As I was brushing my teeth one night last week, I began going over the inevitable to-do list for the next day. After work, I needed to go to the grocery store and PetSmart, do laundry, pay some bills, and begin looking into a new car insurance provider. Before I knew it, my entire body was tense, and my stress levels were rising. Sure, I told myself, I can do laundry while I pay bills and research car insurance. But just knowing that I needed to do all this tomorrow, and being afraid that I’d forget to do it until I was getting ready for bed the next night, made me anxious.
So I decided to write it all down to see if it would help clear my head. I listed not only those original four items, but also a few chores that I needed to do, plus a phone call to a friend. Once my list was finished, I finished getting ready for bed. Before I crawled under the covers, I took a second to analyze my stress levels after writing my to-do list. Did I feel more relaxed? more stressed? Was there even a change?
Overall, I felt a little lighter and less worried. I liked knowing that everything I needed to do was written down so I wouldn’t forget.
The next night, the same thing happened, so I tried the same strategy. And guess what? Same results. Plus, I’d had some chamomile tea just an hour before, which helped me feel more relaxed.
Since then, I’ve taken time before I get ready for bed to write down my to-do list for the next day. I might think about the details of one or two items on that list while I’m getting ready, but overall, I feel calmer because I know that these things aren’t going to get lost in the details of the day.
What’s great about this bedtime habit is that it’s simple and quick. It never takes me long to think of three or four important things that I need to accomplish in the next 24 hours, and knowing that I have them written down relieves a fair amount of stress not just that night, but also all throughout the next day.
I would totally recommend this strategy to anyone who has a bad tendency to stress out about the next day while they’re getting ready to go to bed. It doesn’t matter where you write your to-do list — just making it allows you to release tension so that you can fall asleep faster and more deeply.