How to Charge Your Mind Before Bed

By banning my phone from the bedroom, writing and reading became more than plausible possibilities. They’re now essential rituals.

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

In the fall of 2017, I published an article about what happened when I banned my phone from the bedroom for two weeks. Medium curators picked up the story and gave it a ton of exposure. With more than 36,000 views and 5,000 claps, it’s safe to say the topic resonated.

As it turned out, my ban lasted more than two weeks. Keeping my phone out of the bedroom at night became a permanent lifestyle decision, and I still subscribe to everything I expressed in that article.

For one thing, I still love my phone without apology. It is a remarkably handy tool and I use it for a ton of things. When I think of how much I’ve learned from podcasts or read here on Medium, I shudder at the thought of going without it.

But I also believe in the importance of phone boundaries, and I continue to leave my phone outside of my bedroom at night.

Sacred Bedtime Rituals

Some of the biggest wins that I get from banning my phone from the bedroom include journaling, reflection, and reading.

These have become sacred rites. They charge my mind, clarify my thinking, and center my spirit. They’re life-giving.

But the reality is that these activities don’t come easily at the end of the day, even for a literacy nerd. Reflecting and writing about my day, goals, and gratitude requires some mental acuity, and reading — especially nonfiction — demands a similar level of intellectual engagement.

Finding the Time and Energy

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King

I was recently asked how I find the time to read as much as I do, and that’s a fair question.

I’m a husband, stepdad to two boys, teach eighth grade full-time, produce a weekly podcast, and I’m working on a Master’s degree. I don’t have a ton of disposable time.

Mind you, I know a lot of people who read far more than me. A couple of colleagues maintain a mind-numbing pace of 50 books or more per year, or roughly a book a week.

So I’m no reading superstar. As readers go, I’m probably somewhere in the middle of the pack. But I do manage to keep the reading coming on a consistent basis.

Last year I finished eleven books — my best year of reading to date. This year, I’ve set the lofty goal of finishing fifteen, and I’m essentially on track so far.

It simply comes down to reading every single night.

Becoming a Reader in the Era of Smartphones

The reality for me is that if my phone is on hand when I go to bed, the life-giving rituals of reading and writing are in for very stiff competition, because my sleepy brain enjoys the infinite amusements that a phone can provide.

And by ‘amusements’ I don’t just mean the mindless scrolls of social media or on-demand video. I’m also including calendars, emails, documents, note-taking apps, and news. The good stuff. The important stuff.

In contrast, I’ve found that if my phone isn’t around, if it isn’t even in the room, the rites of writing and reading become very plausible possibilities. In fact, I actually crave them.

And quite simply, that’s my secret in a nutshell.

I’ve discovered that if I’m serious about building consistent times of journaling, reflection, and reading into my life, they need to happen at bedtime. And to happen at bedtime, the phone can’t be around. It just can’t.

Maybe you’re different. Maybe you maintain a solid journaling practice and read religiously with your phone just inches away. For that, you have my respect and admiration.

But perhaps you’re more like me. A part of you wants to make writing and reading a part of your life, but it just isn’t happening.

Conduct an experiment. Ban your phone from the bedroom. Buy a nice notebook and a Kindle, and keep them by your bed. Give yourself a month, and watch what happens.

I’m pretty sure you’ll be impressed by what comes next.

“Reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale.” — Glennon Doyle Melton

Productivity, Technology, Stepparenting, Politics, Real Estate. Create> Consume. I talk education @TeachersOnFire.

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