Last week I had an email conversation about routines with my uber creative buddies Matt & David. These guys aren’t your wait-around-for-ideas-to-come creatives; they are exceptionally driven, ambitiously curious, and build experiments to test their ideas. Their capacity to create is extremely high and their calendars are packed.
Because of the efficiency in which they must create, routines made for a compelling conversation topic.
Are routines helpful or harmful?
Routines are scary for creatives. Routines hinder our ability to learn and experience and make it feel like we are shifting our lives into auto-pilot. Personally, as the demand to create new ideas and execute them has grown exponentially, I’ve been contemplating whether I can use simple routines to open my mind and focus my creative energy to more important areas. I’ve been inspired by David Cain’s perspective on why minimalist do what they do.
For the last 9 months I’ve been eating the same thing for breakfast every morning (eggs whites, turkey sausage, coffee). Every night I put out a skillet, set the timer on the coffeepot, and go to bed. When I wake up, I really don’t have to waste any energy or time making decisions. By time I complete these routine tasks I’ve slipped out of my zombie-like state and am ready to go.
Simple routines can help open our minds
This simple breakfast routine routine has helped me eliminate 20+ decisions in the first 15 minutes of each day and saves me about 15 minutes every morning.
I use that extra 15 minutes to open my mind to more creative tasks:
- – Taking a different route to work (even if it takes a little longer)
- – Writing thoughts and ideas in a journal
- – Recharging with walks in the neighborhood and parks
- – Hanging around a few extra minutes at the coffee shop talking with neighbors
- – Reading local publications to see what is happening in the community
…and, sometimes, doing absolutely nothing. It’s refreshing.
Spontaneity spurs creativity
As David shared with me in one of his messages, the happy medium of routine vs. no routine is to have routines that save us time or energy completing tasks that do not have a direct impact on our learning and experiencing.
We can eat the same breakfast every day because it saves time, decision making, and keeps us healthy. Eating a different breakfast likely won’t do much to open up our world to new experiences (unless your a culinary enthusiast). On the other hand, choosing a different vacation destination each year drastically opens us up to new experiences, new people, and new ways of thinking.
It seems the best approach is to pick and choose which things in our lives and careers require a routine to effectively and efficiently accomplish, and then identifying our other routine that when changed can make an impact on our growth and learning.