Time and Place for Rituals

As some of you know, and many others suspect, I'm a Philosophical Daoist. (Or Taoist, or however you chose to spell that ambiguous t/d sound from Chinese.)

One thing that Taoist are genuinely discouraging of Rituals and Idols and Symbols. And the argument is sound; without knowing the thought that went into their formation, or the logic behind them, blindly following and blindly worshipping leads to disaster.

I am going to argue though that Ritual and Symbols do serve an important purpose in human psychology. Even for the Uber Intellectuals like myself.

Being one of the lucky who fell into a career he loves, in a field that doesn't have many doers, I get to work at home. The great thing about working at home, I'm at home. The sucky thing about working from home, I'm at home. Unless one is careful, it's all to easy to blur the two and either make home uncomfortable or the office at home unproductive.

Now, on days I drive to the office, I have a natural transition from "Home" Sean to "Work" Sean. My commute. When I'm at home though, I've found that I need to invent one. A process that serves no purpose other than to mystically change the same apartment from a place of leisure and retreat to a place of progress and development. And I know it's totally silly. But it's totally necessary.

When I'm working at home, I still get up and shower, and dress the same way I always do if I'm going to the office. I make breakfast. And (here is the silly part), I make a ritual pot of coffee. When the coffee is finished brewing, I put on my badge. When I have my badge on, (actually a keycard...) I'm "working". When I want to go off the clock, I take it off. But that simple little superstitious act, I know, but underneath all of us is a silly and superstitious cave person pretending to be civilized.

Other tips for working at home while I'm thinking of them:

  • Always start your day with a pot of coffee, tea, or glass of whatever it is that gets you through your day
  • Record your hours, even if nobody looks at them. Being "on the clock", for me, helps discourage goofing off
  • Have something you do to go "on the clock" and more importantly, something you do to go OFF the clock. Even if it's just hitting a little stopwatch, or hanging something on the bedroom door.
  • At the end of every day, email your boss with what you did. (Even if you are your own boss ;-) It's not so much he or she is keeping tabs on you. I find it helps me underscore to myself, "these hours were spent, and here is the receipt." Call me silly, but there is something deeply satisfying about earning my keep.

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