About 3 weeks ago, I started a personal experiment with a new routine. Prior to this experiment, my routine was something like get up between 5:30 and 6:00 AM, get ready for the day (shower, brush my teeth, etc.), spend some time in prayer and Bible reading, and then go about my day. Saturdays were my Sabbath - my "off" day. That was my routine. Not much there - a bit in the morning and no work on Saturdays.
Now, let's look at my new routine.
- Monday through Thursday, get up at 5:30 AM. Friday and every other Wednesday, get up at 5:15 AM. Sundays, get up at (sometimes before) 7:00 AM. Saturdays aren't scheduled.
- Get ready for the day - brush my teeth, shave if it's time to (I only shave once or twice a week), take a cold/cool shower (more on this below), etc.
- Spend time in prayer and Bible reading.
- Go about my day.
- Turn off or get away from screens at 9:00 PM. No TV, no computer, no phone, etc.
- Read a physical book (no ebooks since that's a screen) until 9:30 PM.
- Go to sleep at 9:30 PM.
That's the routine I've been following for the last 3 weeks. Times vary a little bit, but those are what I'm aiming for.
Regarding the shower change, instead of taking hot showers (which is what I've always done), on most days now I take cold showers. I had heard about the benefits of it over the last couple years, so I finally did some research on it, found some scientific and historical backing, and decided to try it. It's not ice cold, but cold enough that I shiver until my body adapts to it or I'm done - whichever comes first.
This video sums it up fairly well, though a quick search will give you plenty of other sources and benefits.
The idea behind turning off screens was to remove the constant stream of visual stimulation. It's another thing I've heard a few people talk about and read about that I thought would be a good idea to try.
Reading before bed is just a way to make sure I read consistently instead of the random times I would before.
Going to bed at a (mostly) consistent time is to make sure I get enough sleep. I used to go to sleep anywhere between 9:00 PM and 1:00 AM, depending on when I felt tired enough and/or decided I needed to stop what I was doing. 1:00 AM nights were usually late night gaming. There are certain games my kids don't need to watch or hear - language, horror, etc.
One other thing that doesn't specifically fit into the routine but is more of a habit change, is that I've limited my coffee or coffee-like drinks (mocha, frappuccino, etc.) to one per day. It's not a signficant change (I drank maybe 2 before, if that, but didn't have a defined limit), but it's an intentional change. The main goal is to limit my caffeine intake, specifically from coffee since that's my main source.
So, what's the outcome after 3 weeks of doing this?
The biggest benefit is I feel less tired and more aware throughout the day.
Previously, I would almost always crash for 15-20 minutes in the afternoon or early evening. After that short nap (usually in my chair in front of my computer), I'd be good for the rest of the night.
With the new routine, I've found myself waking up around 5:00 AM (before my alarm) pretty consistently. It seems 7 hours of sleep is optimal for me. And with that, I don't have the previous fatigue throughout the day.
The focus on reading before bed has been a great way to both learn and let my mind unwind without all the external noise and visual stimuli.
One thing that's not directly related to this experiment/new routine but is just as important is my unscheduled Saturdays (I've been doing this for 3 years). Saturdays are my Sabbath - a day of rest. It's a day of reflection, play, rest and relaxation, hanging out with family and friends, and whatever else. I don't look at or read about code (my work) that day. If my laptop is open, it's probably for gaming purposes, talking with friends on Discord, a hobby related course (e.g. a drawing course on Udemy), some random research topic (who was that actor?), etc.
Though my Saturdays are free form, having the schedule the rest of the week helps improve my day off. The same benefit applies - I'm more awake and aware on that day, which makes the day off more enjoyable.