One of the many problems we face as humans in both personal and professional settings is our desire for the routine.
We find comfort in eating the same core group of foods just as we enjoy going about our work days in a plotting manner.
Routines and regimens are necessary to help keep us focused and grounded at the same time. There are a myriad of both personal development and business books and systems that preach the mantra of keeping your life more organized with different routines and regimens. Unfortunately, all of this advice fails to account for one gigantic overriding factor: adaptation.
As humans, we are super adaptable, more so than any other species. We can live anywhere on the planet (only the cockroaches can match us here, but they follow us). We can and do adapt more efficiently and more robustly than even we give ourselves credit for. As such, we very readily get used to ourselves and our routines. For further thoughts about this, check out my blog post here.
This can be positive leading to efficient work schedules and workout regimens, but I would like to show you the other side of this coin. Once you realize that there are incredible benefits to variety, I am confident you will agree that variety and change need to become a part of your new routine.
To help me clarify this concept for you, let's look at one personal example and one professional example. On the personal side, one of the most common routines is food. The vast majority of us have 15-17 core foods that we eat all the time. We very rarely stray from this list. And as a result, many of us develop food intolerances because we are exposing ourselves to the same "stuff" all the time.
On the business side, one of the most common examples is our daily regimen. Wake up go to work, check email, peruse the Internet, chat with colleagues, get some work done and repeat. Over and over again. We may throw in some meetings, but in a big picture sense, we are conducting our business the same way over and over again. We stick to the paradigm that we can focus better when we have a system. That we can work better if we stick to our system.
Let me ask you: when do you have innovative ideas and/ or thoughts? When in your routine do you strike gold with new ideas and tap into the flow of energy? Is that something you plan for inside your routine? After thinking about this for a few minutes, I think most of you would come back and say that these times of innovation and inspiration hit you at random times: on your way to work or in the shower or out for a walk or when you least expect it.
Our craving for the routine in our professional lives is stifling our efforts to innovate, motivate and create. And it is those three notions that really drive us in business, not the routines we can automate.
As doctors, we were trained in a system that led us to believe that as long as we stick to the routines of seeing and interacting with patients the same way (diagnosis, prescriptions, surgery) that we would have tremendous success. Well, how is that working out for you? What we have discovered along the way is that this routine does not and cannot sustain us or our patients. We long for something more.
I believe that yearning is for more innovation, motivation and creation. Because that is what truly inspires us. Sure, helping sick people become well and well people become super well has many benefits, but when that process is defined by the same routine over and over again, it loses its luster. And for many of us, it is difficult to find that sparkle and shine.
To help you in this journey, I have created a brief list of how you can dramatically change your ability to innovate, motivate and create:
- Drive to work along a different route
- Listen to a different radio station/ download music outside of your regular genre from iTunes
- Don't eat the same foods two days in a row
- Change the hours of your work day--9-5 thinking is completely artificial
- Wear some new outfits--go to Goodwill and purchase some new looking clothes
- Seek out brand new sites on the internet
- Change up your exercise routine to include new exercises
- Try eating at a different pace (only when you are hungry or every two hours scheduled)
- Sit in a different chair at the office
- Take a drive down a road you have never been on or go for a drive without knowing where you are going
- Go one day without prescribing any meds or recommending any surgery
- Buy gifts for everyone in your immediate family just because
- Use a different pen color when you write (or try using a marker or crayon instead)
- Play a musical instrument when you get home from work (go buy a kazoo if you don't have any instruments at home)
- Get out some finger paint and have an Art night with your family
- Eat with only your hands or with just a spoon
- Be the first to answer the phone at your office
- Take a Wednesday off just because
All of these things are easy to employ and will help you change up your routine in a small way. The great aspect to this is that oftentimes one or two small changes leads to innovation, motivation and creation. You will hear a song you haven't heard for years and that will trigger a certain memory or when you drive along a new route, you may meet someone who leads you to your next idea. By incorporating variation, both big and small, into your routines, you will allow for more opportunity for you to innovate and create.
I encourage you to do this. One new direction a day. One new twist or turn here and there can lead to a brand new map you start writing for yourself.