The Power of Rituals and Task Automation

This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 5: Eliminatingsubscribe and buy here

One amazing benefit of the Eliminating habit is its ability to save us from the decision-making process. Disorganized people often wonder, how do you manage to tackle so many things at once? The usual question is: What do I need to do in order to get to where you are? My answer simple: work hard to build rituals and automate your tasks.

Cut decisions out of the picture for mundane tasks and you’ll save a lot of mental energy for the important things. The mental energy savings are actually more important than any time you’ll save by doing this. This means creating certain habits that will save you from unnecessary thinking, habits that will push you through the day without spending energy unnecessarily. We all do this to a certain extent; We don’t think about brushing our teeth, we just do it. In this “autopilot” mode we’ll often think about something else, planning the next action, as our brain is liberated from needing to focus on the task at hand.

 

To understand the ease of doing tasks on autopilot you only have to look at the marketers.  They love it when you cut out the decision-making. When you grab a coffee at Starbucks without even thinking about it,  that’s the power of their marketing. When you make these tiny decisions on autopilot, they benefit greatly, as they don’t need to work to resell you their goods and services. They work tirelessly to get to the point where you start making your purchasing decisions on autopilot.

Imagine then if you took a conscious decision to put more than just the mundane and ordinary tasks into autopilot; To automate and ritualize those tasks that revolve around your goals and productivity, leaving out the decision-making process entirely. Imagine no longer needing to ask yourself am I going to the gym today? Instead, you put that decision on autopilot and when it’s time to work out, you just go.

Imagine putting one of your long-term life goals on auto-pilot; Instead of putting yourself in a position where you need to decide, you have already predetermined that you will complete that task. No willpower is required; You are acting on impulse alone.

How do you make time for big and important tasks? By applying Routines and rituals to mundane and every day tasks.  These are the processes that help you eliminate decision-making for the things you would be doing anyway.

Removing Decisions From the Morning Ritual

Your morning ritual should be something that you’ve designed once and applied over and over again. This ritual saves you time, prepares your mind for the day and moves you towards a productive day. I’ve made some decisions about my morning ritual that came through tweaking and figuring out how to implement triggers that will feel good and push me to accomplish my morning ritual easily.

The moment I wake up, landing on my feet and immediately getting into the groove is definitively not my style. Throughout my whole life, I’ve taken 20-30 minutes to wake up; this pattern has marked my morning ritual for as long as I can remember. Instead of trying to make a drastic change to my wake-up routine, I’ve decided to work with it and add a dose of health too. So the moment I realize that I am awake, I start stretching slowly in bed. This gives me the benefit of low volume physical activity in the early morning hours that progressively intensifies.

After that, I anchored my compulsion for sweets with vitamin chewing gummies that taste amazing. I’ve positioned them strategically in front of the bathroom mirror, right next to the toothpaste. As I chew them, that signifies that it’s time to move on to the next phase of my morning routine: brushing my teeth. This proceeds to more physical activity, preparation of breakfast and other things that benefit me for the whole day. By the time this automatic process is finished, I am feeling fully energized for the day, confident that I can tackle all the actions I’ve planned out (usually the night before).

How to Remove Decisions From Your Wardrobe Choice

Your wardrobe needs to be classy and simple. You don’t want to be spending time in the morning deciding what to wear that day. Mark Zuckerberg is famous for this, as he always wears the same clothes day in, day out. Now the majority of us, myself included, will avoid wearing the same clothes every single day; However, if we simplify the choice down to 3-4 clothing variations we can maintain variety and never face the problem of wasting the precious mental energy deciding what to wear next. Over the weekend I prepare the clothes for the upcoming working week, and from there I just pick the set and get dressed. This moved the decision-making process to the time when I more relaxed, enabling me to ease up in the moments where I am time deprived. As a consequence I can fully enjoy my breakfast, instead of swallowing it and eating in the rush.

Another example is me buying multiple pairs of same black socks. Black goes with all of my clothing and I never have to think about matching that part of my wardrobe with the color of the socks. Obviously, this might not be the smartest fashion choice, but I tend to keep myself representable, and my main focus isn’t fashion, but practicality instead. Your mileage may vary, but you will get ideas for your use-case.

Cutting the decision-making process out of your nutrition

Deciding what to eat is one of the big failing points of people who are dieting and trying to keep to a nutrition regimen. We all know that our willpower can go through peaks and troughs, and is dependent on our hormone levels and mood swings; We can think ahead and prepare ourselves for these types of scenarios.

One of the “hard-core” decisions I made in my life was to simplify my diet to the level of utmost boring predictability. I prepare the same meals, eat them at the same time, and I never have to think about what am I going to eat today? That choice is preset, and the only thing I think about is when I will eat. I eat organic chicken, organic rice, and vegetables. This diet gives me the majority of the nutrients that my body needs. Once a week I join my co-workers for a lunch break and I eat whatever they are eating for the sake of variety and socialization.

Decision-making process is centralized at the moment when we are actually shopping. And by deciding beforehand, we are making healthier and smarter choices, instead of buying groceries based on the emotion of the moment and hunger.

How I’ve Cut the Decision-Making Process in Shaving

There are certain products that you buy over and over again. Like most men, I shave every day and make myself presentable. When I make a decision on the razors that I am using, I stick to it. I don’t go and try lots of different razors out, because I don’t like surprises. I go and get the same ones over and over and over again. Predictability is a very important feature of my decision-making process. Being a fan of a good shave, I’ve decided to subscribe to the Dollar Shave Club, where they send high-quality razors to my home address. I know that I enjoy the quality of their razors and I never think about buying them in store.

Applying the Same Theory to Your Bills and Receipts

The same goes for my bills: I don’t want to spend time deciding whether I am going to pay my bills or not because that takes time and energy from my life. I want to see this reflected in my banking statements or Mint calculations. I decided beforehand that I want to pay all those, so 7 days prior to “swiping” my card for paying the bill, I get an email reminder that the payment is due. I am well prepared for it and consciously aware, but no action is required on my end.

Ritualize and Automate to Create Space for the Big Decisions

A big portion of my life is automated, and it makes me feel very liberated. When I made the move to the USA I had to think about every single element of my daily life: electricity bill, internet, mobile phone bill, gym membership, gas, rent… Every little thought process that got removed accumulated every day as a compound interest that paid dividends in liberated brain and time, enabling me to focus on the things that are truly important.