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Why you need both rituals and routines to power your workday (rescuetime.com)
186 points by jorymackay 45 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

An important realisation is that you already have a routine, it might not be the optimal but you do have one. Even if you routine is "going to bed every night a different hour", it is a routine. Not going to gym in the mornings, it is a routine. Just have a look to your repeated behaviours, even if they are variable, if the variability repeats then it is a pattern.

In other words it is useful to demystify the routine, and realise that you already have one, you just need to adjust to make it more optimal.

In response to:

m1dnigh7: > I truly envy people with routines or rituals...

andrewflnr: > I hate that this might actually be true...

This is basically what i learned in my 1 1/2 years oft psychotherapy. You really have to ask yourself stuff like "what's wrong with my schedule?"

The answer could be something trivial like: "I waste too much time browsing hacker news after work. I need to stop that!". But it's not easy to just stop that. Better ask yourself a second question like: " what could I do instead?" And then just find a tiny little thing you could improve. Every tiny step can be a huge improvement

I would call what you describe “habits” and only use routine for actions repeated in the same order. I also think that is how most people understand “routine”.

I hate that this might actually be true. I don't want routines or rituals, I just want to do the smart thing at any given second. Empirically, however, that's not what actually happens.

Make it a ritual to pause and think before any significant decision, so you do the smart thing. Eventually it'll become routine.

You have to notice when you're making a significant decision, but yeah, that's a good start. :)

Kind of makes me wonder if there are people that live without routines and rituals, and what causes the transition to and from between living with and without routines and rituals.

Can anyone give their experience on the matter?

I’m not anyone super important but this is how I’ve lived my life. Honestly it feels chaotic. My mind is always running via executive control. In some ways this, I believe, has provided me with a very unique worldview where anything seems possible - any path is within my grasp. I think it has led me to be more (forgive the possible arrogance, it’s not intended as such) intelligent than the average bear. I don’t let many facts into my mind without intense scrutiny and I tend to have a much more complete high level picture of how things work. In fact, I realized these traits early in life and believed they were something I should pursue to be more effective. Which in many ways has come true.

However the down side is that you’re incompatible with most other people. I dread routine to the point where ive lost relationships and a sense of purpose in most work. Being a cog is extremely unpleasant and it’s more and more apparent to me that that’s where most success in the world comes from (think millions of workers vs a single ceo.)

This article touched on all of that and I think I need to incorporate the routine and ritual more. Even if it’s so I can just get through the parts of life I currently struggle.

Sorry if this is a bit rambling. I’m working now but wanted to share. If you have any questions or want to chat I’d be happy. Still not sure how hacker news replying and all works so my apologies if I miss you.

Maybe not as pronounced as in your case but I can definitly understand where you’re comming from. What worked for me was trying to understand some martial arts / eastern spirituality, which brought a lot of peace and stability to my mind.

I remeber being tald about all the spiritual things that seem bonkers to a western educated mind, but with the idea that - all models are false, some models are useful, I just “tried” to imagine it working, and it actually did, the mind is an interresting thing.

Now whenever I am presented with those ancient patterns of thought I don’t dismiss them outright as false, but think of them as a model that can influence your emotions, and act accordingly.

I always found it rather interesting how similar Buddhism is to Christian, and how different they are typically taught.

The teaching of Jesus and Buddha are really giving you the exact same advice. Self-sacrifice, honesty, hard work and being decent while you accept all the shit life throws at you and let it pass, because it will, are the ways to live calmly and fully in between the eternal struggle chaos and order.

I personally think the eastern approach was easier to comprehend than the western. Ying and yang are two dragons locked in eternal struggle, one is chaos one is order but within each dragon is a small piece of the other. Let too much of one dragon into your life and you will suffer, and since chaos lives within order (and vice versa) it’s also a fruitless struggle to chose one, because the other will always find a way to creep in.

You’ll find the same essence in the bible and the moral struggle between good and evil and a God who never tells you what he wants, but to me, it was much less clear. Perhaps especially because 90% of religions scholars are assholes and in the west you don’t meet the eastern assholes but you do meet a lot of shitty priests.

Same, it's interesting once you see the ~hidden truth between many religions where they're basically saying the same thing. It's not the EXACT same, and that's where everyone disagrees, but I also feel like many people who are really into religion kind of "miss the forest for the trees" and focus on the exact specifics vs. the general messages and tones / themes.

To me, this is similar to how some people are really into audio and examine the minute details, while others are into music and appreciate the aesthetic qualities of it. This is not to say that either side is "better" or "more correct" or "the right way to enjoy music" or even that you can't have both!

The most enjoyable times I've ever had listening to music have been on objectively not the best sound systems. I HAVE had the pleasure of going to clubs / parties with very high-end sound systems, and I have some great gear set up at home, but I appreciate them in different ways.

I still don't feel that I've really nailed what I'm trying to say, but I hope that makes some sense to others and hopefully gives even one person a bit of a new perspective, or a hint that there is another perspective to these things :)

Interesting comment. I think if you were to read one of the gospels you'd pretty quickly get instructions on what God wants:

1. Love God

2. Love other people as much as you love yourself.

You'll find the second one in Buddhism, but not really the first.

That makes rather a lot of difference, because it focuses someone on being grateful for the world, rather than attempting to ignore it.

I'm not a Buddhist, but I think you've got that completely backwards. For example, the 5 moral precepts in Buddhism are refrain from: harming living things, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, lying or gossip, taking intoxicating substances eg drugs or drink. No mention of god anywhere. As far as I can tell, in many (most? all?) sects of Buddhism there is no god. Buddha is just the first fully enlightened being (and in many sects, it's achievable by anyone -- eventually).

As there is no dogma in Buddhism, it's really difficult to casually learn what Buddhism is about. Usually people will throw a hundred books at you and say, "Well, that will get you started" (at least in my experience :-) ). However, I think you may have gotten the wrong end of the stick.

So my comment was stating that the bit about God wasn't in Buddhism, and your comment affirmed that. I think we are arguing the same point.

Certain of the Buddhist sects and practices (notably Vajrayāna) throw gods into the mix because they've incorporated local beliefs and culture.

Good grief. I'm dyslexic, but that's amazing even for me! Sorry about that!

I’ve definitely been turning more and more towards the concept of mindfulness and being in the present moment. Although I’ll say that while it helps, I find it far from fulfilling regarding all this. It scratches the itch sometimes in a small way, but there’s still a lot of agony left over. I’ve also though more about boxing/martial arts but again I’m hesitant to jump in and try it when similar efforts have left me empty handed.

I’d love to hear more if you have the time to spare.

Well I think the key for me was the phisical excercise - the body and especially the mind requires it to be healthy, and martial arts just gave me something that I could consider “worth it” in the long run, and has its own very deep history and practice to explore and progress.

And after I got started the whole mindfulness thing just happened naturally as it was an integral part of the training itself, so it just made sense.

And with mindfulness my mind just naturally calmed itself down, I started to appreciate the moment more, and care less about stuff I couldn’t control anyway.

I never could start doing the meditation thing before on its own, but when I put myself in an environment were it was just par for the course, it was easy. I’m sure there are other ways to do it its just what worked for me.

I think I now just try not to do exactly what I want, but rather try to position myself into environments where that happens naturally, and just let it be. Sometimes it doesn’t work out exactly, but mostly it does, and is much _much_ less stressful.

Hope this is useful and best of luck :)

I completely understand you. Some people go to school, spend hours studying at home and in school, apply to a company, get a job, have a routine. I get out of bed and somehow snowball into a tornado that I kind of steer towards where I wanna go in life.

Anyways, the main difference here is in how I think your (and mine!) brain works - we think in abstractions, get bored with details and implementations. We recognize patterns and priniciples, that's why there are things you "know" but have barely ever done in your life. That's why stuff is boring - you know or can assume it already because you recognize the patterns and principles behind it. It's just an implementation of an abstraction.

People with this personality type are very reflective and have profound thoughts, but they often lack execution. You'll be most successful in think tanks or if you lead teams where you give high-level directions (you will need a business partner that is convinced by your vision and who implements it).

It's also good to know that the brain constantly creates simulations about different situations. It's very important to realize that these simulations are not always accurate because they use your current beliefs about yourself to infer the emotions you would feel in that situation. You should go into situations instead of just imaging them - it'll lead to a more accurate model of reality in your mind and you'll be pleasantly surprised how inaccurate some simulations were. Social stuff stops being boring then.

That's exactly what I noticed! I always tried to make myself the "implementer" but now that I have friends that are "implementers" it's way easier to do stuff. And luckily this is the same thing that my employers noticed.

> You should go into situations instead of just imaging them - it'll lead to a more accurate model of reality in your mind and you'll be pleasantly surprised how inaccurate some simulations were. Social stuff stops being boring then

Thanks. I know that and I try to do it but sometimes I need to hear it anew.

Are you the same type?

And unrelated question, because I feel like you belong to the same tribe. Do you think that sketching, drawing, painting, coding, writing just offloading thoughts on the paper/digital paper? I noticed that I have a tendency to do all kinds of stuff that includes translating abstractions to a medium (for example, invoking feelings with poetry, explaining with metaphors or sketching out ideas)

> And luckily this is the same thing that my employers noticed.

This is rare. Good leadership in that company.

> Are you the same type?


I use voice recordings, sketching and drawing a lot to save mental concepts. Voice recording can be a high-density medium and is one of the most effective ways to preserve ideas and concepts - our consciousness has a specialized part for language understanding, after all.

I tried to do voice, but don't want to listen to myself, I find sketching has a higher compression rate. Just saw your HN submissions and huh the coincidence - I listened to half of Hooked (making addictive apps by Nir) and got the physical copy sitting across me right now. And I also want to do the "crazy professor" style work, recently met another of our kin and we have 2 "implementers" with us in our little think thank group. We were thinking of starting a consultancy that does exactly that. I'd love to talk to you sometimes, my email is on my profile!

How did you come across these implementers? I’ve recently been thinking about a concept like this, and how effective I would be to have one, but I’ve never heard the term until you used it.

What does your group do? I’m very into the “crazy professor” work concept. I’d love to talk a little, even if just to see how others like myself are pursuing success in their own way.

In my surroundings - colleagues, friends, people I met at parties. Well, everyone is working on their own project - mostly AI, some random things we'll do in between and uhhh... a computing platform is the best word that fits.

> I find sketching has a higher compression rate

This depends on the level of abstractness of the given concept. I also prefer sketching for concrete ideas.

> I also want to do the "crazy professor" style work

I can relate. Thanks for putting your mail address into your profile, I'm sure there are some interesting topics to discuss.

If I can pick your brain for advice - how on earth does one get into a position of being in a think tank or getting to lead teams if one struggles so much on the levels below? I have a decent-ish work history, still in my twenty’s and a masters in a hard science. I believe I’d do well in these positions but it’s daunting to think of how to get there. Any recommendations?

> I have a decent-ish work history

This is all you need - I think it's a necessity that you've proved to yourself (very important for your self-confidence) and potential business partners that you're able to do some real work (otherwise it could be that you're simply a talker).

The rest is finding the right people who believe in your vision. This is connected with a simple bit of luck, but I would definitely use networking - I did. Go to meetups, tell your friends that you're searching for committed people who want to do stuff and be able to tell the doers from the talkers. Meet with everyone who seems remotely interested in the idea of starting something. Don't get too excited and start a company with someone you don't know. Get to know each other. Continue to meet other people. I've met several interesting people before I've met my business partner.

I've met him through table tennis. He already built something (small one-person company) and therefore I had the confidence that he says what he does. Make sure that you see a provable track record of work before making it official and make sure that you understand your partner on a psychological level - What motivates him? What are his life goals? Why is he a good fit? In which areas do you complement each other? What are your differences in your personalities? How do you resolve conflicts? (essential) Rational or emotional? Narcissistic or other tendencies? (You should know that about yourself, too).

I do personality tests (most people like them, anyways) to identify the core strengths and weaknesses (I have to admit - I also did it for dating in the past). Most of the time the results are pretty accurate. It's not about a specific personality type I prefer (motivation is an important factor, too), but I need to know the weaknesses to accommodate for them (the same applies to me).

I'm in my twenties too without a degree - I just gave a ton where I was asked and where I wasn't but I knew I could make a difference. I always strive to make both active and passive changes to better in my ecosystem (be it my city, work, tech community - by doing where I can and teaching or spreading ideas where I can't. And socialising too!

Wow that really hit close to home. ESP the bit about abstractions. And you’re right - I know a lot about things I rightfully should know very little. It’s led to people around me assuming I’m making things up when in reality I’m just connecting seemingly obvious dots.

Have you been able to make this successful for yourself?

I know man, I feel you., I've spent my whole life trying to get down to people's level so they don't think I'm making stuff up. And you know what? It made it worse. It made me feel fake and closed. It led me to failed friendships and broken hearts.

Some time ago I just decided fuck it. I'm not gonna do it. And my life has been way better - the more I decided to be "me" and less "me disguised as an average person because I don't wanna scare everyone off and end up alone" the happier I was. And now I'm just like "okay whatever you wanna believe". (Unless it's work related, then I lead them to the conclusion by asking questions that will hopefully "connect their dots")

> I just want to do the smart thing at any given second.

I can recommend Brain Rules and if you don’t want to read the book at least watch the videos as they are so funny.

"do the smart thing at any given second" is a routine or ritual. Imagine you belong to a tribe that lives in an island and every time a visitor comes you throw a ritual party. I find it similar, there are random events in the world, and your routine/ritual would be to welcome those events with the smartest action that you can think.

Then make sure to do things with intention.

I truly envy people with routines or rituals. I have tried the simplest ones, and none of them stick. I've been frustrated by this for a long time now. I see people having routines and being more productive and it makes me almost sad.

I think you need to be a special kind of person to have them.

On the contrary, I think it would be very unusual to be a person with no routines. Perhaps you mean specifically 'routines that help with productivity'?

Ah, fair enough. The only real routine I have is "make coffee, kiss wife, watch rerun of the evening news". And that's about it.

So yes, I have no productivity-helping routines.

Some of the ones I tried in a lot of different ways are time management (pomodoro, toggl, ..), activity logging (toggl, todoist, paper book, ..), waking up and going to bed on fixed hours, remembering thinks (google keep, evernote, paper book,..) and all of them fade away after less than 5 days.

The conscious part of the human mind is basically a justification system. It exists to justify actions so that they become socially acceptable through rationalizations (this statement stems from this hypothesis: [1]).

After understanding this it's clear to see that your motivation is simply too low - there's not a reason that is important enough for you. That means you don't really feel the need to change your behaviour. It's a good sign - you are content with yourself and don't fear the social repercussions of your current behaviour to change anything about it - but it also means that you stagnate.

You'll change your behaviour if you have the fear that you could lose social status.

It seems that you try to control your behaviour through rational thinking. But please understand that this is not how the brain operates. It first and foremost wants to be socially accepted while minimizing energy consumption (with bursts of curiosity). If you want to use rational thinking for your behaviour, you have to add a value in your belief system that rational thinking leads to the best decision. This also has to be associated with emotions and you need some memories and stories where rational behaviour was advantageous to back this belief up. Change other parts of your belief system to make it injustifiable to yourself to live with unproductive routines. I have to admit that I'm not sure if this will lead you to happiness/fulfillment (pretty sure it won't if you're currently happy and fulfilled with your current beliefs), but that's how you change behaviour.

[1]: https://unifiedtheoryofpsychology.files.wordpress.com/2011/1...

Maybe you find value in this article about habit-building with some psychological underpinnings: https://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change

This might seem like “just another thing” after all these example, but have you looked into bullet journalling? It can be taken less as a fixed-in-stone method and more as a continual improvement at shaping your rituals.

Also, these rituals should either come to you naturally or be grown into with multiple attempts, so you shouldn't brush everything off at once.

I’m jealous at Churchill’s 5:00pm nap. I’d be much happier and productive if I could decide my working hours.

Time to start a company?

Don't have to get so extreme. I work remotely in a very different timezone from my peers. It has its ups and downs, but one of the ups is that I can have a nap pretty much any time I want (and frequently do). There aren't huge numbers of jobs like this, and it requires a fair amount of practice to do well (in my experience), but it's getting more popular.

For people struggling with forming a productive ritual/routine, you guys should try BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits:


I went through the 5-day program this week and it seems to help a lot.

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