No Screens After 10 pm

The keystone habit that helps keep my productivity on track

Chris Jennings

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Photo by Oğuzhan Akdoğan on Unsplash

Whenever I’m helping clients reach their productivity goals, I start with one big question. What time do you go to bed? That question is usually followed by another question. What does your nighttime routine look like? This may sound like an odd place to start, but I’ve found the answers to be key when unlocking untapped productive hours in a person’s day.

Simplification

Morning routines might get all the attention, but it’s what you do at night that helps prepare you for a productive morning. For too many of us, our evenings are spent in front of a screen. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we just need to be aware of it. We need to put barriers around our screen time in order to keep it under control. Because no matter how much tech discipline you think you may have, it’s extremely difficult to avoid the allure of screens.

I’ve found that the easiest way to simplify it for the broadest number of people is to say “No screens after 10 pm”. This deceptively simple habit has become my most successful coaching topic.

It may sound self-explanatory, but let me describe exactly what I’m looking to accomplish with this statement.

Why 10 pm?

10 pm is based on an estimate of the average bedtime for most adults being somewhere between 10 pm-12 am. There will always be outliers. I know some people never ever go to bed before midnight, and that’s totally fine if it works for them and they’re getting the most out of their waking hours.

But many people lose track of time before bed. As adults, we don’t have parents telling us that it’s bedtime. We either rely on our internal circadian rhythms to tell us that we’re sleepy (less likely with artificial light, caffeine, and stimulation). Or (more likely) we look at a clock and feel pressured into sleeping based on the time it tells us.

I think there is tremendous value in ceasing screen time about an hour before you plan to fall asleep. If the average person is falling asleep around 11 pm, then 10 pm should be when the devices get turned off.

What does it achieve?

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Chris Jennings

I write about the intersection of technology, productivity, and mindfulness. See more of my work at iterate.substack.com