The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on January 20, 2011.

I think I’m on to something here, and I can’t wait to see where it will lead. I’m pretty sure it’s taking me toward better health and habits, and an even more productive beginning and peaceful close to each day.

It started with the candle ritual I wrote about in my column last week. After receiving a scented candle as a Christmas gift, I began a tradition of beginning each workday by lighting the candle, making a cup of tea, and sitting at my kitchen table as I organized and prioritized everything I had to do that day.

I heard from several people who were going to start doing the same thing. Several were already “candle people,” even using them as part of their own rituals and preparations for meditations, massages, or other healing practices. Others simply enjoyed the idea of using candles in creating a practice of planning and organizing their days.

I’ve just thought of a way to make the practice even more effective, so I’m going to incorporate a slight change. I’m going to move it to the end of the day and make it the last thing I do at night, instead of the first thing I do in the morning.

The earliest hours of the day are the most productive and creative times for me. So even though my candle ritual is useful and valuable, it takes away from time I could be writing. Also, organizing and prioritizing tasks and obligations doesn’t absolutely require a fresh and focused mind, the kind I have first thing in the morning. It’s a job I can easily do – adequately and effectively – at night, even if I’m tired and my brain and energy are starting to wind down.

Organizing my day on the night before, rather than first thing in the morning, will give me a better and faster start when I have meetings or coaching sessions early in the day. And it should also help me overcome a bad habit of mine, which is staying up later than I should every night. I read fairly often – and always recognize myself when I do – about the fact that most Americans are sleep-deprived, and about all the negative effects this has on us. But even though I often tell myself that I should be getting more sleep than I am, I have a hard time pulling myself away from the computer and getting to bed at a decent hour, and doing so on a consistent basis.

If I make a point of starting my candle ritual each night at a certain time, however, and if I make sure the tea I’m drinking is decaffeinated, it will provide a natural slowdown and wind-down to the day. In addition, it will prepare me for a sound, comfortable sleep to know that I’ve got the next day’s schedule and priorities already worked out and ready to greet me in the morning. As I blow out the candle, it will be like turning the lights out on the day, and I’m sure I will be much less tempted to stay up a little longer or to start anything new.

Since all this just occurred to me this morning, I haven’t tested it yet, so I can’t say for sure how it’s going to work. But I’m confident it will. And if you decide to make this a part of your evening ritual as well, I hope it will give you a sense of peace and of power, of control and of calm. I hope you will find yourself more productive, more fulfilled, and more at ease than ever before. And I hope that the scent of a candle at the end of the day will bring sweet dreams to us all.

© Betty Liedtke, 2011