Ritualizing Your Routines

Make a checklist. Set a reminder. Set a timer. 

All good ways to embed structure into our lives. 

But-well, I don’t know about you, but while I do get a kick out of crossing things off on a checklist, it’s not something that gets my dopamine flowing like Niagara Falls.

And so, I introduce to you my favorite hack-ritualizing the routine.

Rituals are special activities that we do repeatedly. They are often associated with holidays, or special events-decorating Christmas trees, making potato pancakes on Hanukkah, throwing change into someone’s new car (that might just be a New Jersey thing. Some of them are pretty standard, while some are just our family’s or our own. A bath with a glass of wine on a Friday night is an example of a personal ritual.

So, since rituals repeat, why can’t we connect a ritual to one of our routines?

For example, I pay my bills every month. It can be pretty stressful. Did I spend too much? Was there an emergency vet visit on my credit card that I have to pay off? I can feel my face getting hot just thinking about it. 

So in order to make it more palatable (and honestly, increase the chances that I’ll actually do it), I have ritualized it. I make a lovely cup of tea. When I prep my tea, I take my time-Earl Grey? Peppermint? I sit on my bed, and I take my time,turning paying my bills into a special occasion. 

Sounds pretty crazy, right? But I get it done. And I feel like the most important CEO while I’m doing it. And actually, I am, right? CEO of my own life!

Same thing with cleaning. I hate to clean. Period. My cleaning ritual? I listen to my favorite podcast (“Watch What Crappens,” which hilariously recaps Bravo shows) while I clean. I look forward to it every week. And I don’t listen to it any other time (unless I’ve cleaned for the week), just like people don’t have Christmas trees up in July (well, some people do, but that’s a whole other discussion).

This probably sounds a lot like rewarding yourself. But the difference is that rewards are given AFTER something is completed. These rituals are happening during the activity-to give you the dopamine kick you need to start, and to keep going.

The rituals that you choose should be ones that resonate with YOU. It can be anything-wearing something in particular, a certain playlist, a special snack. As long as it’s something that you can repeat, and that is special enough to you that it entices you into filing those papers, along with having Pepperidge Farm Milanos (for which I’d do mostly anything).

Give it a try. You never know when wearing your favorite fluffy slippers while dusting will actually make a difference.


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