from 9:00-10:00 reading books or talking with my wife.

When I follow this routine, I am under the covers at 10:00 and usually asleep by 10:05. When the alarm goes off at 5:00 in the morning, I complete the countdown by saying, “Zero!” and get out of bed. My body is so used to this routine by now that I often wake up a few minutes before the alarm anyways.

Getting up at the set time is just as important as going to bed at the set time. Going to bed at the set time ensures that you will have had enough sleep when it’s time to get up in the morning. And getting up at the set time ensures that you will fall asleep when it’s time to go to bed at night.

What if I don’t get everything done that I want to get done for the day? I call staying up late to get things done “punting.” Staying up later makes me feel like I am getting more done, but in reality, I am punting sleep to the next day. If I stay up to 11:00 instead of 10:00, then I will need an extra hour of sleep in the morning, so I am just stealing time from tomorrow to add to today. So, I established a rule for myself. No punting! If I really need to work on something, I can always get up and do it in the morning.

The 10-3-2-1-0 is a great way to countdown to a good night’s sleep. If you start getting ready for bed ten hours before you go to sleep, chances are good you will go to sleep at your set time and wake up at your set time. Try it! It works great for me.

Note: I got this tip from Craig Ballantyne at Early to Rise.

Next in series: PP9: Capture notebook and pen – One book to rule them all

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