We all have rituals to live and work more productively. These rituals act as a way to build a resiliency to what we may face during the day. They can also help us stay focused and keeping us on track throughout the day.
Our daily rituals consist of habits, routine and schedule. We all have a ritual–even those who pondering having NO ritual–indeed have one. They either help us to work smarter or hinder productivity. These eight rituals should enable us to stay hyper-focused and productive for the entire day.
1. Own The Morning—How much sleep do we need/How much food should I eat?
It would be awesome if there were a magical one-size-fits-all schedule that suits everyone’s sleep needs. Some of us are early risers who relish the morning hours. Others are night owls finding creativity sparks when the rest of the world has gone to sleep.
Most of us have a predetermined wake-up time based on our commitments and responsibilities, family needs, and job “issues”. In general, most of us need around eight hours of sleep to function at our best. Our sleep routine should take all of this into account. Try experimenting with between six and eight hours and see how the day goes. I’ve played with this for a few years now and know that if I don’t get six hours minimum–the second ritual below just won’t happen.
As difficult as it can be, I try to have a consistent bedtime for both weekday and weekend nights. This establishes a schedule for our body’s internal clock, so our body knows when to sleep and when to wake. This will improve the quality of our sleep so that we consistently feel rested and able to function at our best.
Breakfast–the most important meal of the day. A new study argues that protein is a powerhouse macronutrient that should be eaten for breakfast in order to help curb afternoon sugar cravings and in turn helping us with #4 and #5 below. What does 30 grams of protein for breakfast look like? 2 pieces of bacon, a container of yogurt, and a protein shake gets me about 43 grams. Here is another example
2. Self Reflection/Mediation/Prayer
After waking from a good 7ish hours sleep–prayer and meditation are crucial for orienting ourselves toward something positive. Prayer and meditation facilitate intense gratitude for all that we have. Gratitude is having an abundance mindset. When we think abundantly, the world is our oyster. There is limitless opportunity and possibility for us.
I am playing with the EVO Project Journal–there’s a lot to like with the journal (and a few things that drive me bonkers), but the first thing everyday is reflecting on what we are thankful for–I really think it is making a difference. Gratitude may be the most important key to success. It has been called the mother of all virtues.
If we start every morning putting ourselves in a space of gratitude and clarity, we will attract the best the world has to offer, and not get distracted.
I also spend time in The Bible–usually reading one chapter a day, rotating between the New and the Old Testament. I read the Daily Stoic and spend 10-20 minutes meditating with either the Headspace App or Sam Harris’s Waking Up App.
3. Just Do It—Get Out there!
A great way to smash the veil of grogginess we feel when we first get up is by moving our body. Likewise, after being cooped up sitting at your desk all day, getting out for an afternoon stroll or some exercise can help clear our head.
Whether it involves the gym, yoga stretches, hitting the treadmill or going for a walk, getting up and moving around is a great way to help our mind focus. In fact, many studies have found that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger and more developed in people who exercise regularly than in those who don’t.
Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which are key to helping our brains perform better. Ensure our daily ritual includes movement to keep your mind and your body functioning optimally.
Experimenting is key. Depending on our workload early morning might be the optimal time to exercise–some might be able to work it into the afternoon, but the key is finding a time where we can be consistent in working out. Also remember–if we workout in the early morning, back that bedtime up so we hit 6-8 hours a night.
4. First Things Suck
Brian Tracy, popular motivational speaker and author, advises people to “eat their biggest frog first thing in the morning” — meaning that if we start our day with our biggest, most important or most dreaded task, the rest of our day will be easy by comparison. This can be a great way to get ourselves going on a difficult project that is hanging over your our head.
The idea is to find a way to launch ourselves into a productive mindset. If checking off a few boxes on our daily to-do list gets us going, then just do it. If taking on that big, hairy project first thing so we can get it over with, then by all means have at it.
Have you ever thought of a cold shower–that would suck huh? That’s a pretty big frog for some of us to eat, but scientific studies have found that taking a cold shower increases the amount of white blood cells in your body. These blood cells protect your body against diseases. Researchers believe that this process is related to an increased metabolic rate, which stimulates the immune response and it can also increase willpower. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
For me–after that cold shower–it’s always paperwork. If there is a stack of admin on the desk, I usually always try to tackle that to get it over with in order to just move on.
5. What Would Socrates Do?
Throughout the day, as we feel concentration slip or find ourselves doing meaningless or unimportant tasks to fill time, we need to ask the following questions:
What’s the most important thing I could be doing right now?
How can I get this done faster and more efficiently?
What’s a better way to undertake this task?
Remember stacking protein in the morning can help with alertness–but these simple but powerful questions can be used to help us regain focus and keep our attention where it needs to be. Are we really doing what we need to be doing? If not, what should we be doing? The goal with this is to be more aware of how we’re spending time and not just letting minutes float by. If we’re taking a break, that’s fine, but make sure we have defined how long the breather is, and know what task to plan to do when we go back to work.
6. Get ‘er Done
The only way to get anything done is to JUST do it. It really is that simple, but we often put things off because we’re caught up in doing something else, or we’re focused on some future project. But if there is something that needs to get done now, just do it.
Often, small things will pop up, but we put them off because we’re in the middle of doing something else. If the small thing can be done relatively quickly, then don’t put it off — simply do it right then.
This prevents procrastination and keeps our to-do list from growing out of control with small tasks that will eventually eat up the whole day. By knocking out these little chores as they crop up, we give ourselves more time to focus on the bigger/strategic stuff.
As part of my morning routine–I spend some time pondering a vision statement and then take one thing from that vision/strategy and work it.
7. Walk it Off
Our brains are only capable of continuously focusing on something for a certain period of time. By taking short breaks, ideally about once an hour, you give your mind a chance to decompress and relax so it can refocus and concentrate again.
Psychologist Alejandro Lleras found that participants who were given short breaks during 50-minute tasks performed better than those who worked straight through. Lleras found that brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve people’s ability to focus on that task for a prolonged period.
The study examined a phenomenon called “vigilance decrement,” or the decrease in one’s “attentional resources.” This can happen when you start performing poorly on a task you’re having a hard time focusing on. That’s when you should take a short mental break. This allows your brain a chance to deactivate, and when you go back to work, your mind is better able to refocus.
8. There’s Always Tomorrow
This simple ritual is guaranteed to help improve productivity tomorrow. Take a few minutes at the end of the workday and clearly spell out what the goals are for the following day. This is a chance to think through the process of how we will accomplish everything we need to do. Consider these questions:
What are the highest priorities?
What tasks must we absolutely get done?
What setbacks or issues might arise?
What challenges might keep us from staying focused?
Often, we stay reasonably focused until something unexpected pops up. Perhaps we get a phone call or an email that absorbs our attention. Perhaps we got sucked into a conversation with a co-worker. Think through how to avoid these pitfalls and be prepared for what’s on the plate.
I like checklists–I’m sure it’s a pilot thing, so here goes–morning routine
7 hours of sleep
Prayer and meditation–read something uplifting
30 grams of protein
Review the day
Anything to add?