It’s curious that a whole book was devoted to the daily rituals artists use to get to work — the wonderful Daily Rituals; How Artists Work — yet in business, and other parts of our lives, the practice is virtually taboo. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Peter Bregman advocates the use of rituals in business settings to foster productivity, even as he says, “It’s easy to get started with this: no one needs to know.”  That is, hide them, do them on the sly.  It’s considered normal for artists to devise personal rituals, yet unorthodox in a business setting. I’m hoping his great description of what rituals are really about helps to demystify them.

Rituals are about paying attention. They’re about stopping for a moment and noticing what you’re about to do, what you’ve just done, or both. They’re about making the most of a particular moment.

Looking around my desk, I realize that some of the objects and images I keep there catalyze a sort of ritual. Every morning before beginning work, I stop for a moment to look at the amazing photograph of Lucio Fontana forthrightly approaching a blank canvas, taken by Ugo Mulas.  I But I work at home, not in a business setting.

Ugo Mulas
Ugo Mulas

Bregman lists many ways we can add beneficial ritual and intention to our workday.  All of them involve offering respect for an activity. All of them can be done privately, as they are really more about pausing and reflection, a kind of mental framing of whatever we are about to do.

Start with just yourself. Sit at your desk in the morning, pause before booting up your computer, and mark the moment. Do this by taking a deep breath. Whatever it is, do it with the intention of creating respect for what you’re about to begin.

Do the same before you make a phone call. Or receive one. Or before you meet with a colleague or customer.

Each time we pause, notice, and offer respect for an activity, it reminds us to appreciate and focus on what we’re about to do. And by elevating each activity, we’ll take it more seriously. We’ll get more pleasure from it. The people with whom we work will feel more respected. And we’ll feel more self-respect...

Imagine if we started each meeting with a recognition of the power of bringing a group of people together to collaborate and an intention to dedicate ourselves, without distraction, to achieving the goals of the meeting.

Imagine….If at the beginning of the day we paused to honor the work we are about to do and the people with whom we are about to do it?

I’ve been practicing Bregman’s brand of quiet mindful pause-as-ritual and find it really does change the quality of the day.

Each time we pause, notice, and offer respect for an activity, it reminds us to appreciate and focus on what we’re about to do.

Almost as good as air baths, taking a typewriter outdoors to write, and writing naked we learned about in Daily Rituals; How Artists Work. Check out post about it here



With thanks to Cara De Silva, Susan Dworski and David Saltman

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