Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

I’ve never been great at engaging daily in a financial budget, but it comes naturally for me to use what I think of as a ‘time budget.’ By that, I mean I mentally think through each day and ‘spend it’ ahead of time. That reality in addition to being an introvert can often make it hard for me to jump at last-minute social invites (much to the chagrin of some of my friends… and my extroverted wife).

I’ve always been fascinated by time, whether it’s time travel stories, the way God interacts with time, why some people thrive in the morning vs the night (or the other way around), or the humbling fact that all of us have the exact same hours in a day. Even the super-productive people.

In addition, my time is spent dramatically differently these days than ever before. Since college, I was the guy with office hours and a ministry life with more happening than I could ever keep up with. And then I added marriage with time expectations with my wife. Add five children to that over the years and so much of my time was automatically spoken for. You probably have a similar scenario.

But now I no longer have an office to go to. I’m no longer in the flow of a day-to-day ministry. Which has honestly been a refreshing change of pace. I’ve heard quite a few people notice something similar because of the realities of Covid. Thankfully, I still have my wife and the five kids and the expectations they bring to my time. But this change has caused me to reflect anew on how I spend my time each day.

I recently learned a phrase called ‘revenge bedtime procrastination.’ It’s a relatively new phrase that apparently originated in China. The journalist Daphne K. Lee described it as when “People who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours” (see: BBC article). You know, when you binge-watch that Netflix series at night and then hate yourself in the morning. Or you lay your kids down for the night and then suddenly realize you feel alive because the time feels uniquely yours. How could you possibly do the responsible and healthy thing of sleeping early when this opportunity presents itself so powerfully? And if you’re already wired to be a night person, then game on.

This is in light of the fact that almost everyone I know thinks they should sleep more than they do. Yet it seems the less we feel control over our time in the day, the more we feel the need for revenge time at night to make up for it. Not only do I love the three words of the phrase, I also resonate deeply with the idea.

While each of us has a different set of demands upon our time each day, we can all find ways to be intentional with all of our hours. After all, even if you work a 50 hour week you still have 118 hours left each week. What I’m continuing to learn these days is that intentionality is far more important than busyness.

One of my favorite tools for managing myself has been to use an app called Streaks (see: website). I have it on my phone and Apple watch and it allows me to pick up to six things I want to get done each day. I currently have five selected and I can mark them off using my watch alone. It helps me to think through what I have each day and to make sure I’m finding ways to get the things done that I decided in advance were important to me. I have one for reading my Bible each day, one for closing my activity rings, etc.

I’d encourage you to make a list of six or less things that are important for you to do each day. Things that may get overlooked when you get busy. Then find a way that works with your personality to make sure you plan your day around them.

I suspect the more intentionally we live out each day finding time for what matters most, the less revenge will be stored up come bedtime. And we could all use a bit less revenge in our lives.

The less we feel control over our time in the day, the more we feel the need for revenge time at night to make up for it. Share on X

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.