Create a weekly ritual to anchor your willpower and preserve your sanity

Working at a small startup can get pretty crazy. Awesome, but crazy. It’s way too easy to get pulled in a thousand different directions and end up feeling totally scattered and drained. Some would say that’s doing a startup right, but it can get downright exhausting. I felt this way recently, and I stumbled on a somewhat counterintuitive way to balance things out. I gave myself more to do. Specifically, I gave myself exactly one more thing to do. I created a weekly work ritual for myself. I started writing a “this week in productivity” blog post to add some extra content to the weekly email reports we send out to our users.

I wasn’t really trying to form a new habit, but that’s what happened, and it had some really great side-effects. Now it’s baked into my weekly routine and I wouldn’t want to give it up.

Calling it a “writing project” would be extremely generous. It’s little more than a collection of links to things that I’ve noticed throughout the week that relate to productivity. It’s blogging at it’s lowest common denominator. But it was still a challenge for me. When it comes to writing, blogging, emails, or any other meaningful typed communication I’m a complete train wreck. I fret over my word choices for hours. I over-use adjectives. I take five hundred words to say something that could just as easily be expressed in twenty. (see I’m doing it now!) Given my hectic schedule, taking some time to do something, every week, no matter what, was also a challenge.

But, once I started, some cool stuff started happening. I got a chance to step back from the chaos of my work, shut everything else off,  and focus on just one thing for a while. Having a chance to get creative with it made me quickly start feeling more comfortable with writing. From a pure entertainment perspective, it gave me a chance to catch up on a bunch of blogs and websites I didn’t have time for throughout the week. And there’s just something that feels empowering about having “my thing” to do every week.

I think everyone should find their “me time” activity at work. That one little ritual that lets you retreat from the whirlwind and do something for yourself, but in a way that actually makes sense to do at work. It doesn’t need to be anything spectacular or anything, just something that makes sense for you.

It should be personal: Don’t just take on something new just because it needs to get done anyway. Give some thought to it, and find a project that you’re going to find some personal value in.

It should be sustainable: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you take on too much, you’ll overload yourself and end up feeling worse.

You should take some time to reflect on it: Forming a new habit is an accomplishment. Make sure you step back and look at your progress every now and then, so you can see how it’s impacting you.


2 Comments on “Create a weekly ritual to anchor your willpower and preserve your sanity”

  1. Kulutus Luotto Korko 2010 says:

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but
    I find this matter to be actually something which I think I
    would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    • Robby Macdonell says:

      Actually, it’s not that easy, and I hope I didn’t come off as trivializing it. Every situation is going to be different. It can take some creativity to figure out an activity that will be gratifying to you personally, and also beneficial to your company (otherwise it can be hard to justify it to managers). For example, at a previous job where I was in a software development position, I made it a point to take some time every week and write unit tests for parts of our software that didn’t have them yet. It gave me a much better understanding of our code, and it made our application more stable and easier to develop on. I ended up getting a lot out of it, felt more ownership in my work, and nobody was going to complain about me taking an hour or so every week to do something that also benefited the company as a whole.