Craving Routine? Best Daily Night Shift Schedule

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Working the night shift is not for the weak (respectfully). It’s not every persons cup of tea. When you work on a traditional shift schedule – you typically have a little leeway with your day-to-day routine. If you’re working on the night shift, you’ve got to be willing to submit to a strict daily schedule and uphold that schedule to avoid burnout. So, how can you optimize your daily routine/schedule as a night shift worker?

Night shift workers need to organize their schedule differently from a typical 9-5 worker to adequately maintain their health and well-being. Do so by basing your daily schedule by hour, by priority, or by deadlines. Set standards for yourself and establish a routine that enables you to find order.

If you are a night shifter and need a little order to your life – keep reading along with us! We’ve got some great tips on generating a schedule that actually works! 

Night Shift Schedule with Kids

We’re going to look into a day in the life of a 12-hour night shift worker with a family.

If you’re a night shift worker with kids – you’re a superhero, let’s just get that out of the way! This schedule is not easy. Night shift without kids is taxing on the mind and body as it is. When you add a kid or two or three or four, into the mix – things can get a bit out of hand. So, we commend you, you’re truly a rockstar!

So, let’s get into a schedule that might make things a little easier on you. For this schedule, we’re using a 12-hour work night – working 7 pm to 7 am. 

4 pm – Wake up

If you’ve already started your night shift run, now’s the time get up and at ‘em! This is a good time to wake up as it gives you exactly three hours before you have to be at work and allows enough sleep time so that you’re getting the recommended 7-9 hours. 

You may need to tweak the wake-up times a bit earlier in order to pick the kids up from school if they are of school age.

5 pm

You’re probably still getting your wits about you during this hour. 5pm to a night shift worker is the equivalent to 5am to a day shift worker. Spend this time doing tasks you enjoy. Specifically, use this time to spend with your kids if they are around. You’ve only got a couple of hours to share before you head into work, so spend time with people you enjoy.

During this time, consider getting the kid’s lunches and uniforms ready for tomorrow. You may need to do the school drop-off when you get home so save yourself the stress of a lost shoe and tears of what food they will enjoy at lunchtime.

6 pm

Start getting ready for work. Depending on how long it takes you to get ready, you may have a little downtime before actually having to leave. This is the time that you need to be saying goodbye to your family, pets or taking the kids to the babysitter if necessary.

Then you need to start heading to work. Make sure you’re allotting enough time to actually make it to work without being late. Keeping in mind any potential traffic issues, transport troubles and car parking difficulties.

7 pm to 6:59 am

Time to be productive! Get all the work done that you can possibly do. Make sure you are taking your allotted breaks during this time and don’t skip out on them. If a break seems impossible, step away for even 15 minutes to eat a snack, use the bathroom and call your partner to say good night. Be kind to yourself, and don’t forget you’re likely not getting paid during your “break.”

As a dietary tip, try and eliminate caffeine 6 hours prior to going to sleep, so in this case, stop drinking it around 1am. Caffeine can hang around for up to 6 hours in your bloodstream, making slumber tricky once you get home. We like to drink SuperGreen TONIK instead. From a food perspective, watch out for these common culprits which can make you super sleepy.

7 am

Enjoy your drive home. Hopefully, you only have a small commute and are home well before 8 am. If you’re driving a little further, we made this video just for you.

8 am

Get in bed as soon as possible. Do everything you need to do to make sure that your sleeping headquarters are suitable for your sleeping needs. You want to consume something naturally night in melatonin to help you get some sleep, here are a few ideas.

You may need to help get the kids ready for school once you get home and you may even need to drop them off. If you’re in this boat this post will be right down your ally – Working Night Shift With Kids: How To Maximise Family Time

If you’re a single parent juggling this on your own here is one for you – 8 Survival Tips for Single Shift Working Parents

Night Shift Schedule without Kids

Even if you do not have kids and work the night shift, you still need to set yourself on a regular schedule.

You’re literally fighting against your body’s natural functions. Putting yourself on a schedule is a great way to combat some of the side effects that come with working on the night shift.

So, let’s dive into a potential schedule for someone without kids working on the night shift. For this purpose, we will again look at someone working on a twelve-hour shift.

4 pm

This is a good time for you to start waking up. If you’ve followed your schedule the morning prior – then you’ve gotten the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. So, hopefully, you’re not waking up too groggy.

It gives you enough time to get some errands knocked out before you have to be at work in three short hours. Try having some tea or a good “breakfast” before you start the day. 

5 pm

Again, 5 pm for a night shift worker is a day shift worker’s 5 am. So, don’t feel too bad if you’re still waking up! Use this time to get some things done that you have on your to do list. Run a quick errand if you need to. If not, use this time to relax before your shift! 

Personally, for me, I like to exercise at this time. I leave my exercise gear literally at my bedroom doorframe so I am forced to step over it if I don’t workout, which makes me feel bad and helps reconsider my avoidance.

6 pm

At this point, you’ve only got about an hour before you have to be at work. So, now is a good time to start getting your wits about you. Take a shower, and get your lunch together. Whatever your before-work ritual is – start doing that around this time.

During this hour you’ll need to start heading to work. Ensure you’re leaving enough time for you to make it to your shift on time. Pump up some music on your way or listen to a good podcast. Chill your mind before you start your shift. Consider carpooling here too if you find driving after a shift terrifying.

7 pm – 6:59 am

It’s time to punch the clock and hit the ground running! Make it a great work night and be productive. Don’t forget to take breaks throughout the night. Make time to eat your energy-boosting lunch! Don’t find yourself working the entire twelve-hour shift straight.

7 am

Enjoy your drive home (hopefully, it’s not a long one). Once you make it home, take the time to decompress. Maybe do a quick workout or watch a tv show (with the help of your blue light blocking glasses). Whatever helps you wash the night off of you! 

8 am

Try to get in bed as soon as possible. You don’t want to go to bed much later than this because then you are at risk of getting less sleep than the recommended hours. Make sure your sleep area is set exactly how you need it to get the best sleep possible. It also might be handy to know your chronotype at this point too. Not sure what your is? Find out here.

If you wake up in the middle of the day and you can’t fall back asleep, don’t beat yourself up. Commit to getting up and trying again later. Don’t just lie there thinking something mysterious (like falling asleep!) is going to happen when it probably won’t. Go and do some jobs and try again later on. Blue light-blocking glasses will really help when you try falling asleep again later. As you can see we love our Swannies!

Dan wearing Aviator blue light blocking glasses from Swanwick Sleep – see website here.
Remember to keep your blue light blocking glasses on even when brushing your teeth! See what other Sleep aids are available from Swanwick Sleep – here

Need a hand recovering after the night shift? This post will help

Scheduling Arrangement 

There are a few ways that you could go about scheduling out your day and you don’t necessarily have to use the same one every day. Just make sure you’re using one of these options: by priority, by deadline, or by hour. 

Arrangement 1: By Priority

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have a list full of tasks that you need to complete before you actually get to work. Then once you get to work, you’ve got a list full of tasks to complete there too.

If you arrange your tasks by priority (first things first), it allows you to knock out all the important things. If you’re going to do things by priority, I’d suggest color coding tasks from most important to least – that way you’re easily able to keep up with them.

Then once you’re done with the most important tasks, you can work your way to the more mundane ones. 

Arrangement 2: By Deadline

This arrangement is pretty similar to “by priority.” You need to be aware of what time each task needs to be done throughout the day. That way you can easily flow from one task to the next.

It basically sets you up on a schedule all on its own. Complete this task by this time – this task by that time. You can even break the tasks up in thirty-minute intervals – depending on how long it takes you to do each one. 

Arrangement 3: By Hour

This schedule is potentially the simplest of the three. It allows you to break down each hour of your day. This allows you to literally schedule your day from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. This scheduling arrangement is perfect for those who have kids! It allows you to visually see how your day is going to go and keeps you on track. 

Tips to Sticking to Schedule

One tiny mishap in your day and boom – you are instantly off of your schedule. Especially if you have very little downtime throughout the day. Oftentimes it can seem like no matter what you do, you just cannot seem to stay on schedule. Don’t fret – we have got you covered. We want to give you some of the best tips that will work every time! 

Tip 1: Avoid Distractions

I know I’m telling you something that has been said 1000 times over – try to avoid all distractions. However, I’m going to try to put it in a way that isn’t telling you to simply “avoid distractions.”

The first thing I want to tell you is whatever you’re doing – be comfortable while you’re doing it. Being uncomfortable is going to cause you to want to get up and do something completely different.

Something else I’ve found that really works is to have tiny reminders lying around. Use a sticky note with words written on them – focus, back to work, zone. Doing this will help you remember you’ve got a schedule to stay on!

Lastly, silence your phone. Turn off your phone’s notifications if you have to. If your phone is constantly going off throughout the day – chances are it’s going to catch your eye and before you know it you’re an hour and a half off of schedule from just fiddling with your phone. 

Tip 2: Wiggle Room

Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day – so this tip might not always be feasible. However, if your schedule allows it – put a buffer in between each task.

You know as well as I do that life happens. Things do not always go as planned and things come up that are bound to throw you off course. Adding a little wiggle room into your schedule between each task allows for an easier manoeuvre if something does happen to catch you off guard throughout the day. 

Here is a quick video on how we find a routine.

Tip 3: Keep it Together

No literally, keep it together. If you do not take anything else away from this article, take this, invest in some type of notebook or planner. This will save you so much time. It allows you to keep all your ducks in one row. It allows you to visually see the day that you have before you and you don’t have to go looking in separate places for your tasks. This really keeps things from getting lost in translation! 

Using an app or a shared digital calendar with loved ones can be equally as useful too.

Tip 4: Schedule Your Breaks

Don’t try to be a superhuman. Allow yourself some grace and schedule a break or two throughout your day. Your brain needs to rest – especially if you’re constantly going ninety to nothing the entire day. Give yourself a chance to step away from all tasks and all responsibilities.

Tip 5: Keep it Real

When you’re creating your schedule – be realistic. You know yourself better than anyone else. The schedule you have for yourself isn’t going to necessarily work for the next person and vice versa. Nobody knows your life quite like you do. You know how long it takes you to get ready. You know how long it takes for you to get things done. You know at what pace you move. So, don’t schedule so many tasks in your day that you’re not going to be able to accomplish them. Because once you set your schedule, you need to try your hardest to stick to it. 

You see, your schedule doesn’t have to be something to stress over. Overall, you really just have to find a schedule that works for you. Whether you have a family or it’s just you – creating a schedule to keep you on task throughout the day could really make a change in your life.

Working the night shift is tough and truly requires that you stay on a strict schedule. Do that, and you’ll make the timing you head to the office a little more bearable.


Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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