Before we jump into the blog post, I want to quickly let you know that I’m currently accepting new one-on-one coaching clients who want a little extra guidance with changing their productivity habits. You can read more about my coaching practice here and book a session here. You can also download a FREE guide to habit formation and maintenance by subscribing to The Tending Letter in the blue box below this post. Thanks for your time, and enjoy the blog post!
Momentum & Writing Update
Before I get into talking the magic of the three Rs, I’d like to share a quick update on how I’ve been doing with momentum and writing. (You can read all about about my thoughts, research, and plans in my 2.6 blog post).
My main February momentum goal is to write a dissertation chapter draft. Because I want to hit 10,000 words in a month (rougly 40 pages double spaced), I’m shooting for 333 words/day. I wrote 5,462 words since I started last Tuesday (and that includes taking off Saturday and Sunday!). I am averaging around 800 words per hour, and I’m already at 55% of my 10k word goal!
How have I blown my expectations out of the water? Using a word count tracker and sticking to a raccoon report style (you can read about both in the 2.6 post). Because my intention is to produce text and not to revise or edit, I feel free to write without it being “perfect.” The more I write, the more motivated and confident I feel! I’ll share another report next week.
Okay, on to the Magic of Routine, Rhythm, & Ritual
I’ve been planning to talk about these three things since I started The Tending Year, but I wanted to do so with a purpose that extended beyond a performative “Hey MTV, welcome to my crib, this is a list of my routines.” In hindsight, I also see that I needed the entirety of last year to practice building habits and learning how much I love routines (which I previously did not like). I like thinking of routine, rhythm, and ritual as magical acts, because they enable me to change my life via intentionally shifting my perspective and adjusting my actions.
I spent last week intentionally evaluating my own routines, rhythms, and rituals. Having done so, I want to report some benefits such an evaluation process can offer to you:
- Gain awareness of what works for you, what needs to be improved, and what doesn’t serve you
- Improve your habits by mindfully attaching them to a clear purpose
- Challenge the belief that you “should” do things the same ways as other people do them
In what follows, I’ll guide you in working your way to these three benefits through an auditing system and journaling prompts. By the end, I hope you will feel fired up and inquisitive about improving your own routines, rhythms, and rituals via intention and awareness!
A Quick Debrief on the Three Rs
These three words are often used interchangeably, which is okay in my mind, because it is up to you to interpret what a particular action means to you personally. But for the sake of accessing each one’s particular meaning, I’ll describe them below.
How I would describe it: A part of the habit formation method, prompted by a cue and begetting a reward. Actions taken at the same time in the same way, repeated over and over, with a purpose in bettering your life.
A definition I like: “Habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure.”
A quote I like: “Routines are really a set of habits, actions that are sequenced together” (Sonia Harris).
How I would describe it: Completing goals outside of predetermined timeline or order.
A definition I like: “Movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements.”
A quote I like: “Your day just unfolds” (“Let It Be,” episode 051).
How I would describe it: A ceremonial, mindful act that is tied to intention.
A definition I like: “The established form for a ceremony.”
A quote I like: “Ritual is something you’ll stand up for” (“Let It Be,” episode 051).
A second quote that I like: “Ritual expands our horizons to aspects of life beyond daily requirements” (Rhoda P. Curtis).
Auditing Your Three Rs
In order to evaluate and improve my relationship with my routines, rhythms, and rituals, I knew I would have to dive deep into observing how they work and why I do them. I wanted to be sure I was consciously engaging with my three Rs, so I did an audit. I’ll walk you through the five steps I took below.
Step 1: My first step was to identify what routine, ritual, and routine mean to me. You can see some of my description above in the debrief.
Step 2: My second step was write down what I actually do during the day, which I separated by morning, afternoon, evening, and night. This was pretty easy, as I tend to structure my days similarly so I can prioritize dissertation in the morning and so I can unwind at night.
If you prefer to monitor your actions for each day beyond a general day timeline, you can get more specific via a monitoring guide like Gretchen Rubin’s printable daily time log or my downloadable GoogleSheet from my post on Monitoring.
Step 3: My third step was to review my list and assign one of the three Rs to each task. As I said above in the debrief, this will change from person to person (my baths are definitely a mindful, healing night time ritual, whereas yours may be a quick morning shower routine) and may change day to day or season to season. In fact, a task might shift between the three Rs, be two at once, or be something else entirely.
Step 4: I evaluated how long I spent doing each of my R tasks. I really liked how Kelly Exeter described slow and fast routines and rituals in Episode 51 of “Let it Be,” her podcast with Brooke McAlary. I wanted to see how my slowness or fastness affected the ways I engaged in my three Rs, so I wrote down Slow, Medium, and Fast across the top of a page and filled it in with my actions from my second step list.
Step 5: I identified patterns in my speed of doing particular routines, rhythms, and routines, and I wondered about it. I observed that my slow-timed tasks were mostly rituals and routines that bookended my day (dissertation work in the morning, reading in the bath at night). My fast-timed tasks were almost all routines and most were paired actions (scoop the kitty litter while I run the bath, do the dishes after I get out of the shower, take supplements with dinner, write my gratitude and proud of lists while I brush my teeth).
What Did I Learn?
Interestingly, I had only three medium-timed tasks (stretching, commuting, and dinner), and these were the only tasks I labeled “rhythm.” When I reflected on this finding, I realized that I need to keep these tasks less restricted in terms of pressure, hurrying, or expectation. I make sure that I have more than enough time to complete them, but I don’t time myself when I do them, because when I feel pressured to do them, they end up stressing me out and feeling like burdens. If I’m allowed to cook or get takeout when I’m hungry, shift my morning routines around how long my stretches take, and make a tea before work because I’m there early—then I feel comfortable.
I thought the takeaways for a post on the magic of routine, rhythm, and ritual had best call for reflection and intention.
As a reminder, my routine, rhythm and ritual auditing steps are:
- Identify your personal definitions for routine, ritual, and routine.
- Write down what actions your take throughout your day or week.
- Assign one of the three Rs to each task on your list.
- Identify the amount time you spend on each action.
- Look for patterns in the time you spend on routine, rhythm, and ritual. What can this teach you about yourself?
Improve Your Routines, Rhythms, and Rituals With Intention
After I’d learned more about how I interact with my routines, rhythms, and rituals via the audit, I checked in with how I could improve them by rooting them in purpose and connecting them to mantras. Here are the journal prompts that were most helpful for me:
- What am I most present for?
- What things will I “stand up for”?
- Which actions are untimed, and why?
- Which actions do I pair together?
- Are there any routines that need fixing?
- Any rhythms that need fixing?
- Any rituals that need fixing?
- How do and can my routines help me?
- How do and can my rhythms help me?
- How do and can my rituals help me?
- What words do I associate with my ideal routines, rhythms, and rituals?