The Mindful Practice of Not Putting Off Bedtime or Waketime

By Leo Babauta

One of the biggest problems you guys have encountered so far in the Wake Early Habit is putting off bedtime (or putting off waking up).

Whether it’s “just one more thing on the computer” or “it’s the weekend, I can stay up later” or “just one more show” or “just a few more minutes of sleep”, the pull of putting something off is very strong.

Luckily, this is really good practice for everything in life.

Sleeping in when you’re trying to wake up earlier … or going to bed late when you’re trying to sleep earlier … these are both forms of procrastination. And we procrastinate in all areas of life, from work to working out to doing paperwork to putting away the dishes.

If we learn to deal with this procrastination, we can get better at all areas of our lives.

I’m going to suggest a procrastination practice that is actually incredibly useful, and this Wake Early Habit is a wonderful time to practice it.

Here’s the practice:

First, notice what has been getting in your way. Many of you (very helpfully) answered my Wake Early poll with problems like “putting off bedtime” and “staying on screens too late”. It’s good to have awareness of what you’ve been doing that’s getting in the way. If it’s a procrastination issue, then we can work on that, but you have to first see that you’re doing it.

Second, pay close attention to the moment of procrastination. It’s good to have a line that you draw, like a specific screen shut-off time, or bedtime, or waketime. If you plan this time in advance, then when that time hits, you should be very mindful of what you do at this moment. For example, if you say that you are going to shut off your computer at 10pm, and then 10pm hits (and your alarm goes off), watch your mind … and see what it does to justify the procrastination.

Third, see the rationalization. There are legitimate reasons to put something off — you really need to stay up late to nurse your very ill child, for example. But most of the time we come up with rationalizations that are not legitimate reasons: “checking Facebook one more time won’t matter” for example. There are lots of ways we come up with rationalizations, but saying, “I should do this” or “I deserve this” or “One won’t matter” or “It won’t hurt” or “I shouldn’t make myself suffer” are some of the common ones. Watch and see what your rationalizations are.

Fourth, see how the rationalization is hurting you. If you say, “One more website won’t hurt” and then you see how this leads to another 1 1/2 hours online … and then makes you too tired to get up, and hurts your trust in yourself to stick to a habit … this is hurting you. The rationalization is actually causing you harm. You might not see this right away, but if you keep practicing this for the rest of the month, you’ll see the harm in the rationalization. It will become a pattern you recognize: you rationalize, that leads to procrastination, then you fail with your habit, then you trust yourself less. And this isn’t a pattern you like. So recognize the rationalization as the start of that pattern.

Fifth, let go of the rationalization. Be prepared to beat the rationalization ahead of time — have an answer for each one that you commonly use. For example, “One more website won’t hurt” can be countered with “Actually, that has hurt me many times this month and I don’t want to hurt myself”. The key is that this all has to be said consciously to yourself, maybe even aloud, so it doesn’t happen unnoticed in the back of your head. See that the rationalization is causing you harm, and let it go. You can stick to your plan even if you have the urge not to. You can shut off the computer, and nothing bad will happen. You can get up when you’re tired and life will go on. You’re tougher than those rationalizations.

So if you’ve been having trouble with the Wake Early Habit this month, see if you can practice this method each night and each morning. It’s really useful practice, and will help you with all future habits.