Pallavi Pinakin demonstrates how symbolic activities can boost productivity

Despite our occasional love of spontaneity and chaos, we humans are ultimately creatures of habit. And when it comes to everyday life, be it workplace productivity or personal growth, rituals are our best friend.

So what is a ritual?

Think of it as a set of fixed actions that are performed regularly or the creation of a sacred space and time in your routine. By transforming a task into a ritual, you make it easier to include it in your routine. Even simple activities like sorting the day’s emails or tucking into a midday snack tend to slip through the cracks unless they have a place in our schedules.

There is another crucial aspect to the power of rituals – they can function as good luck charms that help people achieve their dreams. Not only do symbolic actions boost confidence and minimise anxiety, they also put you in a frame of mind to achieve your goals.

Cherished talismans go hand in hand with many success stories. Steve Jobs wore the same outfit to work every day. Stephen King writes 2,000 words every morning – even on his birthday! Serena Williams ties her shoelaces in a special knot and bounces the ball five times before her first serve.

Even institutions are not impervious to the lure of rituals – think about the mascots and anthems that define sports clubs around the world, or startups with their victory dances and unique high-fives.

Finally, simple daily rituals can play a key role in your long-term growth and progress. They help create momentum over weeks and months, until you’re able to fully commit to your goal and move forward at full steam.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started.

SMART RITUALS By punctuating your day with thoughtful rituals, you can improve your concentration and send your productivity skyrocketing.

For instance, ensure that your peak performance periods are protected.

Whether you work best in the morning or evening, reserve these precious hours for important and demanding work instead of getting caught up in the minutiae of low priority tasks. In order to do this, strictly relegate mundane tasks like emails or data entry to slump periods.

In addition, build ritualised breaks into your day. By taking regular breathers, you enhance the quality of your work. So go ahead, make your 5 o’clock stroll or that chat with your favourite colleague a regular activity.

PRE-GAME ROUTINE Research suggests that pre-performance rituals have a tangible impact on output, be it athletics or music. Performing a symbolic action has multiple benefits: it calms the nerves, reduces anxiety, inspires and puts you in the right frame of mind to do your best.

The logical part of your brain realises that the ritual has little to do with success or failure but the true believer in you benefits from an added boost of confidence.

Creating a pre-performance ritual is a personal process. Strive for authenticity and don’t impose random rules on yourself; rather, draw on previous successes to come up with meaningful talismans.

For example, did you wear a blue outfit for the last few meetings in which your proposals won the day? Perhaps blue could be your lucky colour for crucial meetings. Or did you have a vanilla latte on both the days that you aced client negotiations? Maybe you deserve a power cuppa before future negotiations.

GROUP SYNERGY Pre-performance routines can also bring groups of people together. Leaders can draw on the strength of rituals to benefit the entire team, be it rallying around a common mascot or inventing distinctive actions for important moments such as chanting a slogan or patting a beloved statue.

Rituals that are imposed arbitrarily appear cheesy and pointless. So to get the team’s cooperation, involve them in the decision-making process.

JUST ONE PERCENT For serial procrastinators, this ritual can be a game changer. When it comes to ambitious plans and resolutions, we often make the mistake of starting with a big bang and then fading away in next to no time.

In other words, we go from a resting start to running full speed within seconds; no wonder we can’t sustain the pace for very long!

The one percent ritual is about dedicating just one percent of every single day – a sacred 15 minute window to your most cherished goal.

If you want to become the savviest marketing professional around, spend this time studying new trends and tools. If you want to increase your influence in the industry, focus on networking emails and phone calls. If you want to snag a spot at the new company office in France, practise your French grammar.

By fully utilising a mere 15 minutes of your day, you can create valuable momentum and reap the rich rewards of incremental progress.