When my friend Gil was attempting to get his time to bed under control he undertook an innovative program.
He set alarms.
His approach was simple. (I’m a simpleton, simple always sets my heart a-throb.) He set an alarm for each major inflection point on the way to lights out at the ideal time.
What I thought was brilliant about this getting-to-bed program was its recognition of human behavior. Had Gil only set one alarm to remind him to go to bed now, then there might have existed several competing actions to complete that could derail the bedtime ideal — and once passed, what’s the use . . .
The clever part is setting staggered alarms, to trigger different behaviors — like you might do for a child.
Here’s how you might do it:
- The first alarm might signal shutting down all electronics, heading to the bathroom, doing your deep thinking there, the brushing of the teeth, the changing into the jammies thing.
- The second alarm might trigger bed now, reading time.
- The final alarm would be lights out no matter what.
One, two, three — you’ve eliminated the thinking, which is always good for striking out into new behavioral territory. You lock into the pattern, you follow your plan, you do it each night for so many weeks it becomes ingrained.
You have become your own Skinnerian lab specimen, but instead of getting a pigeon to peck a button, you’re getting to bed on time — which begets more sleep, which begets greater mental capacity, which begets a better life . . . .
This begetting could go on as long as it does in the Bible, let’s just end it here so we can begetting on to better things.