Tips for Tapping into Your Body for Heightened Productivity—Developing Rituals, Routines + Practices
Welcome back to the series on tapping into your body for increased creativity and productivity (and allowing yourself to ignore and avoid unhealthy capitalist norms). See the past posts on: Paying Attention to Cycles, Taking Time Off, and Prioritizing Basic Bodily Needs. And now for this week’s installment…
TIP #4. Develop Rituals, Routines + Practices
I love rituals.
One way I like to signal to my brain (my subconscious in particular) that I’m about to do some creative work is to set up some ritual elements and create a ritual “container.” I’ll gather a candle, maybe a stone or rock, a hot cup of tea or coffee, a glass of water (I like to use a pretty cup), some incense or oils.
I arrange everything at my desk or table in a way that’s aesthetically and sensorially pleasing. I like to set myself up so I’m sitting near a window, with natural light and some sort of view. (I am like a cat and will find any patch of sunlight I can to sit in.) I light the incense, then the candle, and I’ll settle in. Only then will I open my computer or notebook.
I find this especially important for creative writing, as I do so much “other” writing and work at my computer. Ritualizing it not only clues my brain that we’re entering “creativity zone”—but also adds a layer of pleasure, play, enjoyment to the work.
Creating an environment that looks, smells, sounds and tastes nice—in ways that please me—makes the work feel less like work and more like self-care, like pleasure. An element, which both helps spark my imagination and makes me want to come back and do it again, day after day.
Which isn’t to say it eliminates all the feelings of drudgery—it’s still work, and often it’s hard, and somedays I do simply have to drag my way through—but rituals are one way, one strategy I employ to keep myself showing up—and enjoying it.
Along with rituals, I’ve found building creative routines is a profound way to create sustainable access to my imagination and productivity. Rather than sitting and waiting for inspiration to strike, I find I truly can teach or train my creativity to show up when I want it to (at least a lot of the time)—by simply showing up, regularly and consistently, for it.
Now, I’m a single mom with all kinds of crazy constraints on my time and schedule (and emergencies of varying degree arising without warning), and I also have very little discipline, particularly before, say, 9 am—so I am by no means about to recommend you wake up at 4:00 every day to write for two hours.
But I will say that the more regular and consistent a routine I am able to fold into my daily life, the easier it becomes to write every day. So even if it’s only a few minutes a day, writing (as close to) every day (as possible) helps me tremendously to be able to turn on the “flow faucet” faster and more easily each time.
For me, this looks like 25 minutes to an hour a day, 3-5 days a week. Preferably in the morning, after taking care of the kiddo, but before any other work.
I use a method I learned from other teachers at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, called the pomodoro technique. Basically, I set a timer for 25 minutes and I’m not allowed to do anything but write until the timer goes off.
After it goes off, in the official version, you take a five-minute break to check email or social, pee, refill coffee, etc. Then you start again, 25 minutes. In my version the break is more like 15 minutes. Oh, and before my first session, I usually need 10-15 minutes of puttering around before I can start. But once the timer is on, puttering is off.
I also try to hit a daily word count, to keep me writing during my writing time. If I hit it in one pomodoro, I’m done, so it’s incentive to keep my fingers moving.
The combination of my rituals and routines make up my writing practice, but there are other elements which help support it. I meditate (close to) every day. I exercise (close to) a few times a week. I eat breakfast before I write. I drink lots of water during and after (I consider it like a physical work out—it burns energy in a similar way).
But probably the biggest key to a creative practice is recognizing that fairly regularly, your routines will break down, or you will need to break out of them. You’ll fall off the wagon. Your best-laid plans will fall apart.
So, as part of my practice, I’ll set new ones. I’ll begin again, or begin in a new way. I try not to beat myself up about it. I try to recognize it as all part of the practice. Just begin, again.
See the next post in the series, Tip #5 Daydreaming and Play, coming next week.
Do you have routines or rituals or practices for your creative work? Please feel free to share them in the comments!