Meet your brain’s task automator. Routine loves efficiency and hates wasting brainpower.
Why the habit exists
Routine thrives on efficiency. Its job is the automation of the repetitive. It’s there for you when you need to quickly recall everyday actions and behaviours without wasting mental effort. Routine wants to turn you into a specialist, honing your skills to ensure you become increasingly proficient at more tightly defined and manageable processes.
Routine functions by keeping you on the same track without distractions taking your attention elsewhere. In fact, Nokia did a study where they tracked 100 people for a month using GPS. 90% were in the same place at the same time everyday. That’s Routine taking hold.
How it holds you back
You are what you repeat! The more actions are repeated, the harder it becomes to see any other way. Over the years, routine has developed a very limited field of vision and will largely turn a blind eye to new influences and opportunities. It very much prefers to stick in the comfort zone of what it does best. In neuroscience terms, we have an ‘observational selection bias’, where we notice things we’ve done before more often and it’s easier to look for the similar things.
When change is required or a new opportunity presents itself, you will find you can only connect your existing knowledge and experience. That’s not good news when you need new inspiration from outside your sphere of influence.
How you can train it
- Change your environment regularly. Be curious, observe more than you would usually and ask lots of questions. Read things you wouldn’t usually read. Watch things you wouldn’t usually choose to watch. Soon you’ll be topping up your tank of inspiration. New environments don’t make it easy for existing habits to settle in.
- Force a new frame of reference. Thinking through metaphors makes the familiar unfamiliar again. You’ll be free from old associations and primed to make some new ones. Random stimulation creates new words and meanings to associate rather than the cliche. You will force your brain to actively seek new ideas rather than settle with the usual. Even if nothing immediately comes, it’s great practice for your brain as you never know when a new connection will be needed. Hint, nature is a great source of inspiration. Its had billions of years to solve the most complex of problems. Designers and architects often look to nature for inspiration on new products and buildings and it can hold many unexpected answers. Just ask where an analogous challenge to yours has been solved by nature, then connect the dots.
- Change the way you approach every day actions. Draw instead of write. List instead of paragraph. Do your morning routine in a different order. Change the way you begin and sign off emails. Whatever it is, realise what is repeated and change it. You’ll soon snap out of a regular routine and tune your mind to always spotting a difference.
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