Create Rituals to Boost Your Productivity

2432905200_2aafc969f0_m.jpgMany professional athletes perform rituals before they're asked to come through in big moments, like bouncing the basketball exactly six times (three fast, three slow) before taking a free throw or muttering the same mantra before kicking a field goal. These rituals help focus attention and minimize the variables that can distract from a successful outcome.

Creating rituals or routines can boost your own personal productivity, too. A predictable routine -- when you're getting out of bed in the morning, checking e-mail, or planning your week, for example -- can help you stay on target and reach your goals more effectively.

Mike St. Pierre at The Daily Saint notes that rituals can help you avoid feeling like you're living by the seat of your pants. He provides a list a five resources that can help you reclaim what he terms "pockets of productivity" by creating your own rituals.

Some of the best suggestions:

Create a morning routine. Wake up at the same time every day, then plan out your next steps and allocate the appropriate time for each. This can help you keep from skipping breakfast (a productivity killer!); let you carve out regular time for exercise, meditation, reading or writing; and get to the office on time.

Build a weekly routine. Allocate certain days for certain tasks and stick to it. Maybe you'll always hold a planning meeting on Mondays and do your filing on Fridays, while Wednesdays will include a long power walk. Ensuring that those things will get done regularly will keep your goals from stacking up and from having things fall through the cracks.

Turn exercise into a ritual. Busy workers often find that exercise -- a natural productivity booster -- falls by the wayside when they're swamped with work. Creating a daily routine that incorporates exercise is one way to help ensure you give your heart a workout as well as your brain.

Not sure how to create a ritual? It's akin to forming a new habit.

  • Start by creating your ideal sequence of behavior in three to four steps. (You can add more steps later when the ritual is established.)
  • Commit to following the ritual for 30 days.
  • Define a clear trigger -- when does your ritual start? Time-based triggers are easy to incorporate, but you can also use variable triggers, such as after you've completed checking your voice mail.
  • Finally, make changes and corrections after your 30-day trial to make your ritual more effective.
Go ahead, give it a try. Although our world will inevitably be filled with variables, adding in a new ritual or two can help you boost your productivity.

(image by Eric Kilby via Flickr, CC 2.0)