We all implement habits, routines, and rituals in our lives.
As discussed in this article, the difference between habits, routines and rituals is the amount of consciousness we put into each respective action.
Our habits allow us to get things done without thinking much. This is true for good habits, but also for bad habits, which makes it so hard to overcome these un-welcomed little actions.
Routines require more energy as the sequence of activities is often more complex than for habits. Nevertheless, the repetition of the tasks result in smooth actions.
Rituals are symbolic and require deliberate intention. They can become a valuable part of our lives even without a religious or spiritual context.
What are the benefits of healthy habits, routines, and rituals?
Habits allow us to achieve tasks without spending much mental energy. They are like Standard Operating Procedures.
We can establish healthy habits, even if they are small such as taking the stairs to the second floor at work. Habits let us reach goals like becoming more active in incremental steps.
Moreover, habits can have a compounding effect like the habit of putting loose change in a cookie jar. As one habit can build on a previous one, we might decide to skip the coffee from the coffee shop once a week and add the amount, which is now more than loose change, to our savings.
Routines provide a reliable order to go by. Therefore, we can consciously plan a set of actions to optimize for time or outcome. Most people have a morning routine to get out the door on time or a bedtime routine that helps them unwind. You can design (and of course, tweak) a procedure for your art practice that keeps you grounded and takes advantage of your most energetic phases of your day.
While habits and routines minimize hiccups during the day by providing structure and a feeling of control, we don’t want to succumb to boredom. That’s where rituals come into play.
Rituals are like ceremonies, consisting of a predefined order of actions. They are conducted with intention and focus. Although the actions of the ritual are symbolic in nature and therefore, are independent of the action we need take to complete a project, rituals allow us to re-energize and perform our tasks with continued attention. Rituals ground us, provide us with a sense of purpose, or even endow courage and confidence.
Over time, I included habits, routines, and rituals in my art practice.
As the topics of my art revolve a lot around positive mindset, I try to bring awareness and intention into my studio.
Therefore, I start my workday with a ritual:
First, I brew myself a fresh cup of coffee. Now, what makes this cup of coffee different from the one I have for breakfast? Making breakfast is a routine, going through a set of motions to bring all the components we eat and drink together. However, the coffee for the studio is made with intention: I pause to inhale the wonderful smell of the coffee as it fills the studio; I feel the warmth of the hot beverage as I hold the cup in my hands and enjoy the taste of the first sip.
What does coffee have to do with my studio practice? By itself, nothing. But it is the mindfulness which turns brewing the beverage into a ceremony and thereby, marks it as the start of my workday.
After quickly reviewing my task list and appointment calendar for the day, I connect with the artwork in progress. Depending on its stage, the art might be still a pile of fabrics, or strips of fabrics might be pinned to the design wall. Or the piece is laying under the sewing machine ready for more stitching.
No matter the stage of the work, I connect with it by bringing the message I want to convey with the art back into focus. What do I want to express with this piece? Which emotions do I want to evoke? What response do I hope to achieve from the viewer?
This connection resembles a brief meditation, a communication with the piece at its current state. Bringing my vision for the piece into my mind again allows me to move forward with more clarity.
Of course, habits and routines are also part of my daily art practice.
For instance, closing the rotary cutter after every single use to avoid injuries (although I’m the only one using it) has become a habit. I do this without thinking.
My end-of-workday routine includes cleaning the sewing machine and tidying up the cutting table, so the space is inviting the next morning when I return to the studio.
These are just a couple of examples out of many.
My habits, routines, and rituals are aligned with my personality as I thrive on order and structure, but also support the changing energy levels throughout my day. The more I implemented them, the more comfortable and confident I felt with the tasks.
My habits, routines, and rituals help me stay organized, productive, and focused in my art practice.
Have you ever thought about the habits, routines, or rituals in your art practice?
– Do you have the habit of folding every fabric after cutting the pieces for a quilt? Or rolling up the tail of a thread back onto its spool? Putting the scissors or your glasses back at a particular spot?
– Is putting an apron on before you start painting a habit or a ritual for you?
– Is cleaning your brushes at the end of your painting session part of a routine or is it a ritual?
– Do you light a candle as part of a ritual when you sit down to write or journal?
– Is looking at the happy mess on your work surface before you leave your studio a ritual because you pause and reflect on the progress you made today?
Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) your habits, routines, and rituals in your art practice and how they help you. I’m curious!
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PPS: If you like to read more about habits, routines, and rituals, here are a few articles and book recommendations:
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
- And of course, the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R Covey.
- Routines and their benefits
- The Surprising Power of Daily Rituals
- Why Rituals Work
Plus, if you want to form a new habit, I recommend the free 5-day challenge by Dr. BJ Fogg, a researcher and professor at Stanford University.