If you know me, you may be aware that I am truly a lover of productivity - heck, I wrote a whole book about it.
Yet, I am not a big fan of routines. What I have built for myself over the years are specific rituals I can follow. Some of them even become habits.
Up to habits power 40% of our daily actions—the unconscious activities and routines we’ve developed over time.
For example, I wake up at 6 am on weekdays, have my coffee first, then meditate, do my journalling before the workday officially starts. Some people may call this a routine, but to me, it’s a series of powerful rituals.
The difference between a routine and a ritual is the attitude behind the action. While routines can be actions that need to be done—such as making your bed or taking a shower—rituals are viewed as more meaningful practices with a real sense of purpose.
Turning everyday tasks into rituals
Rituals do not have to be spiritual or religious, yet they are simple acts that keep you focused. The power of rituals stems from the meaning we give to them. They are not part of a list of things to do. They are a task we elevate by ritualising it.
Think about something you do that improves the quality of your day. How can you ritualise this everyday task?
Rituals genuinely enable you to awareness of your tasks and can make you feel more successful at the end of the day.
Start changing your language and using the word ritual makes something more of a priority and gives something we know a new meaning.
For example, my morning walk becomes my way to do something just for myself before getting to work.
The action itself doesn’t matter as much as what it symbolises. It’s a way to shift my focus and prepare for what is coming next.
To build everyday rituals, we want to attach meaning to the little joys we experience every day and combine them with a successful outcome. Some examples include:
- Morning coffee + journalling
- Nature walk + meditation
- Dancing to a power song + preparing for a workshop
In one experiment, people received either a “lucky golf ball” or an ordinary golf ball and then performed a golf task. People with the lucky ball believed they had a better chance of succeeding in the task.
As Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton, behavioural scientists at Harvard Business School, write:
“Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals to produce a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true.”
How to bundle rituals for effectiveness
Another benefit is that rituals allow you to take the time to do one thing and focus solely on it without extra distractions. Since rituals encourage focus, they are deeply rooted in the practice of single-tasking.
Single tasking lets you think small and create small achievements, as they’re imbued with deeper meaning beyond just a sequence of actions. Think of religious rituals or family traditions. These rituals signify a change or moment of importance that we should note.
To make rituals realistic, you need to make time for them, just like you would if you were to attach a deeper spiritual meaning.
I even add some of them to my calendar, especially my walks or even my movement schedule, to make sure it has priority over other things.
Is there any object you can connect to your rituals? Like a cup of tea, an item of clothing, or maybe a notepad.
As Maria Popova, founder of founder of Marginalian, writes though very different in practice, routine and ritual seem to be two sides of the same coin:
“While routine aims to make the chaos of everyday life more containable and controllable, ritual aims to imbue the mundane with an element of the magical. The routine structure comforts us, and the specialness of ritual vitalises us.”
Rituals also remind us of the power of impermanence and anchoring our minds to the present. The time to have those experiences is now. There is no “later” for it.
Research in sport psychology demonstrates the performance benefits of pre-performance routines, from improving attention and execution to increasing emotional stability and confidence.
- You can easily ritualise every day activities by giving them purpose
- Choose parts of your routine you are looking to improve or strengthen
- Associate objects or small acts to a ritual to reinforce its effect
The rituals you create may increase confidence in your abilities, motivate more significant effort – and improve subsequent performance.
Ritualising your tasks means you elevate them by adding a specific meaning that will allow them to build towards your feeling of accomplishment by the end of the day.