Routine – And The Importance Of Tweaking It

Do you have a routine, or are you a slave to it?

I don’t have a typical commute to work, I travel at different times, and often to different places. When I do travel in the rush hour, I’ve come to notice people waiting for the train, often stand at the same spot on the platform. Many people know precisely where the doors on the carriage they want to get onto, open. Gaggles of commuters huddle in bunches near these spots and I enjoy standing alone, in between gaggles.

I get funny looks from the gagglers. ‘Why’s that weirdo not standing in a gaggle? Doesn’t he know that we know precisely where the doors are going to open?’ I find myself taking an almost perverse pride in trying to find a different spot on the platform every time I travel.

My journey into London starts out in the suburbs, it’s a frequent service, and it takes just under 40 minutes. I can see how people faced with the prospect of fighting for a seat, might be driven to gaggle. In my case, regardless of the time of day I travel, I have never boarded a train from our station into London and failed to get a seat. Never. Not once. In these circumstances, I just don’t get the whole gaggling thing.

Yesterday I took part in a meeting at Workhubs – a really handy coworking venue run by Philip Dodson near Euston station. I was there to take part in one of a series of International Collaboration Days, organised by a bunch of interesting folk including Bernie Mitchell and the aforementioned Philip. We enjoyed good breakfast and good company. Here are a few notes I took:

  • 99u – Insights on making ideas happen
  • 750 Words a Day – the practice of writing
  • Routine – tweak it.
  • Only 3% of freelancers currently use coworking spaces.
  • Structure – you can hop from place to place on a scaffold, only up and down on a ladder (hierarchy).
  • Conversations – small groups. Four or five max – beyond that it’s more like a series of monologues? How can we help the quieter voices get heard?
  • It’s important to do a few small things, often.

I want to focus on routine. We all have them, and the conversation was around how to use our natural desire for habit forming to our advantage, rather than get bound up in it, like the gaggles seem to. A few suggestions were made which I found interesting.

Bookend your day with routine. Do your habitual stuff at the beginning and the end of the day – and try to practice being more free form in between.

Take breaksdon’t be a prisoner.

Do some of your routine stuff in different places. Lots of enthusiasm for working out doors bubbled up, and the recognition of limitations too – we were trying to keep it real.

Tweak your routine. I found this part of the conversation really useful as it helped me get more comfortable with the sense of having routine – something I struggle with at times, and something I’ve wrongly railed against in the past. There’s no doubt that since I found an appreciation of routine, I’ve got better at getting stuff done, and simultaneously I’m a fan of experimenting with different ways to work. I encourage my clients to try different things, so I have to find a way to get the routine stuff done, and the tweak idea interests me. Let’s go back to the travel thing again.

I routinely walk to the station. I get a mile walk under my belt and I enjoy being with my thoughts for the time the walk takes me. The tweak happens when it comes to which way I go. There are many routes I can take from home to the station, I’ve mapped out some of them here (nerd alert):

Routes to the station from home

Some are a bit longer than others, and on the days I find myself ready to leave a few minutes early, I take a slightly longer route. The super sharp eyed among you will see that there are two stations on this map. I can and do use both – just to further mix things up. The walk is my routine, the route I choose is my tweak.

As a result of these conversations – I’m looking again at how I do what I do. Am I getting the mix right enough of the time? I’ll let you know how I get on. Meantime if you’ve any helpful ideas on how you make routine…less routine, please let me know.

4 thoughts on “Routine – And The Importance Of Tweaking It”

  1. In a keynote I do on lifelong learning, I point out that embrace in the middle of the word routine is rut. No matter how valuable the routine we need to do some self-disruption as you note and hopefully before it turns into an unproductive rut.

    1. Hi Jeffrey – thanks for popping by and reminding us it’s important to shake it up from time to time.

  2. Enjoyed the idea of tweaking a routine.

    Just spent the last few mins identifying my morning routine when working from home and realising that it is very routine. So, I have then moved onto to generating a list of some tweaks I could make including:
    getting up an hour early and writing a blog before breakfast;
    getting out for a walk first thing;
    going out for breakfast to a cafe – never do this except on holiday, so might give a whole new perspective; and doing some gardening before settling into work.

    Like the go out for breakfast option and going for a walk options best. Will give them a go over the next fortnight.

    1. Hi Rachel – thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts. I’d be interested to see what you experience and learn after playing with these tweaks for a while, if that’s OK? Have fun.

      Cheers – Doug

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