When it’s hard to see the sunlight because walls of tedium have cast tall shadows, face it – you’re in a rut. Same thing, different day. After day, after day, after day.
We’ve all been there. It’s difficult to be enthusiastic when routine and repetitiveness narrow our existence and dull our senses. Whether self-imposed or a sidebar of necessity, doing the same thing over and over has its costs.
Here are three mud-busters to try the next time you feel mired in monotony.
1. Take a different route
Have you ever arrived at a familiar destination with no memory of driving there? It’s as if autopilot and your GPS brain take over, getting you from A to B without requiring your presence. The same memory muscle kicks in to help us with everyday tasks, but it’s not so hot an attribute when it dulls us to the point of not being aware of our surroundings.
One way to jolt your senses is to take a different way. Instead of walking the same path, riding the same trail, or driving the same streets, swerve off course. Plan a new route, even if it adds a few minutes to your trip. A detour through a different part of town requires more concentration, heightens awareness, and gives you a fresh perspective. A morning run through an area you haven’t explored develops alertness and increases your ability to respond to unexpected changes. Walk down a different side street, or take the ultimate challenge: only make turns in one direction. Can you make it to work through a series of righthand turns?
2. Switch up the order
Chances are, your morning routine is another autopilot experience. Wake up, stumble to the bathroom, head to the kitchen to press a button, check your device to see what you’ve missed overnight, get dressed, eat something, and go. Jot down your pattern, then pick one or two elements to rearrange or eliminate. Do you need to check social media first thing? Are you truly not able to function without a coffee right away? Get up a half-hour earlier and go for a prework walk. Or use the time to savour the quiet.
Try the same technique at work. Mapping workflow can have surprising results. Just because we’ve followed the same process for five years doesn’t guarantee it’s the most effective way – it’s simply a comfortable habit. Challenge yourself to break down one routine task each week and ask yourself what aspects are out of date, what each step accomplishes, and what goes wrong. Then update how you tackle it. Or better yet, eliminate it if it’s no longer helpful.
3. Add a new twist
Make your bed as soon as you get up. Yes, that’s right, make your bed (assuming no one else is still in it) the minute your feet hit the floor. This small habit has big rewards: Completing a task, however small, feels good. The rest of your day gets off to a good start. And when you get home later, no matter how chaotic the day, you have a welcoming space waiting for you. Ahhhh.
Consider bed-making as a gateway habit. It’s a positive routine that leads to other changes. You can get the same fix by making further minor changes with a cumulative impact. Empty your vehicle after each trip. Hang up your jacket and put away your shoes as soon as you get home. Clean the kitchen before bed. Schedule breaks during your workday – and take them. Call one client every week to thank them for their business. Hold a regular brainstorming day. Plan a social media detox.
Swerving off course into a ditch happens. The question is whether we choose to stay in that rut or make enough small changes to find our way out.