The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on January 13, 2011.

Sometimes it’s a lightbulb that goes off with a flash of brilliance, giving us an innovative and exciting new idea. For me, it was a candle.

Specifically, it was a scented candle that I got as a Christmas gift. And it’s become part of a new daily practice for me, one that has already put more peace and pleasure into my morning, and more productivity and efficiency into the rest of my day.

It used to be that I would start my workday by sitting down at my computer and getting right down to business, taking care of what was most important to get done first, or what was screaming the loudest. Now, instead, I gather up all the notes, papers, lists, and other materials that relate to whatever it is I’m working on or preparing to start. I spread everything out on my kitchen table, along with a handful of file folders and envelopes, a pen and notepad, and my calendar. Then I make myself a cup of green tea, light my new candle, and sit down to look at everything I’ve got coming up. I organize and prioritize my projects and tasks. I make whatever new notes or reminders I need. And I figure out what is the best time of day to do each of the things I need to do. Only then do I return to my desk – after blowing out the candle – and get to work. I’m more focused, relaxed, and confident, I’m able to get more done in less time, and the entire day is more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Although I always knew the value of organizing and prioritizing, I didn’t always take the time to do it. Often, I didn’t think I had the time, because there were urgent matters I needed to tend to right away, or deadlines that were fast approaching. But now, I’ve turned this chore into a treasured morning ritual, and I actually feel a pang of regret when the organizing is finished and it’s time to blow out the candle.

It is our daily practices that determine whether or not we’ll reach our goals, complete our plans, and achieve our dreams. When our daily practices are enjoyable in and of themselves, we are much more likely to continue doing them. And that’s the fastest path to success, no matter what it is we’re working on or that we hope to accomplish.

Very soon, I’ll be packing up my Christmas candle and putting it away with the rest of our Christmas decorations. Before I do, however, I’ll select another candle to use each morning as I continue my new tradition. It may not be a scented candle, as this one was. But I know that it will still keep me on task as I start each new day. And it will allow me to enjoy – more quickly and more often – the sweet smell of success.

© Betty Liedtke, 2011