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?
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Getting up in morning. Get your day off to a positive start. Spend 3 minutes being mindful before you do anything else.
- 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.
- Preparing breakfast. Another morning routine that you can turn into a daily ritual and get your day off to a positive start.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Doing the weekly food shop. You’re not doing a chore, you’re fueling you and your family for success.
- 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.
- 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.
- Taking a shower. A great place to think, practice mindfulness and notice how the water feels.
- Cleaning your teeth. Are you cleaning your teeth or keeping your mouth healthy and fresh?
- 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.
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.
13 Daily Rituals Examples of Highly Successful People
1. Wake up Early
Waking up early can be challenging, especially if you don’t see yourself as a morning person. However, waking up before the sun rises could give you a great head start and get your day on the right track.
One highly successful person that wakes up before 6 a.m. is Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who starts his day at 3:45 a.m. 
There are also the likes of Michelle Obama and Bill McNabb (Chairman of the Vanguard group) that are known to rise before the crack of dawn.
These all being incredibly successful people, it’s easy to wonder if waking up early is truly the source of their success. How beneficial can it be, really, when some mornings it’s more painful than anything?
One answer would be that when you wake up early, you have enough time to get the ball rolling on your morning rituals. It also gives you the chance to dedicate your first conscious hours to personal development in the form of journaling or another creative project, like mentioned in a previous section.
When you’re early to rise, you’re more likely to feel in control of your day as opposed to racing against the clock because you slept in until noon.
Learn how to wake up earlier like the successful people do: How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic
2. Meditate Every Morning
You’ve likely heard so much buzz about meditation that if you didn’t care about it before, you’re curious to see what all the hype is about now.
Meditation is a practice where you use techniques to train your attention and awareness. The ultimate goal of meditation should be to make yourself mentally calm and emotionally stable
It may interest you to know that Oprah, who is one of the most successful media executives, actresses, and talk show hosts in the world meditates in the morning. She apparently meditates each day, and finds it gives her a sense of contentment as well as joy.  Both of these things could certainly be a good foundation for starting your day and executing your goals — especially if you want to end up like Oprah. And don’t we all?
According to Healthline, meditation is even a way to lengthen your attention span and reduce stress, which would allow you to become more efficient and make getting things done throughout the day easier. 
For those that are new to meditation, start by getting comfortable and preparing to sit still for a few minutes. You’ll then focus your attention on your inhale and exhale and follow your breath for at least two minutes.
Here’s a guide for you too: The Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)
3. Have a Healthy Breakfast
What you eat matters when it comes to success. Perhaps this is why some highly successful individuals include having a healthy breakfast in their daily ritual.
Simon Cowell, the popular X-Factor creator and judge says he starts his day by having papaya juice with lime, oatmeal, and two smoothies. He also has a cup of tea which is a ritual that could change your life as the practice forces you to slow down and focus, even if only for a few minutes — especially when combined with meditation, as mentioned earlier.
Not to mention, if you’re up early enough to eat breakfast, it probably means you didn’t sleep in too late, either — unless you enjoy pancakes at 3 p.m., in which case, more power to you.
Get inspired by these 31 Healthy Breakfast Recipes That Will Super Boost Your Energy .
4. Plan Your Day
Planning your day early should help you better manage your time as you’ll know exactly what your objectives for the day are, and you won’t get lost in all the fluffiness surrounding you (like watching TV, unless that was one of your determined goals).
Get a notebook and write down the things you want to accomplish, while also using that time to brainstorm your tasks like the pros.  It’s a great way to get your creative juices flowing, jumpstart your brain, and prepare for amazing things.
5. Follow the 80/20 Rule
There is an 80/20 rule , also known as the “Pareto Principle,” which states that 80% of outcomes are a result of 20% of activities. In this scenario, prioritizing your tasks and focusing on the most important things should give you a better outcome.
You’ll spend less time on the small things, giving all of your energy to the big things the first time around, and accomplishing those things the first time, as well.
You don’t have to worry about going back and fixing errors where you weren’t focused, or not feeling confident about the work you produced, because you were totally engaged in it the entire time without question.
You save time, emotional energy, and more when you purposefully put in that 20% with everything you have.
When you focus on less, or on just one big thing at a time, it could also help minimize procrastination as you may not feel as overwhelmed.
6. Schedule Tasks on the Calendar
Some successful people have decided to do away with traditional to-do lists and schedule everything ahead of time instead.
Co-founder of The Art Charm, Jordan Harbinger, suggests using a calendar to schedule your entire day into 15-minute blocks. It could take away from the stress and anxiety that can come when you see all of the things on your list that haven’t been done yet. You have a set schedule to finish everything up — and adding the things to your list, every morning can be a form of meditation, especially if done in a calm environment with a warm cup of tea to keep you company.
It may be worth a try, as only 41% of things on to-do lists are ever actually done, according to a survey done by LinkedIn in May 2012.
7. Allocate Time for Email
Each day, the average office worker is said to receive 121 emails.  So that your day isn’t spent checking and replying to emails, allocate a specific time for it, and stick to that time in the schedule.
While some choose to check it in the morning, others may prefer to do so in the afternoon, or perhaps break it up into digestible pieces throughout the day. The main point is that refreshing and scrolling your email every 10 minutes isn’t productive for anyone. Doing this could help you boost productivity levels and focus on more important tasks.
Watching where your time goes is essential if you want to see progress and succeed. After all, as you want to be the most effective and most efficient in what you have your hands on, whether it’s spreadsheets at your office job or the ropes in your macrame wall hanging.
8. Make Time for Things You Value
Getting so caught up in your desire to succeed can keep you from living a balanced life. To stay grounded, don’t forget to connect with the people and things that you love, introducing a little more self-care and mindfulness into your daily routine.
A failure to do so could result in you neglecting your support system or the things that make you who you are, and before you know it, you aren’t sure how you got to the place you did. You might not even be unhappy — but you might not feel totally all there emotionally or spiritually, either.
For some, they value family time, while for others giving back is a must. Whatever it is, add it to your daily ritual and touch base with it regularly.
9. Unplug Periodically
It’s so easy to lose touch with yourself, especially in this technological age where there are a million and one distractions coming at you daily.
Some of the ways that successful people unplug include forfeiting the need to instantly reply to messages, simplifying fun time, and simply doing absolutely nothing. 
You could decide that your way of personalizing this ritual is to turn off all of your tech devices an hour before bed, or perhaps have dedicated time in the morning for journaling, writing, drawing, reading, or something else creative and not based on tech.
Some people may even choose to go on tech-fasts, meaning they use their laptops, phones, TVs, and so on, only when necessary — no mindless scrolling allowed. No matter how you unplug, just ensure you create time for yourself so you can mentally rest and approach your goals with a clear mind.
You may also want to try these 5 Simple Ways to Unplug and Be More Mindful In Your Life.
There are endless benefits of exercise, and this may be why so many successful people have it on their list of daily rituals. Barack Obama, former president of the United States, said he would start his day early so that he could prioritize exercise. 
Exercise could be a key to success because it is said to improve your cognitive functioning.  Additionally, working out can help build your mental strength, which is something you’ll need to overcome the obstacles you may face. This goes to say that although exercise has many benefits for your body, it does a great deal for your mind, too.
Anyone who works out regularly can likely attest to the confidence boost they get when able to push their body beyond what they thought was their limit, too. It acts as a confidence booster while, at the same time, nourishing the body with endorphins and everything else that comes with increasing one’s heart rate.
This ability to push yourself and persist even when things are hard is necessary if you want to be successful in any career. Training yourself to do that daily will only help in your endeavors. 
11. Read Often
Adult life can be so hectic that you seldom find time to read books. One famous person that takes reading seriously is Warren Buffet, who dedicates 80% of each day to reading.  His philosophy is that when you read, your knowledge builds up like compound interest.
With this in mind, be selective about the books you read, as highly successful individuals tend to choose education over entertainment — though indulging in fantasy, fiction, and all other kinds of genres probably won’t really hurt you, either. 
Here’re some recommendations for you: 25 Best Self Improvement Books to Read No Matter How Old You Are
12. Engage in a Hobby
When thinking about daily rituals, creativity may not come to mind as a form of self-care or something important to you, emotionally. In fact, sometimes people are so hung up on things like reading and working out that they forget letting their hair down is important, too.
Creative hobbies that you add to daily rituals could be anything that get your blood pumping and prepares your mind for creativity.
If you aren’t sure what hobby you should pick up, use the activities that you enjoy most as a guide and take it from there, allowing your ideas and your interests to evolve as you explore new hobby territories. Enjoy knitting? Try macrame. Like playing video games? Try reading more graphic novels.
Keeping track of your thoughts and feelings is another daily ritual worth trying. One of the simplest ways to do this would be by journaling at least once a day.
Journaling can help improve your emotional intelligence, as you’re forced to be more reflective and make sense of your emotions by writing them down. This means you’d be more self-aware and mindful and, as a result, better able to interact with others.
It’s also worth noting that journaling can be used for other purposes, such as tracking progress on personal or career goals.
What’s more, there are so many ways to journal, and they don’t all have to happen in a physical notebook. Research mobile apps, browser extensions, or something else you can write in at any moment. Some people also journal in the way of scrapbooking or photo-books — do what feels right for you. Don’t squish yourself into a box that doesn’t quite fit!
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.
Featured photo credit: Content Pixie via unsplash.com
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