Ten Minute Strategy, Ten Hours of Focus

Blank Canvas • Issue 002

A Recipe for Mini Rituals

Getting things done sometimes feels like a battle against the self. Let’s be real, it feels like that most of the time.

There’s hundreds of things you can do to figure out what you have to do, but, at some point, you just have to sit down and do the thing. And sometimes, no matter the amount of mental juggling you have done to get there, you just can’t do the thing. Because… it’s hard. That’s the hard part.

At the risk of adding yet one more thing to your “list of things to do before doing the thing,” I wanted to share with you a strategy that has been really helpful in getting me to actually get the work done: Mini Rituals.

As I was staring at my screen with no mental power or motivation for the gazillionth time I decided I needed a break. My brain needed a reset, a clean slate for me to step into with renewed sense of possibility, focus and clarity. So I implemented a little ritual. At first I didn’t see a huge change. But, after only a week of repeating it, getting started with work became almost natural, almost…easy. It turns out all my brain needed to know was: where am I and what are we doing here?

What Are Mini Rituals?

Unlike routines, which span across an entire week, days or laundry list of habits; rituals are tiny pockets of time in which you do a set of simple activities for the purpose of shifting into a new headspace.

For example, making a cup of coffee and walking into your office, changing into comfy clothes when you get home from work (my husband’s non-negotiable ritual), or dimming the lights and brushing your teeth right before you get into bed.

It’s these little actions you do—almost automatically—that have a profound effect on your mood, motivation and direction. As Cal Newport put it in his book Slow Productivity:

“Their power is found not in the specifics of their activities but in the transformative effect these activities have on the mind.”

Your brain is constantly looking for clues from the environment and patterns to decide how alert it should be. Once you do things repeatedly, your brain knows what to expect. These rituals give your brain the context it needs to calm the nervous system and continue with the activity that you do right after that specific ritual (relax, sleep, focus, etc).

Implementing a small ritual that you do every time before you sit down to do some intense bout of focused work will help your brain switch into that context a lot faster. Because I’m a huge nerd, I came up with a little recipe for you to create your own rituals. The order doesn’t really matter, as long as you have one of each category.

The Recipe

Get In Motion: Move your body. And, no of course I don’t mean working out or doing jumping jacks. Just physically moving your body in some way, like making a cup of coffee, changing your clothes, washing your face, picking up the clutter, or walking somewhere, anything that involves movement.

Hit Reset: Add something that feels like an on and off switch to your brain. My personal favorites are using a shortcut to close all the apps and open the one I need, switching the focus mode on my phone, or setting a timer. Any activity that signals to your brain it’s time to start.

Tailor Your Environment: If you can pair a specific activity with a specific location. Most of us can’t do that, so you can just do a little something to set your environment: turn on specific lights, light a candle/diffuser, clean your desk, switch locations within your home/office, put on your headphones with a specific focus playlist. Something to signal to your brain in this environment you do this task.

Who knew it didn’t have to be so hard? We forget, sometimes, to stop fighting our nature and just embrace the way our brain works. We forget that it’s beautifully and perfectly designed. I believe, however, that you can always turn your life around. Any week, any day, any minute is a blank canvas. Let’s paint your next masterpiece.



Current Favorites

📖 Current Read I'm Loving

Cal Newport's Slow Productivity. There is so much practical advice here but I specially love ho he's intertwined it with anecdotes.

🎧 Focus Playlist I Have on Repeat

An instrumental playlist that get's me right into the zone. Love it, can't stop playing it.

🖍️ My New Favorite Colored Pens

I needed some colored gel pens for my collection and these are so awesome. Highly recommend if you like smooth, thick ink.


video preview

How to Build a Second Brain (For Normal People)

I finally figured out a simple second brain framework that I’ve been able to stick to and that I genuinely love. Had to share! You can use this to build your own second brain in whatever platform you like.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoyed this week's newsletter! As always, happy to hear your thoughts on the topic - all you gotta do is reply! ☺

Until next time,

Andrea ♡

Youtube | Past Issues | Website | 1:1

Forwarded this email? Subscribe here.
113 Cherry St #92768, Seattle, WA 98104-2205
Unsubscribe · Preferences

Blank Canvas

Blank Canvas is the Sunday newsletter in which I share my thoughts on whatever I am learning about at the moment - from productivity and self development to the meaning of life. Always followed, of course, by actionable advice and my favorite tools to make your life easier.

Read more from Blank Canvas

Blank Canvas • Issue 003 The Optimization Trap I recently learned (and finally adopted) one of the most freeing mindsets I’ve ever come across: you don’t have to optimize everything. Discovering the world of self-help has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I was young and eager to create a “great” life for myself, so I jumped in with everything I had. If there was anything to know about sleep, routines, productivity, planning, goals, mindset, health, exercise, etc.. I...

Blank Canvas Issue 001 • March 24, 2024 A Little Bit Shy of Ready “There is no better time than the present.” How many times have you heard that? And how many of those times did you roll your eyes just like you did now? I get it, it’s annoying. Partly because it sounds like something your mother would say; mostly because it’s true. I have been thinking about starting this newsletter for years. And, if you rolled your eyes, there is likely something you’ve been thinking about starting too. A...