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Last Updated on October 13, 2020

How Are Daily Rituals Different from Daily Routines?

How Are Daily Rituals Different from Daily Routines?

You turn it off. Count to ten. Stretch. Get up. Put the kettle on. Pat the dog. Have a shower. Make coffee. Turn on the news. Feel stressed. Turn off the news. Go to work while drinking coffee.

Is that a daily ritual? Or is that just a routine because you don’t have a choice so you have to get up and go to work every day?

The Difference Between a Daily Ritual and a Routine

The difference between a daily ritual and a routine is how you think about it. It’s how you perceive your actions. Are they mundane chores that just need to be completed, or are they actions that bring meaning, learning or joy into your life? It’s all about your mindset.

A daily routine is a series of tasks that you complete every day in the same order. For example getting up and going to work, stacking the dishwasher, brushing your teeth and getting the kids ready for school. A routine can feel mundane and boring because it’s something you have to do. You can complete your routines on autopilot. They might be efficient, but routines are not necessarily motivating or enjoyable. They are viewed as a chore.

A daily ritual is similar to a daily routine since they are also a series of tasks that are completed in the same order. But a daily ritual differs in its intention. Daily rituals are meaningful practices and are internally motivated. A daily ritual can provide energy and enjoyment along with efficiency and structure. A ritual is a carefully selected way of doing something that has a sense of purpose and a positive side effect in addition to the straightforward completion of the task.

In my last job, I used to get to the office early. I’d switch on my computer and while it was starting up, I’d put the kettle on. While the kettle was boiling, I’d log in and download my emails. Then I’d make my tea and make some porridge in the microwave. Then I’d go back to my desk and read my emails while drinking my tea and eating my porridge. When the porridge was finished, that’s when I kicked into work mode.

Was my morning series of tasks a daily ritual or just a routine?

It started out as a routine. Then I started to think about it and deliberately made it motivating. I bought a really lovely bowl for my porridge and beautiful cup for my tea. It started to become more pleasurable, meaningful and enjoyable. I reframed ‘getting through my emails’ to ‘mentally preparing for my day.’ It was my quiet time. I found out much later that colleagues knew to leave me on my own until my porridge ritual was over!

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There’s a balance to be found with routine and ritual. We’ll always have routines that we need to do to be efficient. There’s always stuff that simply needs to be done. But there’s a lot of value in finding routines, (or even parts of routines), that we can turn into rituals for the benefit of a better day.

Rituals can help us take the boredom or stress out of a regular activity, they can help us be more thoughtful, help us connect to our purpose and help us achieve our goals.

How to Transform Routines into Rituals

The difference between a daily ritual and a routine is your subjective experience of the activity. While we may often associate rituals with religion or spirituality, I believe we can transform any routine into a ritual with the right attitude and perspective.

The Right Attitude and Perspective

1. Positive Affirmations

One very simple thing you can do is recite affirmations.

Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome negative thoughts. Say them to yourself as a way of helping you to achieve a positive mindset.

For example, during my morning work ritual, I changed my internal dialogue to ‘I’m never going to get through all my work today’ to ‘I’m going to have a good day and get the important tasks done – and porridge time is where I prioritise what they are.’ This is just one way to turn something tedious into something more meaningful and purposeful.

2. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we’re doing. It helps us not to be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increasing our attention to others’ well-being.

For practical advice on how to be mindful, check out 7 Ways To Train Yourself To Be More Mindful. There are also several excellent apps to help you be mindful every day.

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We can turn everyday routines into every day rituals by applying mindfulness techniques. For example, how many of us eat food on the go, in the car, between meetings? Apply mindfulness techniques to eating by paying attention to the many different aspects of the food: how it tastes, the temperature and texture. Also pay attention to the actual physical sensations of eating: chewing, swallowing, and even digesting.

Applying mindfulness to eating can help you enjoy your meals more. It can help you eat slower, and consequently eat less because you’re more observant of when you feel full. Mindful eating can reduce food intake and improve flavor, because you’re more likely to savour every bite and feel more satisfied.

3. Connect to a Bigger Purpose

Take a step back and see the bigger picture and purpose behind your daily routines, and how they improve your life as a whole. Connect to this by asking yourself ‘why is this important?’ And keep asking ‘why?’

Why is cleaning my teeth important? Because healthy teeth and gums mean I can eat what you want. Why is that important? For a healthy diet. Why is that important? Because when I’m healthy I feel better and can do more which makes me happy.

This will add more meaning and help you view your routines as more of a ritual because you understand how they are helping you to achieve a bigger purpose.

Adding Intentions

Rituals are the foundation upon which great work is completed. The difference between a daily routine and a daily ritual is intention.

What are the things that you do every day that you could add intention and purpose to and make into a daily ritual?

Benjamin Franklin wrote naked for an hour every morning to “refresh” his mind in the cold air.

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Beethoven rose at dawn and counted out exactly 60 coffee beans to make his perfect morning brew before sitting at his desk and working until 2 p.m.

Creating daily rituals can help you be successful, whether that’s succeeding at business, creating amazing art, or becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.

You already have daily routines. With the right attitude, you can transform some of those routines into positive daily rituals. These rituals help you to focus, feel motivated, inspired and hep you achieve your goals.

Pick one of your routines and think about how you can turn it from an autopilot mundane task to a more meaningful experience in your day. For me, I bought a cup and a bowl and shifted my mindset from getting through emails to something more positive to turn my morning routine into a ritual.

Think about the list below and pick one routine to start:

  1. Getting up in morning. Get your day off to a positive start. Spend 3 minutes being mindful before you do anything else.
  2. Going to bed. There is now a huge body of research on the benefits of a good nights sleep. Turn your going to bed routine into a ritual for better sleep.
  3. Preparing breakfast. Another morning routine that you can turn into a daily ritual and get your day off to a positive start.
  4. Eating. Slow down and be mindful. Reframe a rushed lunch as fuel for your afternoon productivity. A great resource for mindful eating is Work Fuel: The Productivity Ninja Guide to Nutrition by Collette Heneghan and Graham Allcott
  5. Getting to work. Reframe the crowded train or being stuck in a traffic jam from annoying and stressful to an opportunity to disconnect and notice what’s going on around you.
  6. Walking places. Can you reframe the walking you have to do in your day, for example walking to the bus stop, as a ritual, not a chore.
  7. Doing more exercise. Turn dragging yourself to the gym into a positive experience. Tell yourself you can do this! Alternatively, if you absolutely hate the gym and can’t ever imagine finding positive purpose there, work out how to make exercise a ritual. My solution was that I got a dog.
  8. Doing the weekly food shop. You’re not doing a chore, you’re fueling you and your family for success.
  9. Small talk in the office. Make the shift in your mind from boring and pointless to an opportunity to find insights that might help you communicate better.
  10. Being grateful. A good way to reframe your mindset to a positive one is to make being grateful a daily ritual. At the end of the day, list the things that you are grateful for – big and small.
  11. Taking a shower. A great place to think, practice mindfulness and notice how the water feels.
  12. Cleaning your teeth. Are you cleaning your teeth or keeping your mouth healthy and fresh?
  13. Cleaning. Is it a chore or an opportunity to disconnect from your day?

Making Your Daily Rituals Successful

Now you’ve started to think about it, I expect you have dozens of routines that you might choose to turn into daily rituals. What’s important is that you develop your rituals that add meaning and purpose to your day. As you’re working through this, there are three simple things to remember:

Prepare Your Environment

Creating environmental change has a dramatic impact on what you do.

For example, if you set your running shoes out before you go to bed, you’re more likely to run in the morning. Get yourself a lovely cup if you’re turning your morning coffee into a ritual.

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Small Steps

For example, if you have a goal to start running, just start small. The Couch to 5k app is an excellent example of this as it takes you from your couch to being able to run 5k in small steps in 9 weeks.

If you want to live a mindful life, try three minutes of sitting. If you want to spend more time outside, walk your dog around the block each morning.

Better Done Than Perfect

Spending time every day changing routines to rituals doesn’t mean that you will end up with something perfect first time. Don’t give up. Keep practicing.

Bottom Line

You are a unique individual with your own purpose and set of goals that you want to achieve. There’s not a right or wrong set of rituals to follow, the secret to success is identifying your daily routines that can be turned into the rituals that inspire and motivate you to achieve your set of goals.

Good luck!

More About Habits & Routines

Featured photo credit: Content Pixie via unsplash.com

More by this author

Lucy Gower

Founder at Lucidity. Coach, trainer and consultant as well as a best-selling author and international speaker.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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