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What Rituals Do You Include in Your Work Life?


Beth Kanter has an excellent post up on 7 Tips to Help you Focus in the Age of Distraction. (Be sure to check out the gorgeous mindmap that accompanies the post!)

One of her suggestions is to establish rituals in your work life. Rituals provide structure and intent. They can keep us organized and focused and also soothe anxieties and frustrations. 

Habits vs. Rituals

I think it's helpful to differentiate between a habit and a ritual. To me, a habit is something that I do unconsciously, automatically, with little thought. When I get into my car, the first thing I do is put on my seatbelt. It's something I do without thinking. That's a habit. 

A ritual, though, is something done with consciousness and intent. There's a mindful quality to it that raises that activity from the level of unconscious action into something deeper and more considered. Ritual is about taking a moment and honoring the activity. Rituals energize.  It's the intention behind rituals that makes them so powerful. 

This distinction is important to remember in establishing rituals for yourself. Being mindful about what you are doing provides the power for your rituals to ground you in your life. 

Daily Rituals

Last week I wrote about using the first hour of your day for professional development. This can be an excellent daily ritual with which to launch your day. Some other rituals to consider:

  • Consider one of your personal values--what's important to you? Each morning think of one activity you will do that day to demonstrate or feel that value in your life. If, for example, you value "community," what will you do to that day to support or build community at work? If you value "creativity," how will you express creativity today? 
  • Each day, look at your "to do" list. Which item on that list is the most important thing for you to accomplish today? Reflect on WHY it's important for you to accomplish that task. Make sure you do that item first. 
  • "Do something every day that you don't want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain." (This is a quote I have over my desk, but I'm not sure where it came from.) I've found it helpful to reflect on WHY I don't want to do this particular thing. It gives me insight into what's going on in my life. 

Weekly Rituals

While daily rituals can help us stay in the moment of particular days, weekly rituals can give us a somewhat longer view and help us consolidate our daily experiences. Some weekly rituals to try:

  • Who has contributed the most to your learning this week? Who has helped you grow and develop? Take a few minutes to reflect on this and then send them an email, give them a call or in some way reach out to them to identify how they helped you and thank them for their contribution to your development. 
  • Identify the best moments of your week. What do you want more of in the coming week? How can you get more of this? What activities, etc. could you engage in? Then implement your plan. 
  • What was the most significant event that occurred this week? Take the time to think about the story of this event and why it is significant to you. What can you learn from this event for the following week?
  • Once a week, have lunch with a colleague (or several colleagues) to discuss professional development. Maybe do a lunch and learn or discuss particular challenges you've faced during the week. 
  • Start a career journal. Work with it once a week to being laying out and monitoring your personal career plan. 

Quarterly and Yearly Rituals

From a career and professional development perspective, there is a need to periodically take an even longer step back and do some reflective work. Some good rituals to consider include:

  • Taking a One-Day Sabbatical--this is an excellent activity to do every quarter if possible. If not, a few times a year, at least. If you do a sabbatical only once a year, consider taking a few days for yourself. This is also something you might want to consider doing with a few like-minded colleagues, making space for both reflection and conversations. 
  • Creating a Personal Strategic Plan--Decide where you want to go in the next several months and how you will get there. Every quarter, look at the progress you've made and make revisions to your plan. 

Rituals can energize and transform your life. They provide structure and intent and a space for you to be more mindful in achieving your goals. 

What rituals do you include  in your work life? Which have been the most valuable and beneficial to you? I'd love to hear from you in comments!




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My morning rituals vary and the variety depends on what time my work begins. If I have a late morning start with work, I drink 4-6 glasses of water as I wake up, toilet and do a few yoga stretches just to limber up and then sit to meditate with a combination of breathing and bodily awareness and an exercise to connect with the universe and its energy to align my head, heart and belly feel the synchronicity of my neurons and become mindfully present. Then I do a metta meditation wishing well and happiness to my loved ones, friends and acquaintances and all beings in this planet. Then I stretch my body and limbs getting ready for my exercise which include 100 – 500 push ups, 100 – 500 sit ups and callisthenics getting ready for a run, a bike ride or a swim which will take 30 to 45 minutes. For cooling down, I again stretch and do a breathing exercise before showering. All this takes between 1 and 1 1/2 hours. I cut down some of these things depending on the mood and the time and what I have in store for the day, but variety is important for me which exercises different parts of my body and then stops me from falling into a pattern and a routine. The other challenge is I can never leave the home in a rush, even if is a pre dawn start without doing some of these. My family has learned to accept this ritual and now I see 2 our 4 children getting into a ritual most mornings. At night, before I fall asleep, I connect with the universe by focussing on my breath and reflect on the entire day's events and thank the universe for everything I have and wishing even the better day the next.

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