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Tip 5: Design a shut down ritual
Let's inject some magic into your writing day with ritual, inspiration from Cal Newport to bookend your day, leave work at your desk and reduce stress.
I don’t know about you but I’m always intrigued to hear about other people’s writing quirks – especially when the person you’re hearing about appears, at least on the surface, to be pretty much quirk-free.
Cal Newport is a computer scientist, ‘digital minimalist’ and the best-selling author of Deep Work. He’s a productivity powerhouse and seems fairly strait laced but in 2009, he wrote about a ritual he uses to close down his workday - and it involves using what he calls a ‘magic phrase’.
He utters the magic phrase to prevent him dwelling on work worries in his downtime - it seems to work a treat. It also made him a lot more relatable and helped me design a shut down ritual of my own. More on this below but first back to Newport.
Closedown and complete
Once Newport is happy that the day’s work tasks are as complete as they can be, he closes down his computer saying out loud his ‘termination phrase’ which is:
Schedule, shutdown, complete.
Something he says he’s slightly embarrassed to reveal.
Next, he has a rule. Once he’s said the magic phrase, if a work-worry pops into his head he answers it with this thought:
1. I said the termination phrase.
2. I wouldn’t have said this phrase if I hadn’t checked over all of my tasks, my calendar, and my weekly plan and decided that everything was captured and I was on top of everything.
3. Therefore, there is no need to worry.
Designing your own shut down ritual
I write about Newport’s shut down ritual not to suggest you should adopt the same one as him, but rather to show you how useful they can be to bookend your working day or writing session. If you read our tip a few weeks ago about the cliff-hanger effect - known in psychology as the Ziegarnik Effect - you’ll know that our minds hate open loops. Having a shut down ritual is like a mental full stop to remind you that you’ve done what you can do today - it reduces stress and rumination. In short, it closes that worrisome loop.
So, what kind of shut down ritual would suit you?
How you shut down your day will be personal to you but it should have a certain physicality to it - not just something you think. Make it something you do or say. For example, my ritual is to identify and write down three good things about my day (I’ll share this as another tip soon).
Other ideas could be:
🕯️ Light a candle
💬 Like Newport, have a mantra
🎶 Turn on/off some music
☕ Eat or drink something
📝 Write something down
🙌 Make a movement or gesture of some kind
Good luck designing your shut down ritual, please share this post if you found it useful and let us know what rituals you already have - the quirkier the better!
Keep writing, Bec & Chris
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