Anna Oposa is the executive director and chief mermaid of Save Philippine Seas (SPS), a movement to protect the country's rich but threatened marine resources by empowering seatizens for collective action and behavior change. They run environmental education and community-based programs. Outside SPS, Anna works as a consultant for various organizations and institutions.
1) Tell us about your favorite rituals.
My favorite rituals are reading books, journaling, working out, and creating and running through my to-do lists and goals.
I’ve been journaling since I was eight years old, beginning with a Lisa Frank diary with a key and lock! Journaling helps me process my thoughts, like a form of meditation.
I make time to read at least two to three books a month and try to read at the beginning and end of my day.
My workouts run for 30-60 minutes, and I've been doing yoga on and off for 15 years, and mix it with more fast-paced workouts like high-intensity interval training and strength training.
I set monthly and quarterly goals for different aspects of my life (e.g., well-being, health, finances, career). I also have a calendar alert every last day of the month to remind me to review them and set next month’s or next quarter’s goals.
2) How do your rituals fit into your morning or night routines? How much time do you allocate for them?
I try to block up my mornings for these rituals. I've been a freelancer for my entire professional life, which means my schedule is relatively flexible, allowing me to structure my days.
In one leadership workshop I attended, one of the participants shared that our decision-making capabilities decrease as the hours go by, so the habits we want to form or "big" to-dos should be done in the morning. This tip has worked for me.
3) How long have you been following these rituals?
I've been doing all these rituals for many years (reading and journaling since I was a kid, while the workouts and goal-setting began from college onwards). But the commitment level has always varied! There are months when I can’t finish reading a book. I’ve gotten better at sticking to these rituals in the last two years.
4) Who or what influenced you to follow them?
I come from a family that is passionate about learning, knowledge, and a healthy lifestyle.
I was the type of child who would hide under the blankets with a flashlight past bedtime just to be able to read longer. In college, I majored in English Studies because that's all I wanted to do - read and write!
When it comes to health, my paternal grandfather swam until he was in his late 80s, and my parents always encouraged me and my brothers to have some kind of physical activity.
My obsession with to-do lists and personal goal trackers developed from being a multitasker. I thrive when I do multiple tasks simultaneously.
5) What tools, items or products do you use in doing your rituals?
For journaling, reading, and my to-do lists, I use my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I never thought I would give up pen and paper, but after Marie Kondo-ing my bedroom and moving into my own place, I saw how many notebooks and books I accumulated over the years that I couldn't find space for.
For working out, I created a home gym in my spare bedroom, but when I travel, I pack a travel mat, jump rope, and resistance bands.
7) How did these rituals help you on a daily basis?
My mind is a crowded place: I'm always running several projects, campaigns, and jobs at the same time. My jobs require me to be around a lot of people often, many of whom are strangers. I facilitate, create, and organize workshops, meetings, and training programs.
I'm as extroverted as can be, but when I hit my "extrovert quota," I need extra time with my rituals. They are my alone time and help me recharge for the next trip, event, or project.
8) Do you find yourself following your rituals even while traveling?
I try hard to. Sticking to the rituals helps create a sense of routine or home when there is often none.
9) Do you use a particular mantra as part of a ritual?
I have two quotes in my home office: "Great monuments begin with a single stone” set against the silhouette of Angkor Wat to remind me to take my tasks one day at a time, and "What would Beyonce do?" on a felt letterboard to remind me to be a go-getter!
Photos by Anna Oposa. Anna is on Instagram via @annaoposa. You can learn more about Save Philippine Seas at www.savephilippineseas.org.