Setting Yourself Up for Doctoral Success: part 4

Gina Holmes
4 min readFeb 8, 2022

Bookend Your Days

One of the best ways I have found to set yourself up for inevitable success in this wild ride to Doctorate is to bookend your days. That means that you create a routine or habit that starts and ends your day. Every day.

Why Create A Morning and Evening Routine?

When you have a routine or habit that starts your day, it sets up your day on a positive note, affirming that you have taken time for yourself to pay attention to the tasks that are important to you. It will help you get in the right mindset for working and give you a sense of order.

At night, ending your day in a routine predictable fashion will allow you to decompress, practice any rituals that you want to incorporate and ease your body and your mind into rest and sleep mode. Depending on what you incorporate into your end of day routines, you can even use that time to set up the next day for success as well.

Even if every day looks different, and you’ve got caring commitments as well as work to sort out, and especially if your diary is a jungle, having a routine will help you centre and calm yourself. I was the biggest sceptic out there, but honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in the last couple of years.

What’s the best way to set up your morning routine?

The answer to what’s the best morning routine depends on you! What do you need to do to set up your day for inevitable success?

Physical Exercise

Many people like to incorporate meditation or a physical exercise practice first thing in the morning. By doing this first thing in the morning, it ensures that it will get done. No need to continue to stress about where you will fit it in as the day goes on. Go for your morning run or walk or work out to a video recording to get your exercise in first thing.

Meditation or Spiritual Practice

Meditating in the morning is a great way to tap into your intuition and set up your mind for what is to come for the day. If you don’t already do this, tack it on to an existing habit to help it ‘stick’. For example, I have to unlock my desk drawers before I can start work (small children and nice pens don’t mix in my house!), so the first thing I put my hands on when I’ve done that is my beloved copy of Daily Light, which frames my morning devotional. No, this isn’t a ‘first thing’ habit, but I’ve found a time that works for me. You should too.

Food For Fuel

A healthy breakfast will also set you up for a productive day. Instead of grabbing a coffee and some crisps, plan to sit down for a proper breakfast in the morning. This helps stabilize your blood sugar and gives you energy without a crash mid-morning. That will help your focus.

End of Day Routine

I prefer this idea to just an evening routine. Before you jump up from your desk at the end of the day, take five minutes to review what’s gone well, what you’ve achieved and what you need to get done tomorrow. Pop it all in your planner and head into your evening with a clear head.

Your evening routine should help set up your body for a good night’s rest. End your calorie consumption a couple of hours before you go to bed if you can. In order to transition easily into a restful sleep, try to avoid all electronic stimulation, including TV for at least an hour before bedtime.

As alternatives to screen time, you can choose to read an old-fashioned real book with paper pages, meditate, journal, or you can practice gratitude. Other rituals that help set up your body for a good night’s sleep include a warm relaxing bath, listening to soothing music or chanting (singing to my littlest at bedtime doubles here for me!).

Your evening routine should include the same regular bedtime every night just as your time to wake up in the morning should be kept the same, if at all possible.

By creating a routine for your morning and another one for your evening, your days will be bookended with set routines that become habits. Fill these bookends to your day with activities that will set up your day for success and your evening for a great night’s rest.

Download my daily routine planner to help you find your ideal routines.

If you feel that you need support or mentoring to really move your thesis forward, contact me to discuss how I can help. Together, we can Get It Done!

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Gina Holmes

I support doctoral candidates to get their thesis written. No technical jargon, just lots of good techniques and ass-kicking with love. Let’s Get It Done!