Turning Routines into Rituals to Create a Productive Rhythm

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. - George Carlin

As I’m writing this blog, I’m sitting on the Gulf Coast at sunrise, listening to the sound of the waves on the beach. I grew up down here and find that as much as the surroundings change daily, so much is the same. Walking on the beach at sunrise to see what washed ashore during the night. Playing in the water and sitting under the umbrella, catching up on fiction and naps.  Walking to the fish market and preparing a simple meal of the fresh catch of the day. That sameness for us is captured in routines and rituals that allow us to spend as much time with each other doing the things we enjoy doing most while we’re here.

Rituals and routines around the holidays are also what allow us to proportion time, and spend time in the way we want to with family and friends. Each Thanksgiving, some portion, or all, of my family shows up in Nashville and sprawls out in our house. The menus rarely change, although gluten-free and organic now appear alongside my dad’s favorite, Jello salad. Trivial Pursuit and football games are part of the mix, and the focus of time and effort is on being together, rather than having a perfect meal or a perfect anything. 

I love rituals, but I resist routines, and so I try to align myself with others who are much better at routine to support my learning and work around developing productive and nurturing routines. While they can feel boring at times, routines help capture the rhythm of our work, and also give us the freedom of having time to create. Routines can become rituals that honor your values and goals, and support habits that you are developing. Rituals, in turn, help us deepen the experiences of time. The routine of writing, for me, has given way to a ritual of putting things down on paper, which allows me more space in my head and a freedom of energy in my body. 

With November underway and the end of 2015 in sight, take stock of the routines and rituals that you’ve created that benefit your work and life. Which routines have turned into rituals that enhance your self-care and learning? On the down side, are there routines that have turned into counter-productive rituals that you need to jettison before 2016 arrives? What is the rhythm of your life doing to create opportunities for you to capture time and make the most out of every precious day?