Improving Focus and Productivity with Daily Rituals
When people claim to “lack focus” they often mean their attention is caught between two places. Family vs. work, sales vs. support, reading vs. daydreaming. The brain can only focus on one thing at a time, so if you split your attention your productivity will suffer.
Creating personal rituals is a good way to regularly shift your entire attention from one thing to another. A ritual is a meaningful pattern of behavior reserved for a certain time, place, or situation. The human mind thrives on patterns, and by building meaningful patterns into your life you build structure and order around which to manage yourself.
Rituals are not routines. Rituals imbue our actions with purpose and mark important transitions. Rituals are habits of emotion. Routines are simply habits of motion. A well-designed ritual engages you in the activity at hand while routines just get the chores done.
By turning a crucial daily transition into a ritual instead of a routine, you can help yourself make the transition quickly, reign in your energy, and focus exclusively on the new area.
Here is how to invent your own ritual
- Find a crucial transition in your day, a transition you’ve had trouble with.
- Identify an action or behavior which would bring your previous activity to closure or release you from the mental burdens associated with it.
- Create an action or activity which would prepare you (physically, emotionally, or mentally) for your new focus.
- Identify a regular time when you will enact your ritual. You may use a clock time, arriving at a location, or environmental triggers.
Make sure your transition activities are meaningful and/or enjoyable to ensure that you do them. They can even be eccentric, so long as you enjoy them and they help you to make a solid transition
Harley has trouble getting started each morning at work. He decides to arrive a little bit early, buy an all-fruit smoothie to reward his early arrival, and check the news feeds. When he finishes the smoothie, he closes all Internet windows on his computer and does a TRO daily review of his calendar and tasks. At the end of this ritual, Harley feels focused and ready to work.
This ritual works well, because the ritual is rewarding (smoothies and news), it transitions him from personal time (checking the news) into work time (closing all Internet windows & daily review) at a specified cue (the smoothie is gone). As Harley turns this into a habit, he quickly comes to enjoy this part of his day and also learn to make the distinct transition from personal to work time.
Create a ritual you enjoy to help you make crucial transitions, and you will find yourself more focused, more happy, and more productive in the work surrounding your ritual.