Don’t Break the Chain: Spiritual Disciplines

by | Jun 22, 2023

I learned about the Don’t Break the Chain method of productivity in 2012 and it has weaved itself in and out of my bullet journals, trackers, and planners ever since. Simply put, it’s creating a chain of X’s in a row for every day you complete something. Physically marking off that you completed a habit gives you a jolt of dopamine, a sense of accomplishment, and seeing the chain grow encourages the sustenance of the habit.

But I’d like to start off by emphasizing that I can be a frequent breaker of the chain and having a perfect chain should never be the goal. Viewing breaking the chain as full failure is a surefire way to get you completely off track and discouraged. That’s how I felt the first few times I tried this habit method but after a few rounds of breaking and then starting up again, I began concentrating on the positive effects of doing habits even half the time. Some habits will stick quickly while others can take months or years: it can take 18 to 264 days for a habit to form, with 66 days being the average.

43% of your daily actions are enacted habitually. That’s a lot of cues and reactions we’re performing every single day. Automatically putting your seatbelt on when you get in the car is a habit. Brushing your teeth before you go to bed is a habit. I don’t think of these simple actions as habits, but more as absolute things I need to do to thrive and effectively go throughout my day. When you think of the productiveness of habit stacking – like grabbing the mail at the end of your evening walk with your dog – consider how simple it would be to add more worship throughout your day.

A liturgy is the set script for a worship service but on a more personal scale, it’s a set of rituals you use to shape your heart. Creating a daily liturgy is a tool I gained while going through and reflecting on the Workmatters Institute the last few months. Succinctly, it’s choosing something you already do and adding on a practice that helps you abide in Christ.

Start small: for your first liturgy it can be as simple as saying a prayer of thanks as you get in your car every morning for work. Or maybe it’s creating a playlist of worship music and listening to it during your warm up at the gym.

Tracking when you perform your liturgies will act as a reminder as you get used to a new habit as well as help you realize why some of them may not be sticking. Just because you want to form a new habit doesn’t mean it will come easy and it doesn’t mean that specific habit will be able to be kept or always be practical to perform.

Seven days into June I was busy during my regular walking time and I forgot about it until it was too dark and late for me to go on a walk. And so I broke the chain. It then rained the next day and I realized that I needed to add in something to replace that liturgy on the days when, practically, I could not perform it. So I decided that if it rained or I otherwise could not walk for any reason that I would replace it with yoga or stretching so I could give myself a similar space to pray, reflect, and breathe – the reason I wanted to add walking as a liturgy in the first place.

Here are a few ways to help you successfully add liturgies into your day:

  1. Consider and write down the reward of a chosen liturgy when you begin. If you’re choosing to pray for your coworkers before every meeting, think about how that will improve your relationship and increase empathy for them and how that can positively impact the excellence of your work and success of your organization.
  2. When first beginning a liturgy, you can use tools like phone reminders. If your liturgy is praying when you sit down at your desk when you start work, you can set a reminder of your practice on your phone for a minute before you normally enter your office.
  3. Sticky notes are also a great way to remind yourself of a new habit. If your liturgy is listening to podcasts or sermons when you drive instead of the radio, a sticky note on the screen in your car can help remind you.

Interweaving praise and gratitude with your daily habits and natural cues is an incredibly effective way to bring God deeper into your heart and allow him to be more present as you go throughout your day. It creates avenues to better reactions when you feel frustrated and can bring light and peace to you starting as early as the second you step out of bed. It’s a way to work toward rejoicing always (Philippians 4:4), praising continually (Hebrews 13:15), and doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, and giving thanks to God (Colossians 3:17).

If you’re seeking more tools like the Daily Liturgy, and more ways to learn how to integrate your faith and work, we have upcoming cohorts of the Workmatters Institute starting this fall for young professionals and senior leaders!

Photo of Sarah Wolters

Sarah Wolters

Sarah joined the Workmatters team in September of 2022 as the marketing manager. She was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri and moved to Northwest Arkansas, after graduating from Harding University and spending a year abroad in New Zealand, to stay in the beautiful Ozark mountains.