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What Is It about September?

Our primitive ancestors survived on the blistering savannas of Africa by recognizing the importance of rituals and routines. They understood that if they did not sleep when it was dark, they would not have the energy and the strength to hunt down game the next day. The rituals of a midday rest out of the blistering sun were crucial to maintaining energy to gather food.


Individuals who did not recognize the cycles of the season would have a very short lifespan. As the sacred scriptures remind us, there is a time for everything, and we in the twenty-first century need to recognize how important our daily routines are.


Ritual Provides Stability in a World of Chaos


Certain patterns of behavior and subtle rituals provide some order and discipline in worlds of chaos.


  • Some baseball players ritually touch second base when they run in from the outfield.

  • Some will have tics and gestures such as touching the bill of their cap as they enter the batter’s box.

  • Many basketball players when standing on the foul line will dribble the ball so many times.

  • Boxers commonly use religious gestures before the bout.

  • Likewise many jockeys as they saddle up in the paddock before a race will have gestures of profound religious significance.

  • Some surgeons who have trained in the Mayo Clinic tradition commonly glove their left hand first since this was the practice of the Mayo brothers.

But what does this is have to do with you and me?


For most of us, the pace of life is cataclysmic. Our brains were not hard-wired to absorb millions of pieces of data when a text message can circle the world in less than a second. The body of medical knowledge doubles approximately every 73 days. How can we survive in this orbit?


Let us learn from those who seemingly float above the fray, who do not disintegrate, and who seamlessly simply get things done.


Although individual practices may be unique to their profession, we can observe some consistent themes.


  • Put things away. If we can do something in approximately two minutes, we are well advised to do it or the request becomes camouflaged in a tsunami of emails. Empty the dishwasher, fold a load of laundry, take out the garbage, sweep the porch. By all means change the lightbulb that has not functioned in months. And fix the faucet that has been dripping relentless.

  • None of us are immune to the Zeigarnik effect. A psychologist from Eastern Europe made the observation that when you leave a task incomplete, you will acutely remember the unfinished event. This is the similar situation where we become distracted by a song. Until we remember the lyrics and the circumstances of hearing that song, it takes up space in our brain.

Here is a real life example. Several weeks ago I brought our late model car in for routine service. The service manager told me that the measurement of the tread on our tires, which only had 10,000 miles was “6.” Whereas normal would have been “10.” Automobile buffs reading this probably know what this all means. I realize the importance of tires and that low number was nagging at me.


I visited another automotive venue where I knew the “tire guy.” He walked me to our car and had a device where he measured the thickness of the tread and he showed me the readout: 9 for all tires. All of a sudden, a weight lifted, I no longer worried about the safety of my tires, and I congratulated myself on being a responsible person.


Let’s Put Seasonal Rituals into Practice

  • Lay out the essentials the night before. School lunches. Briefcase. Charged phone. Laptop packed. Report reviewed a final time. Phone messages returned. Jackets located.

  • Have a consistent place for incoming mail, especially bills. To be charged an overdue fee simply because you forgot to mail in the check or pay online is a real bummer.

  • When a report is due on a program, a project, or proposal in one month, don’t wait for a deadline. Have the discipline to do the work within 24 hours. If you wait, your life will become even more fragmented.

  • Tackle those thorny nuisance tasks early in the day when your energy and your focus is typically at its highest level.

  • Confirm the date and the time for important commitments. Many of us understand the importance of the vaccination for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and seasonal flu and COVID boosters. Check the time and place and show up.

  • Anticipate. If you open an email, do something with it. If you do not handle each email individually, at some point you will forget and waste precious energy trying to find that email.

  • Visualize how the day will unfold recognizing nothing is perfect. Map out the most efficient way to do consecutive errands.

  • Recognize and accept that we humans simply cannot do two things at once. Multitasking is a myth and it simply does not work. Focus with blistering intensity on that one task in front of you.

The lazy hazy days of summer have come to an end. It is getting dark earlier in the evening. There is a slight chill in the air, and it is time to get serious. Kids are back in school, fall sports especially football are in full swing. And there a somewhat predictable rhythm and rhyme to life.


Bottom line: Autumn is the time for us to get our house in order. This was life and death for our primitive ancestors. Probably not life and death for most of us, but if we do not take care of life’s little tasks, we may be faced with some real challenges. Let us plan to just get it done.



Photo from Wix Media.

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