Lately I found myself floundering—stuck within an alternating cycle of feeling either overwhelmed or paralyzed.
The combination of creative tasks and deadlines typically drives me with a strong sense of purpose and fulfilment. However, though I had work to do I struggled to act. Instead of filling pages with words and ideas, sending promised proposals and following up, I consoled myself by eating chocolate and watching lots of bad TV.
Needless to say, none of this was any help in boosting my productivity or pulling me out of the doldrums. It’s probably better not to discuss what it did to my waistline!
When my quarter ended and I was doing my evaluation, I realized I had fallen into a series of bad habits: email before devotions, vegging in front of the TV instead of studying, and lunches at restaurants instead of healthy, homemade lunches.
I had totally forsaken one of the key tenets of living a life that I love: if you want an extraordinary life, you must have equally extraordinary routines and rituals.
So often we feel stuck because we’re allowing life to simply happen around us. We are overwhelmed because we are trying to squeeze as much as possible into each day, usually without a plan of any sort.
We are stuck in habits that exacerbate our feelings of stagnation, and we allow our feelings of being overwhelmed to paralyze us.
So, what is that we need? The twin powers of routine and ritual. Nourishing and supportive routines help frame our lives. The word “routine” can seem incredibly stiff and boring, but good routines are neither. Rather than stifling your creativity, routines are about managing your energy effectively in order to channel it toward your real desires and purpose.
Our daily actions are what create our life, so by creating nourishing and supportive routines, we are choosing to fuel our days and nourish our spirits.
We all need daily time-outs, an excuse to stop and take a moment to celebrate, connect, honour and recognize the different aspects of our lives. This is where ritual comes in.
Rituals offer us compassionate discipline where we focus our attention and energy on achieving a certain feeling. They will ground us regardless of what’s happening around us.
Extraordinary routines require minimum engagement in order to let us achieve productive results. Rituals are celebratory, meaningful, and require us to be completely engaged—even if it’s only for two minutes.
As I entered the 2nd quarter, the first thing I did was to re-establish nourishing routines and rituals, thereby creating structure, support, and full-on moments of bliss. I realized very quickly that solid morning and bedtime routines formed parenthesis around my day. This seemingly simple change in my day-to-day living has altered my world.
I’m more productive, more creative, and feeling incredibly grounded. My sense of drive and purpose has returned to me with an underlying feeling of peacefulness.
Nearly every person I talk to says that the way she starts her day sets a tone for the whole day. Our morning routines set the tone for productivity, and our morning rituals give us a daily check-in with how we want to feel, and who we want to be.
So, what should you include in your morning routine?
Choose actions that create an environment of order and support. Similarly, nothing can derail your day like skipping a part of your morning routine. Even something as basic as making the bed every morning gives your brain an important message: the old day is over, and today is a fresh, clean slate.
Creating your morning ritual can be just as simple: just turn some of your regular morning tasks—showering, for example, or making coffee—into a time of reflection.
More powerful than any morning habits, however, are our bedtime routines and rituals.
Bedtime routines allow us to close out our current day as well as stage the coming one. The elements of your routine should be personal to you, but I recommend that they include both self-care (brushing your teeth, washing your face, moisturizing your skin) and preparation for the coming day (choosing your outfit, reviewing your appointments, and staging your bag and keys near the door).
Your bedtime ritual, on the other hand, is a time to focus on connection, reflection, and celebration.
Regardless of how much you did (or didn’t) accomplish that day, each evening is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, your desires, and even your partner.
Adding small rituals of opening and closure to our days gives tremendous value to our minds and souls. You’ll know you’ve created good routines if you can put them on autopilot and still get results. Good rituals will be evident in how peaceful your heart feels.
As you establish these routines and rituals into your days, don’t be too rigid. I personally create white space in my schedule to allow the serendipitous spirit of spontaneity into my world. I fully recognize that it’s possible to get stuck even in good routines. The routines that work now may not be as productive next week. Dreams and desires are ever-changing, so as you continue to grow and stretch yourself, your routines and rituals will grow and stretch as well.