169: Rituals to Make You More Productive | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
April 7, 2020   |   Episode #:

169: Rituals to Make You More Productive

In This Episode:

Rituals are the things that help you find your center and keep you grounded, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty. They’re very different from habits and routines. Rituals are so much bigger and more significant; they allow us to tie more pleasure into our day and are the thread that weaves together all of the elements of productivity that you want in life. In this episode, I’m breaking down how rituals differ from habits and routines, and how to use them to align your day. I discuss what the state of unconscious competence is and how to use it to get more in tune with who you are at your core, which will allow you to genuinely feel good about where you are as your day unfolds.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Rituals make time feel intentional

Questions I Answer

  • How do I create a good morning routine?
  • Do I need an evening routine?

Actions to Take

  • Think about how you can use rituals to align yourself with who you are and what you want to do. Start setting up rituals for yourself that will serve you and bring you closer to the person you want to become.
  • If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of my book, The Joy of Missing Out, to learn more about creating your own morning rituals.

Key Topics in the Show

  • Deciphering the differences between habits, routines, and rituals

  • Honing in on the state of unconscious competence

  • Using your rituals to align your day to where you really want to go

  • Looking at the places where you already have routines

Show Transcript

This is Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast focused on using productivity not just to do more but to achieve what’s truly important to you, and this season is all about you, You 2.0.

And now get ready. Here’s your host, Tanya Dalton. 

Hello. Hello everybody. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 169. Seriously, can you believe how quickly this season has flown by? I mean, I feel like we were just starting out this season talking all about goal setting and here we are at the very last episode of our season on you 2.0. And man, a lot has happened in our world in the last 13 weeks. Over the course of this season, a lot of things have happened. The last few weeks have been more chaotic, more uncertain than any other time that I remember honestly in my lifetime. And there’s so many shifts happening day by day thanks to the whole COVID-19. And today as I record this episode, I’ve got to be real and honest with you and tell you it’s been really hard to deal with this myself, with working from home, having kids doing schoolwork right next to me doing my work. Lots of shifts happening and just like you, I’ve been taking each day as it comes along with everybody else in North Carolina and let’s be honest, the rest of the world. 

So while we’ve been going through all of this, I’ve been really just racking my brains thinking of ways we can tap into the message that we’ve been focusing on all season long about making those small changes in our day to day life and figuring out what we need to do to feel a little more in control when the world feels so out of control. And when the world feels like it’s out of control, what can we do to just center ourselves and gain just a sense of ownership over our time. So what I was thinking about when I was mulling all of this over was one of the things that I really feel helps me feel better, makes me feel centered. It makes me feel good, it makes me feel confident, and that’s truly the rituals that I have created for myself, that! implement in my day. From the moment I wake up until I started to unwind with John and the kids. 

And that sounds like it’s really rigid but it’s not. It’s this idea of these little moments of intentionality and joy scattered throughout my day. These rituals help me 

center myself, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty. So that’s what I want to talk about. That‘s I want us to discuss today as we round out this season of you 2.0, this idea of creating rituals that will boost our spirits and our productivity during these uncertain times. And here’s the truth. These are tools that are great for right now, but honestly, these are tools we can use in the future long after all of this has come to pass. And let’s be real here and say, this may take time, this life that we’re living right now with this whole COVID-19 scare, it’s going to pass eventually. So let’s dig into what we can do today to make ourselves feel a little bit better, to get us closer to that you 2.0. 

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So we’ve talked a little bit in the past on the show about rituals, but honestly, not as much as we’ve talked about habits and routines, we’ve spent a lot more time talking about those things and how we incorporate those into our lives. And so I really want to start off by diving into this idea of what these three things are: habits, routines, and rituals. Because honestly, I think a lot of times we use these interchangeably and we think that they’re synonyms, but they’re not. They’re actually very different from each other. So let’s start with one of my favorites, which is habits. And you know it’s a favorite because we’ve talked about it a lot on the show. So you probably remember that we talk about habits as this great action that we can do to take the thinking out of it. It’s something we do without really thinking about it and it allows us to put things a little bit on autopilot. 

So something like drinking water when we wake up in the morning or brushing our teeth twice a day. Two great habits that we often strive to uphold and to put into our day. I mean, right now washing our hands the right way, that’s a habit that we’re hoping will take hold right now. But here’s the thing. Habits are a little bit vague when you think about it. Take for instance, things that we like to think of as habits, things like exercising or maybe eating vegetables at our meals or maybe reading instead of watching TV at night, things like that. So at face value, all of these things are relatively simple. The list I gave you doesn’t mention what type of exercise we’re going to do or what kind of vegetables we’re going to eat or how many vegetables. Or with reading, it doesn’t say what type of books we’re going to be reading. 

So right away, one of the issues that we can sometimes run into when we‘re trying to establish habits, especially if they’re habits that are not part of what we normally are familiar with. So there’s something kind of new and different. The problem is, is that there is some room for us to become easily disinterested in seeing certain habits through when we don’t expand on them as much as we can. So this is where the idea of setting up routines comes into play. 

So routines are essentially bigger than habits because they are a variety of habits that fit together one after the next. So one habit triggers the next habit triggers the next habit. And that’s a routine. So let me just paint a clear picture here. Let‘s consider a routine that many of us have in our day. It’s safe to say that a lot of us have some sort of morning or evening routine, right? So your morning might look like waking up with the alarm clock on the nightstand, maybe your phone goes off and then we move into the bathroom and we shower. We get ourselves ready, we brush our teeth, wash our face, comb your hair, we get dressed, we make our bed, and then we eat breakfast. One habit following the next habit, following the next habit, following the next habit. So that little morning routine I just gave you, it’s pretty bare bones right there, but you get the idea

So what it does is it lays out the steps of our days in a way that makes sense and it works well for us. Each action happening one after the next and while yes, having certain routines in place definitely takes a lot of thinking and guesswork out of it. When it’s like, what do I need to do next? What needs to happen next? We want to take a lot of that thinking out of it because it does boost our productivity, allows us to let our mornings run a little bit smoothly. But a lot of studies are starting to suggest 

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that our habits and routines aren’t enough to boost our productivity as significantly as we really think. Really one of the things we want to tie into our routines and our habits is the idea of rituals. 

Rituals are the thing that is the common single important thread that weaves together all of the elements of productivity that we want in life. Now, as you know, you’ve heard me say probably 3 million times, productivity is not about doing more. It’s doing what’s most important. And it really is about infusing some joy, infusing a lot of those priorities into our daily life, which ultimately brings us the happiness we’re looking for, right? 

So to break this down really, really simply here, we could say routines are all about the actions, the things that need to be done. Rituals are actions with meaning, with emotion behind them. Rituals are intentionality at its very best because they tie in what we need to do with the joy of performing them and what this all comes down to is establishing this sense of rhythm or flow that keeps us moving smoothly throughout the day and infusing it with joy or pleasure or some sort of positive emotion. It’s all about those rituals that we integrate into those moments of transition. When we’re going through our daily life checking email, then going to the meetings and then maybe changing our hat from logistics into the creative space. When we’re transitioning to all those spaces, it really does help to have these rituals in place. It gives us a sense of centering and control and it sets our brain up to be ready for those changes. 

It’s all about those rituals we infuse into those moments of transition. That’s what creates that amazing state of flow and rhythm in our life that feels easier and happier. And isn’t that what we all want? We want to feel competent, we want to feel like we know what’s happening, but we also want to feel a lot of joy. 

In psychology they talk about the four stages of competency or the ability to learn and implement new skills. The fourth stage of competency is called unconscious competence and that’s precisely the state of flow that we’re looking for here. This stage is where you’re able to do your work really, really well without thinking too much about it. It’s when we’re in that unconscious competence state. Let’s be honest, that’s a hard phrase to say on a regular basis, but it’s when we’re in that unconscious competence state that we often feel most in tune with who we are at our core, and that genuinely allows us to feel good about where we are and how our day is unfolding as we transition from one task to the next during our day. 

So yes, routines, they do, they make it happen too. We can experience that sense of control, right? But rituals because they’re tied to our emotions, they infuse a sense of pleasure into our day. And I don’t want us to discount that idea of pleasure and how that fits into how we feel overall. These rituals that we create and incorporate throughout our day, they can become this jumping off point that takes away a lot of the stress that can happen as we move from one space to the next. And just like rituals, we’re signaling to our brain, we’re triggering it to know that, okay, this one activity is ending and another one’s going to begin. But again, the difference here is the emotion that’s infused in it because it’s really important to realize is that with 

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rituals, they’re often very ceremonious, I guess we could say, and very deliberate. And I think it’s part of that intentionality that really brings in the emotion. 

So let me give you an example of what I mean by this. When people ask me about our planners, I explain that, yes, planning is a key part of your day, but it doesn’t have to be routine. So when I’m talking to people about it, I get really passionate about it, I get really excited about it because I truly don’t think that planning has to be this thing that you’re like, okay, I’ve got a plan, the first part of my day. We can really elevate it and make it feel like a beautiful ritual. So I like to equate it to a Japanese tea ceremony. So when you think about a Japanese tea ceremony, yes, in its essence it’s drinking tea, but because of the ritual, it’s this beautiful, intentional act of savoring and ceremony. 

I mean, think about it. When I mentioned a Japanese tea ceremony, it automatically elevates that experience in your mind, doesn’t it? That’s what it does for me, and that’s truly what I wanted to set up my planners to do. I wanted them to have beautiful layouts. I wanted them to have thick paper that felt really beautiful to write on because I never wanted it to feel routine. I want it to feel like a beautiful ritual that sets up your day with intention. That’s why I spend so much time working on designing these layouts. So that’s why I test and re-test and test again and test again the materials. It’s all about that feeling of ritual and the sense of centering that it can create for you. It’s not a routine, it’s something to look forward to. It’s something to be excited about. It’s something that aligns your day with where it is you really want to go. 

So we could look at routines as the things that help us regulate some of life’s messiness, but we can look at rituals as actions that make our time feel more special 

and purposeful. And it’s this element of purpose and magic that our rituals provide for us that boost our sense of wellbeing and make us more productive by defaults. Our routines lend us these feelings of safety and our rituals give us the sense of purpose that we need to be both happy and successful. I think that’s the big difference here. And I want to talk to you about how there are some really simple and easy ways to integrate rituals into your day. And I want to talk about that in just a moment, but right now it’s time for our sponsor break. And I want to talk to you during this time right now about an upcoming free training that I’m offering up this month. 

As I mentioned earlier in the podcast, just like everybody else, I’ve been thinking an awful lot about what’s been happening in the world. And for so many of us, what’s happening in our businesses, there is a lot of worry for everyone but I’m hearing a lot from business owners and entrepreneurs who’ve been reaching out to me who are saying, I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what it holds for my team and my businesses. And so I really wanted to do something to answer some of those questions. Recently I wrote an article for Entrepreneur and in that article 1 talked about how I scaled my business to seven figures, how I got my husband out of corporate America, which he was very happy about. And yet I was still able to maintain a very healthy, thriving personal life. And since Entrepreneur published that article, a lot of people have been asking me, how in the world did you make this happen? What’s your secret formula, if you will? 

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So I thought, you know what? I’m going to do this webinar. I’m going to share the secret formula of mine and how you can implement it too, because it really is something that’s easy to do. This is one of those examples of small, huge movements. Easy to implement, simple to manage, but monumental in the impact they can make. So I want to share in my webinar how you can do that with your business because you’ve heard me talk before about how important it is to not just look at ourselves as a worker bee, but to really lean into who we are at work and lean into who we are in our personal space. So if you’re interested in growing a seven figure business or even getting to that six figure mark, which is an exciting mark to get to as well. If you want to be able to do that while having a great personal life, join this training, it’s free for you to go. Just sign up at tanyadalton.com/webinar and I’ll send you all the information you need to attend. 

You know me, I’m going to keep it fun. I’m going to keep it real and I’m going to keep it actionable. So if you are a business owner and you’re interested in seeing how you can scale your business while not losing your mind or losing your personal life, I’d love to see you there. It really is this idea of how do we make our businesses run with intention and purpose. When I think about it, it really is an example of this idea of rituals at play, making things easier to happen easily while incorporating joy into the process. We don’t have to suffer to survive. We can thrive, we can flourish and our businesses can too. 

All right, let’s get back to talking about how do we infuse this idea of rituals into our regular everyday life. I think that’s really important because we want that sense of flow. We want that purpose. We want that happiness. And it doesn’t have to be big, gigantic, hour long rituals to make this happen. It really is this idea of let’s just pop these ideas of what would feel good to us into our day. And if you’ve heard me say this once, you’ve heard me say it a thousand times. I want your productivity to be customized and personalized to you. Rituals are no different. So let’s start with a really easy springboard. Let’s start with looking at places where you already have routines. 

Many of us, like we talked about earlier, have morning routines already, we have evening routines. Let’s set them up so they have some intentionality in them. So let’s start by looking there. And if you’ve read The Joy Of Missing Out, my book, you got a glimpse at my morning routine because I walk you through what it looked like to be able to write the book and to really make sure that I’m getting my kids up for school and everything else. But I don’t know if you notice this when you’re reading the book, but I have a little morning ritual at the very start of my day right there. 

And it literally consists of nothing more than simply giving myself the time and the space to lie awake in bed for 10 minutes. 10 minutes thinking about how I want my day to go, setting up my intentions for the day, thinking through my visualization, thinking through my affirmations, and it really feels good. I look forward to that time and to be honest with you, it feels decadent even though it’s only 10 minutes. And it feels decadent because it feels so good. It feels soul nourishing to me. And then I get up and I move throughout my day. Sol’ve triggered myself to know, all right, now I’m going to move forward. I’ve set up my intentions, my affirmations, and it took me 10 

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minutes. This is what we’re talking about here with these rituals. They don’t have to be big, they don’t have to be giant, they just have to be intentional and they have to work for you. 

So when you think about the routines you’re already doing, whether that’s routines for at the end of your work day or transitioning into home life or switching from tasks at one part of your day to another, how can you use these rituals to your advantage? Well, a lot of us have logical parts of our job and we have creative parts of our job, right? And it’s really switching our brain from this analytical thinking, maybe looking at spreadsheets or something exciting like that, and then moving into 

our creative sphere. It’s not easy for our brain, so we like to have a transition there. Well, let’s make that transition be intentional, be a ritual. 

So Stephen King does a really good job with this. He does a writing ritual before he begins his work for the day. And what he says is this helps him shift into creative mode even easier. In fact, I’m going to share with you a quote that he shared where he says, “The cumulative purpose of performing this pre-writing ritual the same way, every day, seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.” I love that quote. So here he is getting up, going through his days, going through his motions, and then he does this pre-writing ritual that shifts his brain into this dreaming mode. And if youve ever read any of Stephen King, you know, well, first of all, he’s an amazing writer, but second of all, his stuff is not bound by reality. He puts himself in this dreaming state while he writes. It’s setting the intention for what follows

So this idea of popping in these rituals into these key moments during our day can really help us avoid burnout, increased stress, and that frustration we experience when we are transitioning from one thing to the next. One of the other rituals you might consider could be as simple as adding a nap into your day to separate morning work from afternoon work. That’s what Winston Churchill did when he was alive. He would take a nap. And actually, I’m an advocate for taking naps. I take a nap as I transition out of work and into my home life oftentimes when I get home. Okay. I know what you’re saying right now. So just wait and give me a second, because I know right now what you’re saying is, oh, must be nice to be able to take a nap. No one here has time for a nap. I got it. 

But here’s a little hard truth for you at the same time. You do have time for a nap, especially if you know the right way to take a nice quick nap. And so I don’t want to take up time in the podcast right now talking about this. So here’s what I’m going to do. This week, I’m going to send out a Morning Momentum message. I’m going to make myself a note right now and I’m going to share in my audio text how you make 

this happen because this is something that I do on a regular basis. My kids know about it. They’re big advocates of it because they know I’m in a much better place after I’ve had my nap. So if you’re signed up for Morning Momentum, look for that text to come from me this week. I just wrote it on a post it note, so I’m going to record that this week for you. 

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And actually when I think about it, this idea of the Morning Momentum messages, that can be part of your ritual that can be part of setting up your day with 

intention. Maybe the ritual you perform is giving yourself a full 5 minutes or 10 minutes to enjoy your morning cup of coffee, to listen to the audio message of the day that I’ve texted you before you boot up your computer, before you dive into your workload. Again, it’s this idea of setting yourself up with intention, building in that joy, infusing it in so it happens seamlessly. And this is the main takeaway here. 

Your rituals should be deeply specific and important to you, to give you that sense of purpose, to give you that smoothness and the fluidity that will benefit you. I do, especially in these uncertain times, want to encourage you. Take some time, figure out where some rituals could really sit well in your day to help life feel a little more centered, a little bit easier, and a little more joyful. 

Because here’s the thing with time, it has a funny way of slipping past us without us even realizing it, and oftentimes it all comes down to the simplest yet most meaningful actions. That’s what will keep us motivated and that’s what will make each 

day as successful as it possibly can be. That is truly what I want for you. That’s truly what this season has been all about. It really has been about let’s create a life for you that feels meaningful, that feels purposeful, that feels intentional. This season of the podcast has been deeply personal for me, not just because of all the ebbs and flows of what’s been going on in the world around us, but I really felt like I personally needed this season. I did. There are times where I work on seasons and I think about the topics we’re going to cover and I think, oh, they’re going to resonate with this or they’re going to love this, and this season was different. This season was like, gosh, what do I need too? 

And so as you’ve been listening to these episodes, as you’ve listened to me talk, a lot of times, I’m preaching to myself just as much as I am preaching to you guys because I need this nourishment and this reminder just like you guys do. I had a big season in my life with the book launching in the fall, leaning really heavily into that and I did that with intention, but it was time to shift back. It was time to shift back into my personal space. It was time to renew myself and to feel like I was recharging my batteries. And I feel like this season has done that for me and I hope that it feels like that for you as well. 

All right. I’m really excited about our brand new season coming up with a shiny new topic. I’m really excited about it. I’m on fire with this idea and I cannot wait to 

share it with you. 

Now, earlier in the episode I did talk about that morning Momentum, those audio text messages that I send out every morning, Monday through Friday. I rolled that out about a month ago and the reactions have been incredible. People are like, it’s like getting an audio text from my friend, but helping me set up my day with intention. That’s what I love. That was exactly what I was hoping the Morning Momentum Text Club would do. So sign up. This is a great way to infuse some ritual 

into your day in a very, very easy way. Simply go to Tanyadalton.com/morning and don’t forget to use the code podcast so you get your first month for a $1.99. 


And while we’re on the subject of reminders, don’t forget if you are a business owner or entrepreneur to go to my webinar. It’s all about how to scale your business to six figures or seven just like I did while still having that thriving, healthy home life. I think it is so important. I was able to do it and I want you to be able to do it. To simply go to Tanyadalton.com/webinar for all the details. It’s free to join. I’d love to see you there. 

All right. I am so excited about next week’s reveal of our new topic. I can’t wait to see you here. All right. Until next time, have a beautiful and productively week.