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Routine vs Ritual – What will boost your effectiveness?

Routine vs Ritual

I had an interesting conversation with one of my coaching groups recently. How do you start your day? Asked one of the participants to the rest of the group. A mixed bag reply was shared, and everything from I get organised the night before to wake up and shuffle along to get up an hour early to do my morning ritual. As their coach, I was interested in what was going on behind the varying answers, and it got me thinking about how different we all are in our ways of approaching the day ahead. I wanted to explore this more through the lens of leadership effectiveness…


If we were to approach leadership effectiveness through the lens of Ritual vs Routine, what would move you forward? Is there a difference for YOU?


Most of us have been told at some stage that if we want to get ahead in our career, we should create a structure, have a plan, identify a focal point to our working day, week, month, year. We’re told that these actions will help us stay on track towards achieving our goals. To be disciplined by following a routine to make sure we are one step ahead and know what’s coming next. Organised.


And what’s interesting is when you look at the science, there is a lot of evidence that tells us that our brains are overloaded with decisions to make without a routine. In fact, our brains are so overloaded with decisions to make that the sheer volume of decisions in any one day well exceeds our capacity – Every single aspect of our day requires us to make a decision. It’s referenced that we make up to 35,000 decisions a day. That’s a staggering amount of thinking over a 24 hrs period.


Going back to my coaching group, it strikes me that the participant getting organised the night before is ahead of the game. Wake up, follow a routine, fewer decisions to make, freeing u space to think through bigger ticket challenges. Then there are the decisions like breakfast, gym, dog walk, what’s for dinner – we can be thankful that autopilot kicks in, allowing us to just go through the motions.


Did you know that decision making is an activity that actually uses up our energy? The more complex decisions can overrun our cognitive powers – which is why many of us are left feeling frazzled by the end of the day.


Neurological studies also suggest that our decision-making tank gets empty after 75 decisions. Therefore, it’s pretty clear that our decision-making needs are off-balance on an average day and take a toll on our well-being.




Whilst a routine is going to help, the numbers speak for themselves.

  • Leaders’ decision-making tanks are empty,

  • decision making is using up energy

  • the more complex decisions are impacting wellbeing.


How can leaders boost their effectiveness?



Did you know that we feel before we think? Many scientists claim that it’s our emotions, our senses that fuel how we feel about a situation, which impacts our thoughts and drives our decisions. If we combine this-



– rhythm with being an effective leader, could the secret to being effective be in connecting with feelings? If we connect with how we feel, we are in the driver’s seat. We are tapping into our energy channels and steering the direction of our thoughts that impact the decisions that lie ahead. Better still, learning self-command techniques that connect us with controlling our mental fitness means we have the internal power to boost our energy positively.


When I asked the member of my coaching group who practised a morning ritual to explain the impact on her, she used words like invigorated, balanced, creative. It spoke to being on the front foot for how she was feeling. It set her up for the day…


  • Could it be that Routine vs Ritual is like Left brain vs Right brain? – Analytic vs Futuristic?

  • Could it be that a routine adds to the autopilot spiral, brain fog, that stunts leader’s ability to be agile, creating freeze instead of flow?

  • Could it be that a ritual is a secret to boosting our mental fitness to increase our energy levels and therefore our capability to tackle decision?

As I assess and coach leaders through transitions, the leaders that stay ahead do so with stamina. They have created ways of working that protect their energy, protect their stress and protect their wellbeing. They are present, focused on today with an eye ahead of the game, creating what’s next. They don’t freeze in the fog.


It’s clear to me that these effective leaders are tapping into a level of mental fitness that reduces autopilot and into a space where they can override logic and thrive in ambiguous contexts is the key.



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Leadership Effectiveness is the rock of every business. NewlandRock increases leadership effectiveness for talent-savvy companies and individuals going through a transition.

Focused on Assessment | Executive Coaching | Wellbeing Solutions – Internationally