Routine. A quick check in an online dictionary describes it as “a prescribed, detailed course of action to be followed regularly; a standard procedure” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com).
We may be in this state without even knowing it. Getting up the same time each day, fixing the same breakfast, going to work the same way, getting caught up in the daily grind, doing our best to meet deadlines with no room to do anything different.
If not checked, routine breeds monotony. It is like falling into a rut and finding no motivation to get out of it. Stay too long in it, and you will lose the impulse, knack or desire to go that one extra step that moves you ahead of the game. The reason is because routine gives you a sense of comfort and predictability.
And when trying to think up new ideas or do something new, staying in routine is like a self-imposed mental and emotional prison that stops you from even taking the first step.
But you’re holding yourself back if you get too caught up in routine. Not breaking free and embracing some change can sometimes leave you far behind.
Look what happened to Kodak: the giant in cameras and the very company that built the camera business into what it is today, had the shutter closed on its camera-making business on 9th February 2012, after enduring huge losses for years.
The writing was already on the wall ages ago that the digital age was coming, and cameras will go the digital way. While still content with producing film-loading cameras, competitors such asFuji, Nikon and Canon leaped ahead with easy-to-use digital cameras, hurdling Kodak to its own demise. Kodak entered the digital camera production too late to respond to industry and consumer changes, and finally called it quits.
This sums up what routine really is:
- Being comfortable with the status quo – while others are leaping ahead by changing the game/system/process/role.
- Sticking to the tried and tested – while others experiment and discover new ideas that work better
- Doing the same thing and comfortable with the usual result – while others are trying something new and creating new possibilities
- Providing the same level of service to your customers or stakeholders – while others create surprises and the unexpected and win more customers
- Doing nothing after reading this article – while others start searching for ways they can shake off inertia and create new ideas!
Routine makes you stick to the usual way of doing things and not look for new or innovative ways to do better. And while you’re busy enjoying this comfort zone, others are creeping ahead of you. This is why routine is a real and present danger in this day and age.
It does not matter which industry or company you are in. Competition will always be there. Pharmaceuticals need constant R&D or their nearest competitors will beat them to new cures, motoring needs new efficient vehicle models, hospitality needs better guest experiences, readers want refreshing new authors and books….. the list is endless. But just doing the same thing simply means losing your customers, clients or business to others who do better than you.
Old ideas may work… to some point only. What may have worked in the past is not a guarantee for current and future issues. While airlines kept competing based on aircraft types, more cabin room and comfort, different types of menus… they didn’t realise budget airlines could creep in and shake up the entire aviation industry by providing frills-free services and keeping the price tag much lower, making air travel much more affordable to a relatively untapped market: low-cost travellers. Today, they have even grabbed a huge share of full-service airlines’ passengers as well. As Air Asia, the leading budget airline in Asiasays, “Now everyone can fly”. Is it any wonder why major airlines are seeing dwindling profits?
Breaking free of routine can be helpful in more ways than one. You will start feeling more recharged, find new meaning to daily activities, learn something new, and become a lot more creative in your ideas.
So what can you do to fight the routine bug? You may be surprised how easy it is. Here are 10 easy-to-apply tips to help you break routine and constantly renew, refresh and recharge yourself to stay ahead:
1. Change your mindset. Stop thinking that change is risky, that it isn’t for you, or that you don’t need it. Start by knowing you have to change. Need a reason? Try a few: could you do with a promotion and a higher salary for yourself and your family? Would it help finding a better way in solving a work problem and save yourself some time? Break that mental insecurity that is limiting you from stepping ahead, and take that leap. So you might fall a few times. But you’ll learn and do better, and your next leap may just land you in a better position than before. Have a mindset of always taking that first step to change.
2. Take baby steps first. You don’t have to take huge leaps of change. That would be your direct route to burnout. Start by taking one step at a time. Try changing your daily schedule a little first. Walk a little faster, or slower. Spend an extra few minutes with your family. Find a new joke you can share. Change your routine a little at a time, and you will gradually build up the motivation to change more.
3. Collaborate with others. If you have a lot on your plate and can’t find the time to do anything else… why not rope in others to help? In some circles it’s called “leveraging”. There is bound to be someone out there who knows more about some part of your responsibilities than you. Find such people and ask for advice. It could be a boost up their ego pole in being recognized as an expert, and there’s a high chance he will offer you his advice in return. Instead of working so hard, work smart and get help where possible. This will free up your time and attention to do something else and something different.
4. Stop analysing, just do it. Nothing stops a person short of trying something new than judging a new idea or venture and over-analysing it to death before attempting it. Learn to recognise it if you are doing this, and stop it. Just take the plunge, be crazy for once, do what you’ve always wanted to do and not think first of people’s perception.
5. Find new challenges. You may have landed in routine because of the absence of situations that were challenging enough. When this happens, go look for one. Maybe a buddy is doing an unfamiliar project, why not lend a hand and challenge yourself to manage some part of it? Nothing creates routine as much as the lack of a good challenge. Get out there and find one that stimulates and pushes you beyond your comfort zone.
6. Play. Remember how much you enjoyed playing as a kid? Being a parent gave me chance to relive those days again with my kids, and what a change it was to the daily grind from work and household chores. You can make a game out of anything: cooking with someone else, shooting water pistols, playing hide and seek… widen your scope and think up anything that can be turned into a game and play. Get a kick out of it, enjoy yourself, and push yourself towards that exercise regimen you’ve been putting off. And have fun!
7. Find people with similar interests. I find that mixing and talking to people with similar interests gives me more ideas. Sometimes it starts with just one person, but the idea sparked from communicating with him gives me the impetus to create a new idea which in turn leads me to other people. Whether using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Meetup … there’s a plethora of social networks out there you can easily find people with similar interests. You will be surprised at what they can share based on their backgrounds and experiences, and help you discover different perspectives. All it takes is for you to take that first step.
8. Do it differently. Fly a kite, type with your left hand (if you’re not a lefty), take a new route to work, read something out of your usual reading preference, try out a new dish every few days, try a new hobby, watch a foreign movie … it does not matter what the activity is. The key is to just do it differently, or find something else to do you won’t normally try. This will bring you new insights and ideas, help you see new perspectives to problems, or even meet new people. Nothing expands the mind more than making new discoveries and learning something new from them.
9. Time-off. Take a day off and use it for going somewhere off the beaten path. Maybe volunteer yourself to a charity, orphanage or home, teach someone, lend a hand somewhere, even visit a museum or art gallery. This is “you” time, doing something different and out of the ordinary for yourself. You may get to see and discover more this way, about yourself or new ideas. Do it regularly, perhaps once a month, and come back refreshed and energised, armed with new ideas to take on new challenges.
10. Reward yourself. When was the last time you rewarded yourself? Like on impulse, you just decided to buy yourself that ice-cream, treat yourself to a good book or movie, or take a trip somewhere… and NOT feel guilty afterwards? Feeling guilty only creates some animosity in doing that action again. Find ways and means to reward yourself without punishing yourself with guilty feelings. Tell yourself you deserved that reward, after achieving something difficult or overcoming a challenge. So the next time a new opportunity comes your way, you won’t feel reluctant accepting it.
Change can be stimulating and energising. It is refreshing. It opens a new path of learning and discovery. It helps push you farther ahead than others who simply stand by. Breaking your routine can bring positive changes to your life.
It is also a fundamental habit needed to develop new ideas, by first trying something new, gaining new insights and inputs that helping you see things a little more differently, and discovering a whole new world of possibilities you never thought of before.
So what’s the first thing you will change today?
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Comments Received About This Article:
“Doing nothing after reading this article – while others start searching for ways they can shake off inertia and create new ideas!” I am definitely going to DO something. A very well written article. Great Tips to get rid of the monotonous life..!!”
Loveleen Kaur (from Linked In)
“Hi there Prabhjit. I enjoyed reading the article, and agree that it is really about going out of the comfort zone to see what you can find. Life is far more interesting when you learn to do this.”
Anne Brocklesby (from Linked In):
“Fantastic stuff, the key is to try these things and let them be a part of your very being. Consider this, life is, learning inquisitiveness for existence.”
Puneet Trehan (from Linked In):
“Nice post Prabhjit, thanks for sharing.”
Juan Carlos Andia Obregón (from Linked In)
“Really interesting article Prabhjit, has given me some ideas. Thanks for sharing
Sumathi Krishnan (from LinkedIn)
“Good points, thanks Prabhjit, also refer some important tips on boosting creativity:-
Akshaya Bhatia (from Linked In)
“Mr. Prabhjit, thanks for sharing, your article make return us to basics, something that we forget with the time, as I say to open our creativity we need to be silent witnesses with children eyes. Best Regards.”
Angel Angulo (from Linked In)
“Great article Mr. Prabhjit, renewed strenght in tough times. Thank you for sharing.”
Victor H. Uribe (from Linked In)
- 3 Reasons It’s Good for Business To Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone (insatiablesolopreneur.com)
- Reasons Behind the Demise of Kodak (tech.slashdot.org)