• Hannah Ubl

The Power of Workday Rituals

“I really miss my routine.” So many people have said this to me when their lives get disrupted for whatever reason (new job, new kiddo, a pandemic). This makes sense. Routines are, for many people, comfort. Our routines are really our habits; they operate in our subconscious and therefore require little energy. Whatever specific purpose they might be serving, they make us feel more in control of the day.

When routines are thrown out the window, it can feel paralyzing. This was especially true in 2020 when many, all of a sudden, were commuting to their kitchen counter or spare bedroom instead of the office. People started working longer because it was just so easy to send one more email, or check the calendar one more time. Boundaries between work and home became blurred, and it started to feel like everything was one big soup of work, with some time for non-work thrown in.

If this was you, or if this is you, consider adding rituals to your day. Unlike routines, rituals require the conscious mind to do the work. They’re meaningful. They turn what would otherwise be a mundane task (closing your computer at the end of the day) into one of significance (closing computer, taking a breath, reciting “all done for today.”) They don't have to happen at the same time every day (so you can wield then as needed), and they can help draw more distinct boundaries between when you're working, and when you're not. The extra dollop of intention adds importance to how you’re transitioning between work and home time. If done right, rituals can bring you to the present moment, eliminate mental distractions, and create calm.

Here are some of our favorite ways to build a work-from-home ritual:*

Engage all the senses

When you start and end the day, try to do one thing in each of these categories. Before you get overwhelmed, know that this ritual can take 60 seconds or 15 minutes (or, if you're so inclined, more!) It’s entirely up to you.

  • Scent: Light incense or a candle, or rub essential oil between your fingers and breathe it in.

  • Taste: Enjoy your favorite coffee or tea flavor that you only drink when you start or end work.

  • Sight: Take a walk and notice the trees, or turn on an episode of the show you’re currently bingeing.

  • Touch: Get inspired by Mr. Rogers and don your favorite cozy sweater or socks. Stretch your arms above your head and twist your torso back and forth. Notice how the stretch makes you feel.

  • Sound: Listen to your favorite work music. “Lute music for alchemists” is a friendly favorite of mine (yes, really.)

Say what you’re doing out loud

This may feel silly but it’s pretty awesome. When you start the day, say something like, “Let’s do this.” When you end the day, you can say, “Goodbye, work. Until we meet again!” (I say this one regularly. Judgment free zone here!) Or do like author Cal Newport who says, “schedule shut down, complete.” Whatever you choose, it really can be powerful to mark the beginning and end of the day (or working time) vocally.

Designate “work-only” items in your home

When you’re in work mode, use a coffee mug, water bottle, pen, notebook that are only for work. This is easier if you have a separate office and can leave the goods there. If you don’t have the ability to physically separate your workspace and home space, put all your work-only things in one corner of the room, a bag, a pretty basket, whatever keeps it separate.

Substitute the commute

Shutting the computer down may not be enough for you (I’m this way!) Schedule 10-30 minutes of transition time. Consider it your commute to help you decompress from the day. Take a nap. Take a walk. Listen to a podcast. Watch an episode of your favorite show. Journal. Read. Meditate. Make it all a part of your ritual.

*Bonus tip: Add ritual time to the calendar. It protects you from anything else being scheduled over it and adds accountability for you to get it done!