The other day I read one of those click-baity articles in a website footer. “Five Parisian-inspired pieces that every woman should own.” It’s so cliche as to be eye-roll inducing. Want to know what the pieces were?
- Breton top (those stripey sailor shirts)
- “Classic” black stilettos
- Black skinny jeans
- Ivory or camel trench coat
- A chic silk scarf.
I would never own ANY of these items. Well, maybe the scarf. Breton top? Too preppy. Trench coat? Too industrial. Skinny jeans? That’s crazy talk– I’m not pulling those suckers up all day. And I have had the same barely worn stilettos since college– I just donated them to Goodwill a few months ago.
(I kind of believe in the “bondage of women through footwear” thing. There’s no other reason for those things to exist.)
Similarly, I bet you thought those five rituals would be:
- A morning ‘miracle’ ritual (do NOT get me started)
- A self-care ritual
- An inspiration ritual (surfing Pinterest?)
- A ‘connect and befriend’ ritual
- A confidence ritual
And listen; if you feel like one of those five things are missing in your life, then you go right out and get those skinny jeans.
But I’m in a more Maya Angelou state of mind.
As a solopreneur, you need rituals that will all help you to swiftly and effectively:
- Come to clear and supportable decisions you feel at peace with
- Create ‘maximum sustainable productivity’ when you need it so you can let go without guilt when you don’t.
- Dive into the financial side of your business and understand where the money is coming from, where it’s going, and how to make more of it. (If this sounds too basic, then good for you! Too many people are very disempowered by accounting matters.)
- Get your feelings and beliefs out of your head and into a format where they can move and inspire other people.
- Roll with setbacks and use them to fuel your plans B, C, and D.
Rituals aren’t traits, nor are they characteristics
Too frequently we tell ourselves that the people who accomplish this or that have special traits that contribute to their success. Rituals, though, can be constructed. They are recipes that you perform that get you results.
Personally, I’m working mostly on the “maximum sustainable productivity.” I’ve gotten to the point where I’m completely comfortable taking time off when I’ve burnt the candle at both ends for too long. Now, however, I want to create structure where I never set the other end of the candle on fire at all.
For me, this is involving constraints. I’ve never been the kind of person who could embrace structure for structure’s sake. It just becomes an obstacle to production. So I’ve never had standard working hours, standard workweeks, standard time off.
But I recognize that formlessness is its own tyranny. The decision load it places on you is ENORMOUS. For a long time I felt that the flexibility that such a lifestyle garnered was a worthwhile trade off, but now I’m thinking that a confining structure will give me other types of freedom (albeit freedom I’m having trouble imagining at the moment).
So at the moment, here are my chosen constraints: 3 or 4 2-hr “sprints” composed of 10 minutes planning, 90 minutes focused work, and 20 minutes break (crucially, this break MUST take place away from the computer.) This breaks down into Morning, Early Afternoon, Late Afternoon, and Evening. The Afternoon blocks may be swallowed by calls. The Evening blocks may be skipped, if I feel like it.
So of a possible 20 blocks this week, I worked fifteen. I had three calls. And I skipped two evening blocks.
I’m not going to make too much of the productivity levels– when things are novel, they tend to be disproportionately productive or unproductive. But I did get 22.5 hours of focused work, plus at least 2 hours of planning and organizing. I got to bed on time 4/5 nights, which no doubt contributes to my overall sense of clearheadedness.
As rituals go, this is pretty simple: Plan my work, work, take a break. But it has firm sides. I used to give myself 3-4 hour windows of time to “go deep into flow” but I was persuaded by research into ‘ultradian rhythms’ which is a 90-120 minute cycle of alertness.
At the beginning of this experiment, I was setting a timer to keep me on track, but yesterday and today, I have been able to notice when my energy flags and it’s time to take a break. And, if I’m away from the computer, I notice when I feel rejuvenated and want to get back to work. It might not be ‘maximum sustainable productivity’ YET… but it has promise. And part of the reason I’m telling you all about it is that verbalizing (or writing down) things that work and why helps to cement the habit. 😉
So, your turn. Which of the five habits do you most need to develop a ritual for?