I want to have a routine life habit: having lunch at lunchtime, having dinner at dinnertime, going to sleep at 10pm, etc. After all, a healthy brain is in a health body. Moreover, while I can prioritize my thinking flow over my hunger, other people that I care can't. One or two days breaking the routine is fine, as long as the "breaking the routine" doesn't become a routine.

However, this life habit seems unachievable to me, since my brain usually isn't tired when my body is. In uncountable occasions, I can literally stop caring the outside world to focus thinking about my problem. It's not what I want, but when the idea comes it's really frustrating for me to not thinking about it. I have the idea for this question when I was brushing my teeth before going to sleep, and after a consideration I decide to open the laptop to write it down, despite knowing it will take me an hour to think about it carefully.

I have tried many things to maintain the habit: taking notes, using calendar, using task manager. Sometimes the habit slowly starts, but is doesn't last for one month. I'm not feeling guilty about unfinished work, I'm feeling guilty about losing ideas if I don't note all of them down immediately. Noting briefly is only good for simple keywords to research later, not when you have a flood of idea.

So, is there any way to maintain a routine life habit?

Related questions:

  • 5
    This question is probably better suited in the lifehacks stack exchange.
    – Drecate
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 18:53
  • 1
    Yes it's achievable but after all it depends on your personality. All the researchers I know and I have lunch at lunch time and dinner at dinnertime. For what concerns sleep time, it depends on what one does at night: play with family, a dinner with friends, cinema, theater, tv, reading a book, a bit of work. I've met someone who was strictly regular, but they were the exception rather than the rule. During the working week for me sleep time can be anywhere between 11 pm and 1 am, and then I usually wake up between 6 am and 7 am. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 19:14
  • 3
    Remember: ideas are worth close to nothing, actually implementing them is the important bit. You'll have lots of ideas, most of them will be crap, and if you come up with an actually good one, it means you have actually understood the problem, and it will eventually come back.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 23:17
  • 4
    This question is extremely broad. All of productivity.stackexchange.com is devoted to it (by people who can't sleep at 3 am). You will want to consult with a doctor (or sleep specialist or psychiatrist) as well.
    – user18072
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 0:43
  • 1
    Important point missing from your question: why do you want a routine? Are you unhappy with your current life? Or is it just social pressure? Unless you understand your motivation, it will be difficult to find the strength to do it. I know a couple of academics that basically live the life of a vampire (minus the blood of virgins part, or at least I hope), and they are perfectly happy with what they do. Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 7:26

2 Answers 2


I see you are having a few completely normal issues that many people in academia face.

Strict routines are good, and for some people they work wonders. But in my experience, the vast majority of people use more dynamic routines, where it doesn't matter, for example, if you've decided to go to bed at 01:00 instead of 21:00 in a particular day, as long as you are getting enough sleep.

As a researcher, get used to the fact that there will always be something to think about or to do. And since you are (unfortunately) not a robot, and your body needs rest to perform well, you have to set up some ground rules, the most important of which should be to make sure you get at least 7-7.5 (preferably 8) hours of sleep every day.
And there are different strategies how to "shut off" your brain in order to fall asleep: ambient music, alcohol, reading, a winding-down routine, etc. I've found that, for me, a good way to fall asleep is to think about floating in nothingness. Gets me snoring in a jiffy.

To help you record ideas, there is a very simple, but very effective, strategy: make sure you always have something near you to write on. Get a notepad (or notebook, or even simple printer paper) for your bedside table, you should have at least one notepad for all of your desks, get a pocket notebook to carry with you (and put it on a reel, so that you don't lose it).
So now, when you get an idea, but can't work on it at the moment, simply write it down in a concise way, and pick it up whenever you have time.
In fact, for ideas you know you won't have time in the foreseeable future to work on, or you are not sure how they fit in with the rest of your work, it may be desirable to keep an electronic list (or list of lists) of ideas, where you can elaborate ideas in greater detail, have references, associate ideas with keywords, sort them by importance, etc.


Consider imposing the discipline that your notes-to-self be just one sentence long. The sentence just has to encapsulate enough about the idea to give you an entry back to it.

Notice whether your use of food, caffeine, or any other psychoactive substance is affecting your sleep cycle -- which you may not prefer to start at 10 PM. Everyone's circadian rhythm is different: I prefer a bedtime around 12:30 AM.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .