Oprah starts her day with a moment of quiet reflection. Filmmaker Brian Koppelman has a ritual of writing and meditation. NFL quarterback Marcus Mariota starts by making his bed.
While methods differ, the science is clear: A brief ritual can prime you for success at work and at home. Research shows that small rituals help us feel more in control, boost our self-discipline, intensify our focus, ignite our motivation, and help us get more done.
At work, rituals can be a key part of developing workplace culture, enhancing collaboration, and easing anxiety, says Nick Hobson, a behavioral scientist at the University of Toronto. They help you focus your attention and create the right mindset for the work ahead—either amping you up for the big sales meeting or calming you before the performance review.
Ready to unleash the power of ritual? Follow these three steps to create your own and enhance your day in a big way.
1. Start With Simple Actions
Rituals have three components, Hobson says. They must be repetitive—performed the same way every time. They must feel meaningful, and they must somehow transcend the everyday.
Perhaps you sit down at your desk, arrange your pens a certain way, and say a short mantra before you start work each day. They don’t have to be complicated to be powerful. The mindful way you perform each step can take you out of the hustle of the morning and signal to your brain and body that you are ready to begin.
Or maybe you create a ritual around your afternoon tea. You prepare the water the same way, give three tugs on the tea bag, add a squeeze of lemon—with a reverence that transcends the regular chore.
The actions you choose may carry little weight on their own, but when performed deliberately together, they give meaning to the moment and turn an unconscious habit or mindless chore into a powerful ritual, Hobson says.
2. Designate a Time
Use rituals daily to hone your focus and ease your nerves at times when you know you’ll need it. Maybe you’ll practice a calming ritual five minutes before you make an important sales call, or an intention-setting ritual just before you start work in the morning or during other transitions in the day. Use one to start your day—many people use a gratitude practice or say a prayer—or to refocus your mindset after lunch, to energize for the afternoon, or try one before bed to end the day on a positive note.
3. Match Your Mood
Neurologically our bodies respond to the intensity of the ritual, so if you want to create a sense of quiet calm before writing a report, for example, it may be useful to regularly perform a deep breathing ritual to get you physically and emotionally in the right mindset. Want to get hyped for the office softball game or workplace meeting? Develop a ritual that will help you get your energy up, like a power pose, personal pep talk, or playing an upbeat song to hype you up.
Rituals can be just about anything, Hobson says. Build them around the things you value and want to support, and you’ll feel a greater sense of control, comfort, and focus.