Picture this: You’ve had a long day at work. As soon as you’re logged off, your child comes to you for help on their homework. Then it’s time for dinner. And cleaning up the dishes. And taking the dog for a walk. And before you know it, it’s 10pm.
If you work a high-stress job, and especially if you’re a parent, this may sound like a typical day in the life. Sure sounds like mine. In fact, a study into the daily lives of working parents found that, after work and parenting duties are out of the way, parents have just 32 minutes of “me time” every day.
This is where revenge bedtime procrastination comes in. With so little control over our day, we delay going to sleep to regain some of it – by mindlessly scrolling through our feeds, pressing ‘Next Episode’, or making one last cup of tea. We know we’ll regret it in the morning. But we do it anyway.
How can we escape this toxic cycle? Simple. Find ways to feel in control throughout the day. Here’s how:
Reward: Use your reward-oriented brain to your advantage
One of the most fundamental sources of human motivation is the reward system in the brain. It drives us towards the pleasant and away from the painful.
To feel more control, trick your brain by adding ‘stops’ in your day that trigger your reward system.
For every hour of work, schedule a 10-minute self-care break. Not only will the quality of your work in that hour improve (since your brain is more motivated knowing a reward is around the corner) but the resulting perceived control over your schedule will lead to a greater feeling of satisfaction about your day.
The result? A diminished need to revenge procrastinate at the end of your day
Reset: We’re prone to distraction, so capitalize on it.
It is also true that when we pick up our phones to scroll through social media at the end of a long day, we’re acting on a short-lived impulse.
How can we use these two elements of human nature to kill revenge procrastination?
Before you pick up your phone at bedtime, set a timer for 10 minutes on your phone. Lay on your bed with your eyes closed. Chances are you’ll forget about the impulse of picking up your phone. You may even fall asleep!
Remind: Our memory stinks, remind yourself of what you’ve done
Each time we remember an event, our brains reconstruct it differently. We fill in the blanks, borrow details from unrelated events, and inject a healthy dose of imagination into our recollections.
This memory bias is worsened by our negativity bias. We remember the bad things that have happened to us more clearly than we remember the good things. And when that happens, our emotions over a lack of perceived control run wild.
So we unknowingly set ourselves up for a whole lot of night-time procrastination.
The solution? Write down the things you’ve done. This constitutes fact-based proof of your accomplishments on any given day. When you look back at all the things you’ve done, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and control. And sleep better for it.