I have rituals to get shit done because I need them. I have a monkey brain. There are so many wonderful things that I want to pursue every second of every day that this monkey brain won’t let me focus. It’s chattering away in my head constantly. I’ll start something then move onto another before I’ve finished. It can be very frustrating.
As much as I’ve tried to focus and be as disciplined as I can, at my age I figure it’s hard to change my habits. This doesn’t mean I can’t but sometimes I need to use reverse psychology on myself. I do this through ritual.
Most of our daily life is about ritual, we just don’t realise it. When we wake in the morning, many of us will need a tea or coffee. We usually go about our morning the same way every day. Call it habit if you will but I bet if you changed the order of things that you’d feel a bit strange and your day may not go as smoothly (or normally) as usual.
When we catch up with friends we often do that over a cup of tea or coffee. If you have friends who don’t drink either, it can feel awkward to be catching up while they may drink water. Is it ritual, social expectation, habit? It doesn’t really matter, my point is that humans seem to form habits to move through their day with as much ease as possible.
I remember when I was a child watching my mum make coffee. When she made this coffee, I knew that she was setting herself up for writing because the rest of the time she drank tea. This coffee was special because it required her to grind the beans first in this little French coffee grinder, then brew the coffee and warm the milk. Then everything would go into a small bowl with sugar. I called it a coffee soup. It smelled very good. Then she would set out her writing materials (all hand writing back in the 70s) with her coffee soup in front of her and sit for a long time scribbling in her book. I often wondered what she was writing about (short stories at that time) and I loved looking at her beautiful cursive writing. Makes me want to sit down at my desk just thinking about it.
I was introduced to the idea of ritual at a young age but it’s not until lately that I’ve realised the importance of it. But how does it help get shit done? For me it’s about setting an intention: if I do this, this will happen.
If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated space for writing, set about creating rituals around using it. This is especially helpful if there are other people in the house so that they know you are not to be disturbed, just like I knew that Mama was busy when she had her coffee soup. If you don’t have an office or desk to call your own, try to find a place where you can go for dedicated writing. It might be a coffee shop, the library or a coworking space. Even a little corner of the kitchen table can work.
Set your intentions around this. Make sure that the you are comfortable (not too cold or hot) and that there aren’t too many distractions. If you find social media a distraction, turn it off. Switch your phone onto silent. Do whatever you need to set an intention.
Here is my ritual
I set an intention to write for 30 minutes.
I physically set myself up to do this so that nothing can stop me doing it.
I make a cup of tea, make sure I am comfortable, close the door.
Tell everyone that I am busy for the next 30 minutes.
Be very specific about what I am working on (is it a blog, a chapter or an outline for something?) and stick to that.
Stay focused for at least 30 minutes.
You’d be surprised by how quickly 30 minutes goes and how much you can write in that time. For instance, I have now been working on this blog post for 35 minutes and thanks to being focused it’s done. It’s not an award-winning piece of writing but it makes the point that I want to make. Think about the habits you have around your writing (or any work for that matter) and see what negative actions you make that might hinder it. There are ways to work better to get shit done!