Secretly, I crave the fruit of an ordered life: clear countertops, a healthier lifestyle, and tamed paperwork. I was searching my email for information about an upcoming event, and one of the results that popped up was an email I sent myself in 2009 with details about a new routine I was trying to incorporate into my life. And I know that wasn’t the first time I had planned out my days in such a way. It was time for me to admit that such a regimented life works beautifully for some, but it’s not the right path for me. Should I surrender the idea of having an ordered life, my countertops doomed to be cluttered, my piles of papers always to mock me?
Fortunately, through my slightly obsessive research tactics and talks with friends, I discovered the concept of rituals. Ritual, instead of sounding very domineering like routine (Jane Fonda, anyone?), evokes a spiritual, sensual, almost mystical practice. Lighting candles in a austere cathedral, adding lavender leaves to an afternoon bath, or meditating in a quiet space come to mind when I think of rituals.
But, how could I use rituals as a mom, writer, wife, homesteader, to increase my productivity? Because let’s face it, even with all my talk of candles and lavender sprigs, I’ve got my bottom line in mind.
I’ve synthesized my findings into this plan: Use rituals that energize or comfort you to encourage productivity or relaxation.
My morning rituals look something like this:
- Arise early (studies show most successful creatives get up early)
- Prepare breakfast
- Enjoy breakfast with my husband before we both depart for work
I work from home, and I have experimented with different patterns. My kids homeschool but are independent enough that they can get up and complete their morning duties (breakfast, chores, one school subject) without me. I try to do very focused work from 7:30 – 9:00 every morning. Some work rituals I use to keep my energy flowing:
Coffee. I know, everyone drinks coffee, so what’s the big deal? I usually have coffee with breakfast, but I have started taking my coffee upstairs to my office while I work. It’s made a big difference. It’s a ritual that comforts and energizes me. It triggers my mind that it’s work time.
Roadmap. I create a daily plan that I call my roadmap. This practice takes about 5 minutes, but it helps me see the big picture of my day and reminds me to enjoy my life.
Evening rituals can definitely shape the family. It’s easy to let our nights be scattered and chaotic and slip away without being intentional. We eat dinner late because my husband gets home after 7 most evenings, but coming together at the dinner table is a faithful ritual of ours. Another goal is to spend some time together in the evenings pursuing life-giving activities, such as reading, journaling, playing games, dancing. The ritual is not necessarily what we do but the act of creating the peaceful space in which to explore those activities by turning off the devices.
Each of these rituals either inspire me to be productive or help me to relax–or both because they engage my senses in a way that Preparing and enjoying an unhurried breakfast with my husband sets a relaxed tone for the morning, but it also appeals to all my senses–the crack and sizzle of eggs, the fresh citrus scent, the beauty of a perfect slice of frittata. It’s something we look forward to and helps me feel ready to work. When I design my day’s roadmap, I use colorful pens and doodle a sketch or two in the margins, making myself feel less trapped by a routine and more confident about my day.
What rituals do you have in your life?