Over the last couple of weeks, I have looked at the benefits of rituals in our lives. We have seen how rituals can set us up for success and help alleviate stress. We looked at the importance of something like a morning ritual and how we could improve what we’re already doing.
Today I want to specifically look at rituals in the workplace. Like the morning ritual, you have rituals are work, whether you know it or not. The question is: are they helping or hurting you?
Similar to the morning rituals we looked at last week, we want to ask ourselves how we start our workday. Some of us have a long commute in traffic; others walk across the hall to their home office. But when your workday begins, what happens?
By implementing a ritual to begin your workday–and blocking that time off on your calendar!–you set yourself up for success for the rest of the day. For example, maybe your ritual is to come into the office, get your coffee and talk to a few coworkers, fire up your computer, check emails and voicemails, and look over the calendar for the day.
Perhaps that’s a good ritual for you. But there are a few danger spots.
Beware of the Monsters the Eat Your Mornings
First, stopping to get coffee and see coworkers might be pretty important. Social contact is important, and most of us don’t work in isolation. It’s important for mental health (and often the health of our team!) to know our coworkers. However, self-knowledge is important, too, and this can be a threat to your morning. Lingering too long over a good conversation can set your entire ritual back… and your entire day back. If you know this is a danger for you, don’t be afraid to set a timer on your phone reminding you it’s time to get back to your desk.
A big monster that eats up your time, maybe particularly as you start your day, is the tangled web of the internet or social media. It can be easy to check the news or hop on social media (and some of our jobs make this a necessary part of the beginning of the work day). It can be harder to hop off! Checking these things can be part of your ritual, but make sure you don’t lose track of time.
The social media monster has a less obvious friend, and that’s the email monster. Checking email is an important part of the beginning of the workday, and it should be part of your ritual. In fact, if it’s not part of your ritual, you will find it eating up every other part of your day. Your workday should start with going through email, but do not let this take over your entire day. It can be easy to go through our entire day doing nothing but responding to emails as they come into the inbox. If you do this, you have surrendered your day to everyone else! Look over emails as part of your beginning routine, and then, if your job allows it, feel comfortable stepping away from it for awhile.
If you build a ritual at the end of your day at work, too (and you should), including checking email. Do a final sweep so that when you come to work the next day, you aren’t dealing with anything that could have been taken care of earlier.
Timing and Scheduling
A ritual to begin your day at work has the same benefits as your morning ritual at home. By putting some of the things we do on “autopilot,” we free our brains for the creative or spontaneous work that is going to come later in our day.
One key to success in using a ritual to begin your workday is scheduling it in your calendar. If you can, avoid scheduling meetings for the first thing of your day. Protect that time so that you can get your ritual completed and your day started on the right foot.
Don’t be afraid to set timers. Honestly look at your day and see if there are areas that get away from you. Perhaps it is those social times that end up making you late for other things. Or maybe you get drawn into emails. At the same time, we aren’t called to be workhorses that never take a break. In fact, some of us need to set a timer to remind us to take breaks! Rituals can actually set up days in such a way that these breaks are easier to take.
Daily habits, and the discipline it takes to implement them and persevere in them, helps us build virtue. Implementing these rituals will help us live the vocation God has given us to the best of our ability. After all, virtue is found in doing daily work well. St. Josemaria warned, “Since we should behave at all times as God’s envoys, we must be very much aware that we are not serving him loyally if we leave a job unfinished; if we don’t put as much effort and self-sacrifice as others do into the fulfillment of professional commitments.”
We cannot strive for virtue at only certain times of our day or in particular environments. The woman who cuts corners at work, the man who is lazy at the office, and the student who does not study are not virtuous. Striving for excellence and virtue cannot be compartmentalized into certain arenas of life. Escriva continues, “people who neglect obligations that seem less important will hardly succeed in other obligations that pertain to the spiritual life and are undoubtedly harder to fulfill.”
We know that it is hard to build virtue. Let’s start in our everyday work, in the home and in the office, and strive to serve him with an ordered life. Next week, we’ll finishing up by looking at the importance of ritual in our prayer lives.
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