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Rituals Rule!

Whether you call them habits, rules, or just my thang, rituals help you ease into your day and your work. Over the past year I’ve settled into a routine that helps me get and stay creatively productive throughout my day. It starts with a cuppa while I check the weather, the headlines and plan my schedule. This includes what’s going to happen in the studio, what calls and todo’s I plan to complete, marketing and business activities I need to take care of and what we’ll have for dinner. I scan my email (deleting the deletable, answering the quickies and can’t-waits, and putting the more time-consuming followups in a folder for followup after lunch.)

Then before I head upstairs to shower, dress, move the laundry, and meditate I turn on the music in the studio to something to lure me in like siren when I return downstairs. Once in the studio I may do a little tidying up before I start on warmup sketches to loosen up or an exercise to figure out something I’ve been struggling with. This leads pretty seamlessly into my more serious painting where I’m good to go for a couple of hours.

I will keep painting until I’m hungry for lunch or starved of creative juices at which time I take a break, fix myself something to eat and usually watch something educational or inspirational on youtube. I call it my Lunch And Learn. In the afternoon I turn to the business end and take care of email followups, and my todo list. Then if I don’t have meetings, calls or errands (which I try to schedule in the afternoons to protect my morning creative energies) I may be able to get in another painting block before I call it quits, hang up my apron and head out for an afternoon walk.

The best part about my routine for me is that each activity, eases me into the next and eliminates the need to figure out what to do next. When I get dressed for instance it’s natural to take the laundry basket to the laundry room just down the hall where I swap loads or fold after which I walk right by my meditation spot which makes it easy to flop down for a few mindful minutes before heading back downstairs. This easy flow makes it easy to move naturally from one thing to the next without a lot of thought. Without these glide paths I waste way too much energy figuring out what to do next and by the time I’ve considered all the alternatives and their various priorities, pros and cons I’m dismayed at all the time that has passed which leads to a reconsideration based on more limited time, and flagging energy. It doesn’t take much of this before I’m out of steam.

If any of that sounds familiar, then consider a new year’s resolution of creating more rituals and routines in your day. And for anyone wanting to learn more about how to this happen I couldn’t recommend more highly The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It’s a great book, easy to read or listen to. If there was one book I’d recommend to my teenage friends it would be this - it unlocks a world of productivity!

And for anyone interested in learning some of the wild and whacky habits of famous artists a wonderful book (listen to it while you paint!) is Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. I am not of the opinion that weirdness is necessary to be an artist, but it’s a lot of fun to learn about some of the odder rituals of our creative cousins.

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