Rituals and traditions during shelter in place

SWAN of the Week, Number 147
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“Rituals are not fixed–they are constructed and reconstructed over time, to fit people’s needs.”

-GLEB TSIPURSKY, “Celebrations, Rituals, and Constructing Meaning in Life”

I was interviewed by my local newspaper about those tips I wrote for being on camera all day.

And it was a FRONT PAGE STORY. So embarrassing. 

What you can’t tell from the picture is that this is a tiny corner of my bedroom. We shoved the bed over, and I’ve carved out a little nook that you can’t tell from the camera is just a child’s desk in a corner of a 135 year-old house. It’s all a facade!

What I tried to stress in the interview was how fortunate I am to get the chance to work from home right now. Compared to a lot of folks, those of us who can work from home — and are only inconvenienced by wifi signal, crying kids, or barking dogs — really have it pretty well off.

So although being on camera all day can feel stressful, it’s important to remember the context of the situation. Working from home and having income that doesn’t involve being out of the house is a gift in this time. 

I’m not an expert at this whatsoever. I’m just trying to hack the given variables and bide time until we can get back into the office. New process and dedicated space has helped immensely.


🎶 On the music front, this week I have been LOVING the album 100% YES by Melt Yourself Down (stream here!). MYD is a UK act who incorporate elements of North African musical styles, punk, jazz and funk. I particularly love the track “Every Single Day.”


This week I found myself staring at a huge stack of marketing books in the corner I’ve read over the years and wondering how much of accepted theory about marketing and communications has been invalidated by this crisis and shifts in the accepted normal of culture and how the world works.

A lot of foundational communication strategy holds true. And certainly digital engagement and attention theory hold up. But brick and mortar consumption and experiential theory will be impacted for the foreseeable future.

If you’re a brand, I would start thinking about how you can enter into people’s emerging habits and routines and contribute in positive ways. Are there things that are emerging as commonplace human behaviors that you could appropriately elevate, enhance or lead?

For example, rituals and traditions.

Humans are ritualistic creators. And routines and traditions matter – even in a crisis and especially to kids. Take a beat and think about what have you done to create a semblance of routine during this time.  

At work, I added a second recurring team status meeting to increase our regular check-ins to twice a week. And we’re doing all-agency Zooms every other week. It’s allowed us to create a sense of rhythm even when we don’t “see” each other.

At home, my family has officially been working and schooling from home for a month now, and we’re starting to plan ahead a bit for the next month in this same scenario. We are grateful for our health, home, income, school district, and ability to get groceries. We don’t take our situation and blessings for granted whatsoever.

I’ve also been observing that there’s a fine line between overscheduling and under scheduling our household. We’ve never had a problem with our kids on screens, and in fact, Fortnite is absolutely giving life to our extroverted son who craves hanging out with people. But we have had to set some structure around when and how we do life – both as a necessity and also as a mental health strategy. So we’ve made some recurring routines.

Psychology Today wrote that rituals can help us manage anxiety, process grief and even heighten experiences: “By helping to draw a straight line from the past to the present to the future, [rituals] might do just as good of a job helping us feel a sense of comfort and control over our lives.”

Here’s how our personal family rituals and routines are shaping up:

School and work day starts at 9 a.m. sharp. No matter what. Then starting at 5:30 or 6 p.m., we try to spend time with the TV news off, a little time away from our screens and to just talk a little bit. I individually try to get eye contact with each kid and ask them how their day was, what they learned, how are they? At some point we try to take a walk or walk the dogs, and before bed we’re now reading Harry Potter out loud as a family. These are just little, new traditions that we have complete control over during a highly variable time.

As far as the week, it looks something like this:

  • Monday: no standing plans. Mondays suck! Boo Mondays!
  • Tuesday: my wife attends virtual church small group.
  • Wednesday: my kids have virtual talk therapy and virtual occupational therapy appointments during the day; virtual church hangout for the parents and youth group hangout for the teenager.
  • Thursday: extended family Zoom hangout, and then my wife has a virtual hangout with all of her friends away from the kids and me!
  • Friday: early morning virtual church small group, then my close friends virtual hangout – all before 9 a.m. Friday night = Pizza! And I’m going to drink some beers.
  • Saturday: Unscheduled. On purpose!
  • Sunday: morning is virtual church, and then I cook a huge family brunch and we all gather around the table to enjoy it. Then we do virtual Trivia Mafia with our usual teams from Sunday night trivia at the bar down the street.

For entertainment, we got tired of streaming video shows by the third week. Right now we’re loving playing Jackbox TV with our friends via Zoom and as a family in our living room and can’t recommend it enough. Quiplash, Guesspionate, and Tee K.O. all have family friendly modes for playing with the kids, and an adult mode when you just need some adult time and adult humor, damn it. If you’re looking to get started, check out The Jackbox Party Pack 3. I bought it on the Mac Store, so then I can just share my screen in a Zoom call or project it on the living room TV for the family.  

The summer vacation we had planned is on pause. But we’ve also been trying to plan things to look forward to. A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that just planning or anticipating a vacation can make you happier than actually taking it. So how do we find things to look forward to when it’s a hard time to plan?

This week, we told the kids if they do all of their schoolwork and are on their best behavior that we are going to buy Just Dance 2020 for the Nintendo Switch and have a dance party on Friday night. They’ve been talking about it all week!

Where could a brand enter into my family’s rituals and routines in an additive and appropriate way right now?

With new games, dance classes, printables, challenges, online experiences, disruptive Zoom ideas, VR film premieres, and innovative delivery.

If it’s not right, don’t force it. It’s better to do NOTHING than do something in a tone-deaf and ham-fisted way. But if your brand has covered off on its own people and process, now could be the time to use what you’ve learned from all those crusty marketing books and find a way to regain consumer relevance in this time of changing culture.

Maybe you’ll spark a new tradition.

See you on the internet!
Greg

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