Don’t you hate feeling drained all day long?
If you are a work-from-home entrepreneur like me, then you probably also struggle with balancing all of the responsibilities on your plate – from endless work duties to home chores and then self-care. It comes with the territory, so sometimes we just need to regain control over our day-to-day lives. How?
I’ve learned that the best way to hit the reset button is to build rituals into your work-from-home routine, so this blog is your guide to building rituals that boost your success while working for yourself at home.
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WHAT IS A RITUAL?
When you hear the word “ritual,” you may think of some religious ceremony or an act based on superstition, but for our purposes, it’s something very different…
A ritual is simply a set of normal actions done at the same time and day in order to automate good habits and set up a healthy mindset for whatever is next. Rituals ensure you follow through with the basics of self-care by streamlining simple actions that can be typically pushed aside when busy or tired.
Rituals can be two minutes or two hours, but should always tailor to what fits into your life right now. That means that they are forever evolving, just as we are. In essence, rituals are your customized recipes for personal success – and you get to choose what success means to you.
You know how athletes might do a few small, maybe quirky things right before a game or race? For example: when I competitively swam, I stretched on the deck while listening to my favorite EDM song on repeat. My point is that you can also think of a ritual as a playbook that empowers you to succeed in your overall game plan for the day.
You can build a ritual for literally anything – from how to start preparing dinner to what you do during your work breaks. To truly set yourself up for success all day long, I recommend including the below rituals into your routines:
- Morning Ritual: steps from when you wake up until your first activity of each day
- Work Startup Ritual: steps from when you enter your work environment until you begin your first task of the workday
- Midday Ritual: steps from when you break from the afternoon activity you’re engaged in (weekdays and weekends – up to you)
- Workday Shutdown Ritual: steps from when you finish your last task and leave work behind for the day
- Evening Ritual: steps when you prepare for each good night’s sleep
BENEFITS OF RITUALS
If you read/watch interviews of successful people, you’ll notice a pattern within all – yes, all – of their daily routines: they follow different kinds of rituals throughout their days.
Once you are intentional about how you start and end your day, you’ll be surprised at how a positive mindset helps automates your habits. Some of the benefits from rituals are:
- Optimizes your current routines
- No need for decision-making
- Secures self-care time
- Increases sense of control and discipline
- Saves time
- Boosts energy
Optimizes Your Current Routines
Did you know that you already have rituals set in place? Consider what you do as you roll out of bed each morning, finish work for the day, and spend your free time. It might be the simplest sequence of acts – like brushing your teeth or cooking dinner – but as long as the sequence and repetition are there, it’s a ritual!
The goal of building your work-from-home rituals is not to start from scratch, but to remodel from where you are now with one, realistic step at a time. Therefore, acknowledging that you already follow rituals, whether intentionally or not, is required.
Since rituals are intended to help you succeed in your phase of life, they should be adjusted at any time you see fit. Let’s say you move, have a baby, or just need to reset; reviewing and realigning your rituals will avoid a vicious cycle and help you maintain control.
No Need for Decision-making
Humans make roughly 35,000 decisions a day, and I’d be a lot of money that remote solopreneurs make a lot more. So, reducing as much of that decision fatigue as possible is one of the secret weapons for boosting productivity.
When you build your ritual, you decide what you need to do (and not do!) to feel prepared to fulfill your potential. When the time comes, you won’t procrastinate by figuring out what to do next but will go through the motions you’ve already laid out for yourself.
With enough practice, the scientific process of neuroplasticity is instigated – ever heard the phrase “neurons that fire together, wire together”? Very simply put, your brain will automatically memorize your step-by-step recipe for personal success and turn your ritual into a string of habits. Soon, and only with practice, you won’t think about what you’re doing, but will just do it.
Secures Self-care Time
The ritual-building process involves reflection about what you personally need to be your best self. By scheduling in time to tend to those needs, no matter what they are, means that you’re scheduling in time to tend to you, even if indirectly.
Imagine how much smoother your week could go if you actually got 8 hours of sleep, ready in the morning without feeling rushed, and/or turned off Netflix before it asked you, “Are you still watching?”
By guaranteeing that you attend to the smallest of things can make the biggest difference in your daily life.
Increases Sense of Self-control & Discipline
Have you ever met someone who seems so in control of their life that you’re in awe of their discipline? I’m going to let you in on a secret: they don’t have any more discipline than you or me, but the illusion arises from their automated habits.
Each time you complete your recipe for success, you should feel intrinsically motivated to continue on to your next activity, tackling it with ease and skill. Once you get to the point of being able to practice your ritual without thinking about it, the steps become second nature. Eventually, people will admire your self-control and discipline that, in reality, is just neuroplasticity doing it’s thing.
By enhancing your current routine and reducing your decision fatigue, you streamline the steps of your recipe which, of course, can cut down your execution time if desired. It’s amazing how much time you can save when you don’t have to think about what to do next!
Transforming your ritual into a habit will also reduce time. As you grow more comfortable with the process, you will run through it faster and faster – although, that should not be your goal.
When you become intentional about what, where, when, and why you do what you do at the beginning and end of your day, you ensure that you have time for the things you consider important.
Have you ever zoned out while driving then arrived at your destination and wondered how you got there? You did not have to think once about where to turn or when to stop – you simply did it.
That is what being on autopilot feels like. Brushing your teeth, pouring coffee into your mug, opening your email as soon as you open your computer – since these small actions happen naturally, they don’t deplete energy.
When you purposefully automate small actions that make you feel good, though, your energy naturally rises with each act. After the ritual completes, you are more energized and ready to go than after finishing that mug of coffee.
Finally say goodbye to feeling drained, even at the end of your day.
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CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS
If not installed into your daily life properly, rituals can potentially disrupt those around you and/or harm your self-esteem more than help. It’s crucial to have some tools in your belt to counteract any bumps you may run into. The most common challenges for following work-from-home rituals are:
- Letting go of perfection
- Allocating accurate time
- Managing distractions
- Personal accountability
- Coordination with others
Letting Go of Perfection
When we hear about successful people’s 3 hour long morning rituals and 8 PM bedtimes, it’s easy to not even try your own version since you don’t think you could achieve that. But just because that works for them, does not mean it would work for you.
If two minutes is all you can find in your morning, then take advantage of that two minutes to the best of your ability. If your kids aren’t the best sleepers, go to bed when they do, even if just to nap, to provide enough brain power for later.
A good goal is to practice your rituals at least 5 out of the 7 days of the week. When you strive for a success rate you know you can achieve, you’ll have greater motivation to follow through.
Allocating Accurate Time
Once you are rushed and maybe even have to sacrifice something to not run too late, everything that follows typically feels like you’re catching up. If you did sacrifice something, you may start thinking you failed at your ritual which could deter you from trying again tomorrow.
That’s not the tone you want your ritual to leave you with, so ensure the time you set aside is enough to finish gracefully.
The goal of a ritual is to set your mindset up for success. To do that effectively requires honesty about what makes you tick and intentionally adding it into your ritual – the easier part. On the other hand, intentionality also involves honesty about what hinders your success and removing ineffective steps from your ritual – the harder part.
In essence, being intentional with your rituals means that each step is well thought out and purposeful. All actions in the process positively prepare your mindset to be the best you can moving forward.
It’s challenging to admit that something you do is not the best for you, and even more challenging to change your habit to something better for you. The antidote: your vision (more coming soon).
Working from home is the land of distractions, as I’m sure you’ve experienced. The biggest distraction, according to many studies, is our notifications, and more specifically our email inbox.
Managing interruptions is a skill that needs practice and patience.
Check out my other blog for more remote tips, but the most important thing to remember when practicing rituals is that ritual time is your time. People can wait until you’re finished or a couple hours for a reply, and if they really can’t they will get ahold of you somehow. Leave the devices alone for this short time and the effects will last a lifetime.
Personal accountability goes hand-in-hand with intentionality since both are about following through for yourself.
For example, I know the amount of sleep I need to get to function properly the next day, so I’m intentional with my bedtime. When bedtime comes, I must hold myself personally accountable for following through on my intention to go to bed at that time.
When tired, late, or just not feeling up for it, rituals can also be one of the first things you let go of since no one else is involved. Especially in the beginning of your journey, it’s challenging to inspire personal accountability on your own.
Once you have built your rituals, they should be added to your calendar as real, repeating appointments.
Taking ownership of your ritual time in the same way you take ownership of your other appointments becomes easier to do when you physically and mentally view them as equally non-negotiable.
Coordination with Others
Sometimes when we’re eager to start doing something, we just jump right into it without really warning those around us what’s going to change. This can cause tension in the household since those around you might misunderstand your intentions.
For instance, let’s say a husband and wife have a cleaning routine post-dinner where she wipes the counters and he does the dishes. If he did not share why in advance but just left early for his nightly ritual, the wife could feel neglected and stuck with all of the chores.
If you live with others – from family to acquaintances – communicate why you’d like to build rituals into your daily routine right off the bat. Share your steps and find out if anything clashes with their needs. If so, work together to figure out solutions so everyone is comfortable and supportive at the end of the conversation.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR RITUALS
A ritual is your customized recipe for personal success throughout the day and week. During the first few weeks, it’s absolutely key to think of each ritual as an experiment for creating that recipe. Testing out activities will take some time, but once you find the right mix, you’ll know!
Taking from its definition, a ritual is incredibly personalized – each step is up to you and intended only for you. With this in mind, it’s crucial to always be intentional about what you do and why.
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Of course, the steps below will guide you, too:
- Track and understand current rituals
- Connect to your why
- Determine your essentials
- Eliminate the ineffective
- Substitute what’s missing
- Schedule your rituals
- Test and enhance
Step 1: Track & Understand Current Rituals
Like I said, everybody has rituals already in place throughout their day, possibly without recognizing them as rituals. Even if you have been purposeful with your rituals, this should still be your first step.
For one week (5 out of the 7 days works, too) track your Morning, Workday Startup, Midday, Workday Shutdown, and Evening Rituals by simply taking notes. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but should only be bullets listing:
- The activities you do and duration of each in chronological order
- The time you started and ended your ritual
- How you felt at the end of your ritual
Use pen and paper, an app on your phone – whatever is easiest for you, but do it. There is no ritual shaming here, so be honest in your notes! I have bad habits I continue to struggle with, but acknowledging them is the only way I know what moving forward feels like.
Step 2: Connect to Your Why
The foundation of feasible change – no matter who you are or how big / small the situation is – is a vision of what’s possible if that change is achieved.
Purposefully building rituals into your day, more likely than not, will be a big change for you. So, why do you want to do it? Maybe it’s to structure your day more, increase your energy, find better balance, and/or gain control of a certain timeframe, but there is absolutely a larger reason.
After you’ve completed tracking your week, list each ritual on their own lines underneath your notes. Start with the Morning Ritual then work your way down, adding a few words or a short phrase that describes how you want to feel at the end of each ritual, and why you want to feel that way. Check out my notes below for an example!
These are your visions, and once each is achieved your next vision can evolve into something even greater. If you’re ever questioning if you should do your ritual, think of your visions, then decide.
Step 3: Determine Your Essentials
With a clear understanding of how you want to feel post-rituals, it’s much easier to decide what you need and don’t need to make it happen. Before moving on, be sure that you truly connect with your why from the previous step; without a true desire to realize your visions, implementing rituals will be more challenging.
Below your visions, brainstorm what you need to do or have during each ritual to ensure you feel the way you want to feel when you’re done. Here’s some of my essentials for inspiration:
- My absolute must-have in the morning is an iced soy chai tea latte – I simply will not function properly until that first sip.
- During the afternoon, if I don’t take a walk outdoors I grow antsy and tend to forget to break.
- Without taking my melatonin at night, I’ll stay awake until dawn.
Afterwards, review your week’s notes about how you felt at the end of each ritual. Highlight activities that align to your brainstorm as much as possible. Then highlight activities in your brainstorm that absolutely must be added to set you up for success. These are your essentials.
Step 4: Eliminate the Ineffective
I pose a simple question that requires an honest answer: what do you currently do during your rituals that doesn’t make you feel so good physically, emotionally and/or mentally? Maybe it’s an activity or the length you do/don’t do it for, but if it’s ineffective then it should be eliminated.
Review your notes from step 1 again, this time paying attention to your activities and the time it takes you to do them. As you review, remember what comes after each ritual and how you’d like to feel going into it; ask yourself if there are:
- Activities that are preventing your success
- Durations that should be adjusted to increase your success
If so, circle them (or change the font color, if your notes are digital). Friendly reminder to be honest with yourself, for yourself!
Step 5: Substitute What’s Missing
Head back to your brainstorm from step 3 and analyze your essential (highlighted) activities. Decide which activities will replace the ineffective ones that you eliminated for each ritual.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Making too many edits to your established routine is also making it impossible for you to follow through. Improve incrementally, and take baby steps. Focus on 1% at a time – because you know that you can definitely achieve 1% today – and you’ll make more progress much sooner.
Write the steps for each ritual in chronological order as well as the duration for each activity. Then total the time of the activities to reveal the time you should allot in your calendar.
OPTIONAL: It’s also a good idea to outline variations of the same ritual so you have ways to adapt whenever needed. For example, I follow a different Morning Ritual when I’m at my boyfriend’s studio compared to when I’m at my own place.
Step 6: Schedule Your Rituals
Productivity expert Michael Hyatt always says, “What gets scheduled, gets done.” It’s absolutely true for me – things can go in one ear then out the other if I don’t add it to my digital calendar and write it in my physical planner.
You might not need to do both like me, but scheduling your ritual times into as many calendars as possible is the secret weapon that most people don’t use. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear says that the goal is never what differentiates the successful people from the unsuccessful, but the process on how each got there. Use scheduling as part of your process, and you’ll notice how quickly your success surges compared to when you didn’t block out your ritual time.
To learn more about time blocking while working from home, check this blog out!
Step 7: Test & Enhance
Remember, building rituals is an experiment. Figure out what works for you and what doesn’t as you go. Some days will be better than others, but if you confuse bad days with failing and/or lose faith in the process, you won’t discover what you’re capable of achieving.
If you’ve tried installing too many changes, recognize that and make it easier for you to move forward . You will get the hang of it faster than you think!
Eventually, the season will change: a new quarter will come, snow will fall again, the baby is due any day now, the house has just sold…you get the idea. The amount of movement life brings is what makes it worth living, but is also what causes imbalance.
Updating your rituals to match where you are as often as you need is absolutely key. Rituals bring that balance back and help you hit the reset button when it’s most needed.
EXAMPLES: MY RITUALS
If you need to get your ritual-building-juices flowing, I’ve outlined mine below to offer some examples:
It’s really nothing crazy – just the normal things you’d think of…
- Cuddle with my dog in bed – 5 minutes
- Brush my teeth and retainers – 6 minutes
- Take my medications and vitamins + administer medication to my dog – 2 minutes
- Shower and get ready for the day – 40 minutes
- Call my boyfriend to say good morning while I walk my dog and pick up my soy chai tea latte – 40 minutes
- Give my dog her morning treat and fill her water bowl – 1 minute (I guess she has a ritual, too!)
- Eat breakfast and attend to phone – 20 minutes
Total duration: ~2 hours
On workdays, I transition into the next ritual immediately after. On the weekends, I typically take a bit longer to do each step in my Morning Ritual, and do only bits and pieces of my Workday Startup Ritual.
Workday Startup Ritual
A tool I’ve found to be incredibly effective in boosting my self-awareness is a reflection notebook. I call mine a ritual notebook, and use it during Workday Startup and Shutdown Rituals.
My notebook outlines a handful of questions which take less than 10 minutes to answer. The intent is to remind myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing and maintain a healthy mindset from the start to the end of each workday. If you’d like to purchase this and/or a template of my ritual notebook, send me a message here and I’ll add it to my shop!
Here’s my Workday Startup Ritual:
- Roll my desk chair out and turn on all the lights around my desk – 30 seconds (for context: my office is also my living room; this is how I define a separation of space!)
- Open my current book to the bookmarked page and turn my alarm on for 20 minutes – 30 seconds
- Read undistracted – 20 minutes
- Answer my reflection questions in my ritual notebook – 7 minutes
- Open my laptop and connect my desktop monitor – 30 seconds
- Gather physical notes, open my current blog, and set my timer for 1 hour – 1 minute
- Write a blog – 1 hour
- Buffer block: clear freelance inboxes, review day, complete a few 5-minute-or-less tasks – 30 minutes
Total duration: ~2 hours
As you can tell, I view my Workday Startup Ritual as a time to get inspired, move my business forward by 1% (a tip that applies however you want it to), and ignite my motivation to keep the progress going all day.
Studies have shown that after 90 minutes of intense work, our brains literally need to pause and recoup. Breaking for 10-30 minutes will do very well in these instances, and sometimes that’s all the time our afternoon can offer.
If possible, it’s always beneficial to your productivity to take as long of a break as you can without, of course, procrastinating. My Midday Ritual typically begins at 2:30, immediately follows another Buffer block, and goes like this:
- Prepare the task I’m going to attend to when I return – 3 minutes
- Walk my dog and take a technology break – 20 minutes
- Eat a snack and attend to phone – 10 minutes
Total duration: 33 minutes
Workday Shutdown Ritual
Working from home, especially when starting a biz from a 1-bedroom apartment like me, can easily distort your space into one that’s both personal and professional. When there’s a lack of separation between living and working environments, practicing Workday Shutdown Rituals is the most effective method for creating distance yourself.
I definitely cannot afford a bigger place or an office space, but gaining control of my environment mentally has ensured that I can actually bring my workday to a close.
Right before my shutdown, I finish work off with my final Buffer block for the day to empty my inboxes and finish up last-minute items. Then I:
- Close all tabs then my laptop and disconnect my desktop monitor – 30 seconds
- Answer my reflection questions in my ritual notebook – 7 minutes
- Outline tomorrow in my Monthly Planner – 3 minutes
- Roll my desk chair in and turn out all of the lights around my desk – 30 seconds
Total duration: 11 minutes
Even though I take all of my other rituals very seriously, I am still tending to my Evening Ritual. For some reason, once 7 PM hits I tend to drift into the night without much direction – and according to my research, most people are like me.
Below is my ideal Evening Ritual, which I aim to fulfill at least 80% of the time. If I set unrealistic standards for myself, I know I won’t even try since I’ll grow too anxious, so shooting for about 5 out of the 7 days feels just right for me!
- Stretch – 15 minutes
- Walk my dog and then immediately change into pajamas – 12 minutes
- Brush my teeth, wash my face, apply skincare products – 12 minutes
- Get into bed and call my boyfriend to say goodnight – 5 minutes
- Turn on the rain sound from an app on my phone, set my alarms, and turn out the lights – 3 minutes
Total duration: 47 minutes
All in all, as you build rituals into your daily work-from-home routine, you should always be:
- Intentional about what you do and why
- Self-aware about what works and what doesn’t
- Accountable for viewing your rituals as your priorities
- Patient with your incremental changes
- Excited to fulfill your visions
As I always say, productivity is personal! If you’re up for it, share what your rituals look like and/or any challenges you run into with me! I’m always searching for inspiration and am happy to offer any tips and tricks up my sleeve when I can.