How to use personal rituals to seize the day
The essay about the importance of the routine to live a happy and productive life.
It is a matter of shame that in the morning the birds should be awake earlier than you.
~ Abu Bakr
I am in that restless and boisterous team of people advocating for the creation of the morning routine and commitment to it. If you are like me and you read this essay, I salute you! Hoorah!
I personally don’t like the word “routine” because of obvious reason — we tend to associate this word with monotonous and boring work. I believe many creative people will agree that when they hear or pronounce the word “routine” something inside switches off.
The word “ritual”, on the contrary, has an aura of mysticism and implies deep meaning behind it. Our rituals start to have a deep meaning endow it to them. “Ritual”. I love this word. Let’s just stick with it, shall we?
Every single day I start my day with the same set of things:
5:30 am. Uplifting Content
I open my eyes and take my phone. I open Medium and start reading. I spend 15–30 minutes depending on how long are the articles that I choose.
I have the highest appreciation for all those amazing, talented and hard-working people that help me to start my day. They remind me of why I do what I do. They tell me: “Get up and deploy for your Mission.”
6:00 am. Cold shower.
Credit to Benjamin P. Hardy. He has been practicing it for years now and I read it in one of his essays a long time ago. This man is a productivity superman and a brilliant writer. I believe this ritual became an important pillar of his success.
Rapid exposure to cold is the most refreshing practice that will blow away your sleep and charge you with energy.
I can see how my body becomes red after the shower indicating that the blood rushed into every capillary to keep me warm. I feel pumped up like that rabbit from Energizer commercial 🐇. Knowing that it will feel amazing helps me to overcome the initial resistance.
Credit to Tim Ferriss for the mindset. In one of his videos, he mentioned that it really helps to think of it like jumping into the icy pool. It does indeed.
Philip Ghezelbash, a modern stoic who is educating people on integration deliberate discomfort into their daily lives recently released a very informative video on the benefits of the cold shower.
Follow him on Youtube. This man delivers value. Stoicism rocks 💪
6:04 am. Decluttering.
After the shower, I find and I throw out 1 old or useless thing from my house. Thanks to the contribution of my girlfriend who apparently made a decision to dedicate her life to fight my strive for minimalism I make a prediction that I will never run out of the stuff to toss to the trash bin. Hopefully, I am wrong.
Every object in your house is feeding on your energy — energy of your attention. By decluttering the space around you, you purify your mind. Try it. Make some space in your head. Works like a charm.
6:05 am. Protein shake.
Credit to Tim Ferriss. In his book “The Four Hour Body” Tim discusses the importance of consuming 30g of protein in the first 30 minutes of waking. According to the book, it helps to kill the carbs cravings and continue the fat burn that was initiated during the night. Second is not my biggest concern but I admit from my experiences with fasting an empty stomach can be a distraction.
I don’t eat meat so the traditional American bacon breakfast that Tim recommends doesn’t work for me. That is why I prefer a speedy option of 30g soy protein mixed with water. (Not with milk. Milk is bad 🐄 👎Don’t drink it. I am serious.)
I don’t drink coffee too. Not only in the morning, I just don’t drink it. I found out that coffee makes me anxious and I physically feel like I lose my inner balance. I used to think that it is an individual reaction but I discovered that many people report the same adverse effects. Personally, I don’t understand how people cope with it. The clarity of the brain that doesn’t rely on the boost-up substances to stay sharp is incomparable with any doping.
6:10 am. I show up.
I show up in my writing room at approximately 10 A.M. every morning without fail. Sometimes my Muse sees fit to join me there and sometimes she doesn’t, but she always knows where I’ll be. She doesn’t need to go hunting in the taverns or on the beach or drag the boulevard looking for me.
I read this recently in the article by Susan Brassfield Cogan and I loved it. Every time I sit down, open my laptop and stare at the blank white space I don’t know what I am about to start. But I know only one thing for sure — the Muse will show up only if I do.
I start small.
I write in my “Challenge Me” diary about 100–300 words to warm up where I write about my life and my daily challenges. Then I switch to my drafts. Sometimes I have some freelance to do.
I understand that I started late. I am 29 y.o. and I got myself into writing. I don’t pursue any particular goal, as mostly I am driven by the ambition to master English language and become a real wordsmith who doesn’t have an “impostor’s syndrome” pulling his leg all the time. I will be happy if I could help other people who struggle with the things I succeeded to resolve on the way. I believe that the higher purpose will reveal itself if I stay persistent and consistent.
I read the articles of some very successful writers. They have a bar of 500 words per day. Stephen King is purported to have said that his bar is about 2000 words in the first work session.
I recently watched a great talk between Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. (FYI that’s the guy who wrote “The Game of Thrones” just in case you are a caveman like me who never watched or read any of it 😅):
The whole talk is worth watching but I love the moment at 50:07. Stephen goes: “George, we are going to have to wrap up this pretty soon. Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to ask me? Because, George, I will.”
George Martin chuckles: “Yes! Yes, there is something I want to ask you.”
“Alright,” Stephen leans in.
“How the FUCK do you write so many books so fast?”
George carries on: “I think: oh! I’ve had a really good 6 months, I’ve written 3 chapters and you’ve…you’ve finished 3 books in that time!”
Stephen replies: “Here is the thing, okay? There are books and there are BOOKS. The way that I work, I try to get out there and I try to get 6 pages a day so with the book like “The End of Watch”, and I work. When I am working I work every day, 3–4 hours and I try to get those 6 pages and I try to get them fairly clean. So if the manuscript is, let’s say, 360 pages long that’s basically two months work. It’s concentrated but that’s assuming that it goes well.”
6 pages a day 😐That’s insane productivity!
How can Stephen get his writing done? The answer is
“Deep work” is the book by Cal Newport which I will probably never get tired to recommend. It appears that Stephen Kind has his 3-4 hours of daily writing only by sessions of intensive dedicated immersion without distractions.
By waking up early and having my 4 hours I gift myself the time that I can dedicate solely to honing my skills.
The question by Peter Thiel keeps ringing in my ears:
I understand that if truly 1,000,000 is the nominal number of words one must have written in order to get somewhat decent at writing, and if I I set the same bar of 500 words a day it will take me 2000 days of everyday writing or 5.48 years. Damn. No way. I am not willing to wait that long.
By setting up the early morning rituals I am taking the direction that supposedly will get me to the desired place faster. I better keep up with my writing.
10:00 am. The normal day starts.
At this time, my girlfriend wakes up. I will cook her a breakfast. We will eat and prepare for the day. Knowing that I made some good stuff done before everyone started their day is precious. After breakfast, I still hold my vector pointed towards my goals but I am not so focused.
This is what Cal Newport writes in the “Deep work”:
A now voluminous line of inquiry, initiated in a series of pioneering papers also written by Roy Baumeister, has established the following important (and at the time, unexpected) truth about willpower: You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.
I understand this and that’s why I allow myself to rest. Somewhere during the day, I will:
- Clean my house
- Take a power nap
- Do some work that I do for living
- Watch a TED talk
If you are not a practitioner of rituals already, I hope by this point you wonder:
Why should I start?
Here is the list of benefits you get from the commitment to your rituals.
Rituals are predictable. You know how your day will start and how it will escalate. You decrease the entropy that may intervene in the process of the movement towards your goals.
Your body starts to work like a Swiss watch. By implementing a regime you teach your body to do certain things at a certain time. You wake up without an alarm. You get hungry or (excuse me) go to the toilet at the same time. You get sleepy at the same time. All of that helps to increase the body awareness in general.
You forge your discipline. Here is the natural evolution of any behavioral pattern: I choose a challenge. I overcome the resistance. It becomes a habit. Finally, it becomes my second nature and I can’t live without it. This is how self-discipline is formed. There is no other way.
You build up momentum. As your newly acquired rituals become as automatized as your old habits you don’t have to spend your mental energy on them and your productivity increases naturally.
You get shit done. Please welcome Stephen Duneier. This 👇 is one of those “quake-TED talks”. The guy is a beast! Just watch it.
His message is simple: You implement marginal changes that accumulate after years of practice to become something that people call “overnight” success. The art of integration those marginal changes in the daily life is a great mindset applicable to anything you do.
I recently realized that the rituals before sleep are just as important as the morning ones.
Delicious dinner. Stoics say that food is the means of survival, not a pleasure. But they also say that Moderation is the virtue. As long as I am not consumed by gluttony I think a delicious dinner is a good reward for the day of hard work.
Talking with my partner. Credit to Duncan Riach. Daily 30 minutes when you sit in front of your partner remaining the eye contact and talk. We talk about the events of the day, about our plans and goals. It is important to find time to connect with your loved ones and get recharged with love.
Hot shower. Opposite to morning one, hot shower helps to relax sore muscles and rinse off the energy of the day. An absolute must before sleep.
Reading. It helps to calm the mind and you just might fall asleep with the book in your hands. Alternatively, if your eyes are tired:
Listening to podcasts or audio-books. I listen to some audio-books about spirituality sometimes. It’s up to you. What I do more often is:
Relaxation meditation. I just lie on my back, close my eyes, put in the earplugs and start to move my attention to the different parts of my body observing the sensations and untangling the tension in the muscles. Several minutes in and the Morpheus comes to take me. Not the big black dude from the Matrix movie, I mean the sleep. 😑 Jeez…
What should I do now?
You know what to do.
- Identify the aspects of your life that you want to improve on. You may find the Wheel of Life useful. Give it a shot.
- Set up the goals in chosen sectors. Try to implement it in the form of a 30-day challenge. See what happens.
- Plan out your rituals in accordance with your goal and commit to them.
Your dreams don’t work if you don’t.
Change won’t happen if you don’t make it happen. Take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your life even the external events that at the first glance don’t have any visible connection with your actions. They do. Stay focused. Rent yourself out to the process. Be a robot who’s life mission is to do the task at hand at the level of maximum performance every individually taken moment of your life. Stay strong.
I wish us luck.
I am not yet in the place where I want to be. But I have an adamant intention to do what it takes to get there. If you are going through the grinder of self-development, know — you are not alone. There is me standing next to you, and there are hundreds of others beside you on a sole mission to become the best versions of themselves and improve this world 🌎
We will succeed. Not because we must, but because we have decided to.