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Upgrade your work rituals

(MoneyWatch) Do the same job long enough, and you'll probably develop a ritual that tells your brain it's time to start work. Maybe you swing past the office kitchen to make coffee, or maybe carry your Starbucks cup to your desk. Maybe you start your computer or devices in a certain way. Maybe you always make a certain call first. For many of us, the day starts when we first open the inbox and see what Santa has brought overnight.

Regardless, these start-work rituals become deeply ingrained habits. They're done daily, which means that a small change can have a big effect over time. So why not make a positive change?

There are lots of things you can do to upgrade your rituals. Send an email first -- an important one, like checking in on a past client -- before you read what's in your inbox. Add a piece of fruit to your coffee routine, or anything else you'd like to make a habit (like taking a vitamin).

Start parking in a slightly different spot that makes you walk 50 yards farther to the door, or makes it more convenient to take the stairs than the elevator. Say hello to the person whose desk is closest to the exit from the stairs or elevator. If you have to type a password daily, make it something affirmative. If you scan headlines first, try switching around news websites, so you get different perspectives.

Make a ritual of checking in with an accountability partner if you're tackling a bigger project. Read a poem. Read a page of something inspirational. Bring a reusable coffee cup and save on the litter. Better yet, get a reusable coffee cup that says something you'd like to be reminded of every morning. I have a mug that says "Joy."

As the author Anthony Trollope -- who wrote for hours daily each morning without fail -- once said, "a small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules." A 50-yard addition to your morning parking lot walk isn't much, but do it four times a day (including when running out to lunch and back) and you've walked 200 yards. In two weeks, you'll have walked more than an extra mile without even thinking about it. If you read a poem a day, you'll read close to 200 a year -- which is more than, oh, anybody who's not pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree.

What's your start-work ritual?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Coffee Lady
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