The Difference Between Being Productive Vs. Being Effective – Part 2 (Rituals and Habits)

October 19, 2015

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In my last blog post, I talked about the idea of focusing what matters most in order to become the most effective YOU. After answering  five simple questions, hopefully you were able organize and compare how you are currently spending your time.   Taking time to pause and reflect definitely makes it easier to see where your strengths are, what you should be doing, and what you shouldn’t be doing.


Just because you bring awareness to how you’re spending your time, doesn’t immediately solve the problem.  I know for me, I asked myself,  “Now what?   How do I get from where I am, to where I need to be?”   It’s not easy!  If it was, everyone would be doing it!


“People do not decide their futures.
They decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” -F.M. Alexander


It starts with habits and rituals.   The secret to becoming your most effective self is taking time to design your day, establishing some rituals and focusing on practicing those rituals daily.  Doing this will create a shift for you.   And I’m here to tell you that one small shift can create incredible results, more than you could ever imagine.  It did for me.   All it takes is a little bit of discipline and willpower in the beginning.  Do this and the next thing you know, you’ve formed a habit and everything gets easier.


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I’ve heard people say, “Everyone has the same amount of time each and every day.   The reason why some people are more successful than others depends on how they spend their time.”   That couldn’t be a more accurate statement!  Yet time after time, we find ourselves meandering through our days, seeking different results, but not doing anything about it.    I think it’s important to establish defined rituals that you practice on a daily basis, but with careful attention to allow for flexibility.


This is a hard thing to do if you’re one that doesn’t like routines.   As an entrepreneur, every day is different for me depending on what I have going on and I like it that way.   Before, if I felt like working on marketing, I worked on marketing.   On some days, if I needed to pay some bills, then I paid some bills.   It was a kind of, “This is what I feel like doing today, so I’m going to get it done.”   I operated with this mindset for a long time.  I did a bunch of stuff, but not necessarily paying attention to whether it was the most important thing for me to be working on.


A book that changed all of this for me was a book titled, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So Obvious Secret Guaranteed To Transform Your Life by Hal Elrod   In his book, Mr. Elrod talks about creating a morning ritual designed to set you up for success.   He emphasizes designing for yourself, a set a rituals to help you stay focused on being your best self; focusing on what matters most, to improve your life, and yourself.


Here’s where the rubber hits the road.   Through rituals, we create daily habits that with practice, steers us towards our goals.   It’s, pretty much, that simple.   And here’s what I like the most.  What I learned from reading the book is that you don’t have to perform the same tasks in your rituals in the same order day in and day out.    This was an ah-ha moment for me since I’m not one that necessarily likes routines!


So, now I’m sure you’re wondering, what does all this look like?   Well, it looks different for each person depending on who you ask, especially if you have kids.  Everybody’s rituals can be different.  For me, this is what my morning looks like right after I wake up.


Step 1) I drink a small glass of water and then brush my teeth.


Step 2) I brew some coffee and while I’m enjoying a cup of coffee,  I choose  to do one of the following depending on how I’m feeling:


     a) Meditate for 20-30 mins.
     b) Walk Harlow (my dog) 30 mins.
     c) Read for 30 minutes
     d) Write In My Journal 15-30mins.


The activities above are deliberately designed to carve out time and space for me to breathe, reflect, grow and think.   Some of my best ideas and break-through moments come to me during one of the four activities above.


Step 3)   This is a big one.  I review my to-do items in my task management system (Omnifocus Software) and choose my top five tasks that have the highest priority on my list.   I only choose five and flag them so that I know to only focus on those five for the rest of the day.   Why five?  Because realistically, that’s about all I can really do in any given day anyway.  Any more than that and I’m setting myself  up with false expectations.  False expectations just creates unnecessary stress.


Then, I schedule time on my calendar during the day to only work only on these five tasks (see step 4)    Once I complete those five tasks, I move on to establishing my next five tasks.   Eliminating everything else from my visibility except my top five tasks creates a state of flow and focus with less stress.   And by the way, I do the same for personal tasks.  (More on this system in a later blog)


Step 4)  The last thing I do is review my calendar for any meetings or events that require my physical presence at places.  While I’m reviewing my calendar items, I design my day based on where I’ll be and for how long.   This is especially helpful for my managers.


The whole process takes about an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes, but not longer.


One thing worth mentioning is that I do all of the things listed in Step 2 at sometime throughout my day.   I may not do them in the same order or at the same time every day, but I do try and get to them all every day.   For example, if I don’t journal in the morning, I’ll journal at night before I go to bed.  I might read for 30 minutes during lunch.     This is the flexibility and variety that I enjoy.   It gives me the room to adapt and choose what feels right for me at the time, depending on my energy level.


The thing to remember is to start small and grow into your rituals.     Remember, you’re forming new habits.   It will take some discipline and willpower in the beginning to shift your behavior.  However, in no time you’ll find your habits getting easier and easier.  (A great accountability app to help you form/coach better habits is, check it out) For me, I feel like I’ve especially benefited from these rituals in a way that provides me with a state of flow and groundedness.   When I find myself getting overwhelmed or feeling like I’m not sure what the next step is, I know that I can fall back on my rituals to keep me on track and more importantly, to keep me moving forward.


Other suggested reading that helped me in forming my rituals were:


The ONE Thing by Gary Keller


How about you?  What kind of rituals do you practice?   How did you go about your day?  Do you have a system that you follow to help you stay focused and effective in your work?


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Located in Austin, Texas.

Chris Murphy