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The Toothbrush Trick That Could Transform Your Day!

Have you ever noticed how the smallest things can set the tone for your entire day? Take brushing your teeth and showering, for instance. Quick question: Do you brush your teeth before or after you shower? Go ahead, think about it—I’ll wait.

If you’re like most people, you have a set order for these tasks. And if something disrupts that order, well, the rest of your day might feel like you’re walking around with your shirt inside out. That’s because what you thought was just a habit might actually be a ritual. And rituals can have a profound effect on your daily outlook, says Michael Norton, author of The Ritual Effect: From Habit to Ritual, Harness the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions.

The Great Toothbrush Debate: Before or After the Shower?

Let’s get personal for a moment. I always brush my teeth before I shower. It’s a non-negotiable part of my morning routine. One time, I tried switching it up—brushed after the shower. Big mistake. I felt like I had just walked into a parallel universe where socks go on last and cereal is poured before milk (don’t get me started on that debate).

According to Norton, this little quirk of mine is more than just a habit; it’s a ritual. “Sometimes, we use rituals to take very boring things and imbue them with a little more meaning and emotion,” he says. When I brush my teeth before my shower, I’m not just cleaning my teeth; I’m signaling to my brain that it’s time to start the day. Do it the other way around, and I’m basically inviting chaos into my life.

Habits vs. Rituals: What’s the Big Deal?

So, what’s the difference between a habit and a ritual? A habit is what you do—like brushing your teeth. A ritual is how you do it—like always brushing before you shower. Habits are often automatic, while rituals are intentional.

Rituals animate us, enchanting our lives with something more. They’re the emotional catalysts that enhance an ordinary day or make special occasions memorable. They help us get over, get through, and get better at the challenges life presents.

Taking a Ritual Inventory: Discovering Your Secret Sauce

To best leverage rituals as a productivity tool, you’ll first need to take inventory and see where they’re already playing a role in your life. This might be easier said than done because, while everyone has rituals, it can be challenging to recognize your own.

For instance, you might not have realized until now that you prefer to shower and brush your teeth in a particular order. Pay attention to the days when you feel off. Was your routine—aka, ritual—thrown off that day? Another way to uncover your rituals is to ask your partner, kids, or coworkers. Often, the people around you can quickly point out your patterns, such as always sitting in a particular chair or using a favorite mug.

Using Rituals to Boost Productivity: Making Magic Out of the Mundane

Once you identify your current rituals, you can take steps to preserve them. For example, if your ritual is to start each day by checking your email, you can block off and protect time each morning for this task. Honor the emotional significance of these rituals in your routine.

“Rituals help you transition into the mode you want to be in to do what you need to get done,” says Norton. “A ritual is built and repeated over time. When we layer it with meaning, we turn [that morning coffee] from simply pouring liquid into a cup into something much richer.”

Creating New Rituals: Adding a Dash of Magic

Want to leverage the power of rituals even more? Try adopting new ones. Ask yourself, “Where are places where I could use a little more emotion?” “Where would I enjoy a little more meaning or excitement?” Or “Where do I need more calm?” Those are the places to try rituals.

Take, for example, my ritual of starting the day with a cup of coffee in my favorite mug (which, by the way, says ‘World’s Okayest Coach’—talk about setting realistic expectations). This ritual isn’t just about caffeine; it’s a moment of calm before the chaos, a small anchor that keeps me grounded.

Wrapping It Up: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

In the end, rituals are like the secret sauce that can turn an ordinary day into something a bit more special. Whether it’s brushing your teeth before you shower or starting the day with a coffee ritual, these small acts of intention can set the tone for a more mindful and productive day.

So, the next time you feel a bit off, take a moment to think about your rituals. And remember, it’s not just what you do, but how you do it that can make all the difference.

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