Discussions July 20, 2016

Breaking Routines

In life we develop routines. Good or bad, they help us get through the same tasks that we face daily. What’s the first thing you do when you lay down in bed at night? Do you flip through your phone like I do? Eating into precious sleep time? Routines are comfortable and familiar, which is why we rarely challenge them. We feel satisfied and the thought of change can seem overwhelming, especially when we think we are content with the results we’re currently getting. Afterall, why break something that’s not broken?

 

Sometimes it’s those same routines that hold us back from growing. That’s why I’ve been trying to break this mentality over the past year. One thing that Thomas and I always want to be doing is be moving forward and thinking steps ahead. It’s not about the short term goals, but the long term goals that really drive us. We constantly remind ourselves that it’s ok to break things down in order to build them back up into something better, even if the things we are breaking down have worked for us in the past. For example, I used the same photo editing process for years. It was slow, but it worked for me. I accepted this slow process because I couldn’t imagine anything faster. After months of Thomas’s pleading, I finally attempted some of the changes he’d been suggesting. At first they felt awkward and difficult at times, and I made some initial mistakes that caused me to go even slower than I did before. But after a few attempts and keeping with the new process, I eventually shaved off at least 30 minutes of time per day, which came out to roughly 3-4 hours per week.

 

Making changes just for change’s sake is not what we’re after. I think the hardest part about breaking routines is identifying what needs to be addressed. Often we attempt to fix the areas in life that we’re currently struggling with the most. They are the easiest to recognize and the quickest to see major improvements on, but they aren’t necessarily the most important things to us. I want to encourage you to take a risk and search for these opportunities for the greatest disruption to your routines.

 

As an example, one of my routines that’s been hard for me to break is waking up, getting ready and spending the first couple of hours each day going through emails. For some reason, this always felt like the most important thing to do first thing in the morning. I always wanted to know if there was anything urgent that needed my attention, if there were any phone calls scheduled for that day, who was trying to get ahold of me, what possible new partnerships were coming through, and what reader emails I should address. But what I learned was that, while some emails are important to get to with urgency, most can be done during a dedicated time to do just that. One thing I’ve noticed is that when I sit at my desk and have my email open, I can easily spend my entire day engrossed in reviewing messages. It’s definitely a time suck and there’s always something new to get to. Also, as someone in a creative position, I’ve come to realize that my mind is freshest in the morning. One of the reasons why I love waking up extra early is that I feel more motivated and creative without the stress of my inbox filling up. Now, by letting it fill up throughout the day, I’ve become more efficient at answering emails. This was a routine that I never would have changed because, to me, I was getting my work done and had accepted my 2 am bedtime routine as normal. By realizing that I could be just as productive by allocating set times to specific tasks, I’ve boosted my overall health and wellbeing, getting to bed earlier each night, feeling more satisfied from checking off even more on my to-do list.

 

My examples of how I’ve disrupted my work routines in order to make room for improvement can be applied anywhere in life. Maybe you want to make a good personal relationship great. Or get better results from your workout routine or diet. The possibilities for improvement are endless! You just need to have an open mind to seek it out.

 

What area of your life offers the greatest opportunity for important improvement? What daily routines can you break down to make them even better?

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