Daily Rituals to Help Achieve Peak Performance
Be easy to implement. We’re looking for structure, not complication;
- Contribute to peak performance and not just provide a comfy haven of familiarity; and
- Be new and different (Do what you always did and you’ll get what you always got).
- Create an overwhelming feeling of being task-mastered;
- Take an inordinate amount of precious, waning free time;
- Annoy the crap out of me.
I was struck today by a link to Fast Company‘s piece: “6 Simple Rituals to Reach Your Potential Every Day.” I’m a ritual person. I love that stuff and find comfort in repeated actions. I mean, I’m not like a freaky light switch checker or front door locker. But there are things I do every day and when I don’t do them, I get all “Who moved my cheese.” I lay out my clothes the night before. I check the same news sites each morning (Oh come on. The Style page is still news; it’s in the New York Times which makes it “news that’s fit to print.”). And I listen to one podcast for long runs and a different podcast for short runs. (If you listen to the long podcast on the short run, you miss the end of the podcast and will never go back to listen to it. Try to listen to two short podcasts on a long run and you will similarly screw up the podcast-to-run-time ratio, which is more extreme that screwing up the shampoo-to-conditioner ratio, but not nearly as devastating as running out of tortillas before you run out of shredded cheese.)
But in seeing the headline I realized that these rituals are just for ritual sake. They don’t actually add value by helping me achieve any sort of daily potential. You might argue that laying out your clothes the night before helps you move faster in the morning, but I burn through all that saved time by ritualistically flipping through my daily news sites. (Confirming that my choice of skinnies with boots and a belted anorak is still sufficiently of-the-moment without looking overworked. It’s not, but I already laid it out so – dammit – I’m committed.) On review, I thought Fast Company’s six helpful rituals looked good: they’re doable, their interesting, and they could potentially move me one nanometer closer to awesome and a farther from blob.
- Drink a glass of water when you wake up. Fast Company asks: “When do you drink your first glass of water each day.” I say, “When I press it through three cups of finely ground Sumatra and chug it while dialing in to a frustratingly banal conference call.” Doing this first thing in the morning, before my mind even knows what’s going on, will be helpful to getting a jump on it for the day.
- Define your top 3. Try to have three goals each day, prioritize accordingly, and don’t sleep until they are done. I have goals, but they aren’t really daily goals. And I have to-do lists, but they are typically rolling lists of things that should be done “at some point,” which generally results in them getting completed at no point. I’m thinking I’ll have three things each day that are non-negotiable and must be done before I can sleep that night. I really like this one.
- 50/10. The idea here is that you work hard and focused on a single task for 50 minutes, then take a break for the remaining 10 minutes of the hour. I work hard all day, but I’m not focused on a single task. The problem here is that at the end of my day I’ve worked a lot and gotten very little totally done. I’ve gotten several things partially done, but there is no appreciable reduction in the to-list — nothing is ever totally checked-off. I need work on focus, and I think a time structure like this might just work.
How to keep track of the time, though? I thought about adding a timer to my iGoogle site, but iGoogle is disappearing next year (subject for another rant. #whyGooglewhy), but I think monitoring the time would be a distraction in itself. Remember those people who kept an oven timer on their desk during the SAT? How did they not just sit and panic as the seconds ticked away? This 50/10 thing could really work for me, but I need to iron out the wrinkle in time(keeping). (Don’t pretend you didn’t love that.)
- Move and sweat daily. This is an oldie, but a goodie. I think everyone recognizes the stress reduction benefits of the endorphin release, the skin care benefits of pore rinsing, and the fitness benefits of consistency. I’m actually doing alright with the sweating part, but that may just be because I’m in central Texas. I may combine this with No. 2, and make a quick workout one of my three non-negotiable to-dos for each day.
- Express gratitude. I’m not doing enough here. According to everyone from Oprah to Buddha (Now accepting arguments that they are actually one and the same), It’s all but universal truth that when you’re focused on what you have, you have more, and when you focus on what you don’t have you have less. Whether this is because your powerful mind holding to one thought attracts more of the same, or whether this is merely a matter perception ont the fullness of your glass, all the great minds focus on gratitude. I want to be more like them, so I will, too.
- Reflect daily. This is another area where I’m slipping. It’s great to try, and it’s ok to fail, but it’s not ok to try, fail, and not assess on how to try better next time. 10 short minutes at the end of each day to acknowledge what went well (and, I don’t know, be grateful or whatever), and address what needs improvement could squeeze more out of each day. Rather than just picking myself and dusting myself off, perhaps I should remember where the rocks are so I don’t trip again.
Got rituals? Wanna share? Help me help myself.