How to Create Energizing Rituals

Feb 8, 2016
Joe Buhlig
~4 mins

I learned about creating rituals after I read The Power of Full Engagement over a year ago. Since that time I’ve been figuring a few things out about building and implementing energizing rituals.

What and why?

We’ve talked about the difference between ritual and routine before, but the gist is that a routine is similar to a checklist that you go through each day and a ritual is a series of steps you take (just like a routine) that you find energizing or bring you enjoyment. This is an important distinction to make when you start learning to manage your energy levels instead of your time.

If you’ve ever achieved more in a day than you did the entire previous week, you know what I mean by energy levels. Sometimes we naturally feel super energized and get a lot done. Then we all have “those days,” when just checking email feels daunting. When you build energizing rituals into your day, you can start to manufacture those moments of flow; but they aren’t always simple to create.

Finding energizing activities

What are your favorite topics to bring up with friends? What are the little things that you like doing or using but can’t explain why? What time of day do you look forward to?

I have a thing for fountain pens. I just like the way they write and that they’re different. I like the quality of the pens I use and look for excuses to write things down when I have them around.

Building things with my hands has always been a joy for me. After working on the computer throughout the day, I love the creative process of turning a piece of raw material into something useful.

I’m also a fan of the outdoors. Anytime I go outside to tackle the elements, I come back with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

I tell you these to give you ideas. The first step of building these rituals is understanding yourself and what you like to do. I bet you can nail these down pretty quickly if you stop for a couple minutes and think about it. Or if you have a spouse or close friend, ask them. There’s a good chance they can tell you what you love to do faster than you can. They have a different perspective that gives them a clearer view.

Converting routines

Whether you realize it or not, you use routines every day. You get up in the morning and get ready for work. You get ready for bed at night. Maybe you have a routine of daily journaling or playing with your kids after work. In any case, most have at least a few instances when they do something similar every day. These are the routines in your life.

You’ll have to decide which ones to convert (more on that in a moment), but the idea is to take an already existing routine and turn a piece of it into a ritual by injecting one of those energizing activities into it.

I have a routine that I run through at the end of my work day to plan for tomorrow. Recently, I started to do this plan on paper using my fountain pens. I enjoy using them and it takes a small neutral task and transforms it into an energizing one.

As a family, we enjoy spending time together when I get off of work. In the summer, we often take long walks with the girls. It’s a chance for me to get outside, get some exercise, and have a great conversation.

In both of these scenarios, I’ve been able to take something that I’m already doing and inject something into it. It makes them more fulfilling and gives me energy for whatever comes next in the day.

Which routines?

The big question here is which routines do I try to convert? You don’t want to do this for everything or you’ll run out of time in the day and likely be way too energetic. We all know that guy who is way over the top and needs to settle down. Don’t be that guy.

Here’s the question to ask yourself: what times in the day do I feel like watching YouTube? It’s at least a good test for me. I know that if the only thing I want to do is stop and blow a few hours cruising YouTube, it’s a good time for me to stop and do something energizing. It can be simple, like checking in at the discussion site or it can be bigger, like taking 20 minutes to grab a snack with my family. No matter which energizing activity you decide to do, do it at a time when you need to increase your energy.

One word of caution: don’t do more than one at a time. Introduce a single ritual and stick with it until it’s second nature. Just like habits, if you try to take on more than one at a time, they’ll be overwhelming and have a negative effect instead of a positive.

In the end, you’re looking for things to do every day that will give you the energy to be more engaged with the people you see and the work you accomplish.