June 09, 2022
Nothing happens unless we first want it to happen and then work to make it so. That’s really the crux of breaking out of routines.
Don't get me wrong: Routines aren't inherently bad. They can help keep you organized. They can certainly be productive. But depending on the type of routine, they can also put you on autopilot, moving almost mindlessly through the day and causing you to lose touch with who you are as a person.
Even with the move to remote work and the flexibility it affords, an unhealthy routine is still an unhealthy routine. Flexibility, after all, is a practical skill. And like any skill, practice makes perfect.
Start small, of course, like changing the time of when you do things or mixing up the order of activities. Go to dinner early to catch a 6:30 movie. Go to the gym before work rather than the other way around. Then, move to bigger changes.
Think of it as pushing yourself to try new things — all without losing that stability that comes with a well-managed day.
Mixing Up Your Weeks: How to Maintain Creativity
Breaking from routine to stay creative is no small feat. Routines are habitual by nature, and you may not even know you're in a routine. It starts with being cognizant of what's not working and then changing up those patterns that can leave you feeling unmotivated, disengaged, and not as resourceful or creative as before.
The following is what I found most beneficial:
- Don’t just break from routine.
Soft routines are good; hard routines can be like straitjackets. When establishing routines, do it in a way that forces you to make choices and have experiences. I have a “routine,” but it's more skeletal in nature than a fixed weekly rubric. It strikes a balance between getting out of the house, seeing friends, and taking care of myself.
Mondays, I devote to lounging at home. Maybe I’ll read, play a video game, or do some other leisure activity. I try to take it slow to start the week. Tuesday is movie night — specifically, at a theater. Going to the theater gets me out of the house and offers variety from what an algorithm might suggest. Come Wednesday, it’s bar trivia. I can flex my thinking muscles and enjoy some group fun with friends. After two nights out, Thursday is another evening spent at home. You see where I’m going with this, right?
On paper, it may look like a routine, but each night brings something different. Even the nights that sound the same are different. Bar trivia always features different categories, and I go to different genres of movies each week. There’s structure but still a fluidity to the week, which keeps things fresh.
- Experience the world to harness your creativity.
Creatives need experiences. But it’s not just about having experiences. What matters is the diversity of those experiences. I'm seeing a movie every week, but if I just saw the newest Marvel flick, they'd all run together. You gain a lot when exposing yourself to new ideas, adventures, and so on.
Perhaps tour a museum, rent a pontoon boat, schedule a bourbon tasting, hit up the next food truck fair, visit a makers’ studio, walk the arboretum, go skiing — whatever. The broader, the better. It's these little pieces of enjoyment that keep things going and provide moments of inspiration for work.
- Leverage what your city has to offer.
If you're a creative professional, chances are you live somewhere with lots of amenities. Use them! I took a trip to London a few weeks ago, and it gave me such an appreciation for the city I call home: Chicago. As invigorating as it was to go somewhere fresh, I can get a taste of that energy by exploring my own city's local flavor. It's easy to think, “Well, I can go next weekend.” No. Go now.
Every time I do something I wouldn’t normally do or go somewhere I wouldn’t normally go, I feel like I uncover a new part of myself. And that new part of myself is still with me when I go to work, when I go home, and when I do almost anything. It keeps me appreciating who I am as a person.
If you really think about it, no day is ever truly the same, so why not try breaking from routine? Shaking things up can help you approach situations from a different perspective, creatively speaking. Without the inspiration, novelty, and excitement of these experiences I ensure for myself each week, I can start feeling flat. I even find myself falling into a negative routine of just sitting at home. Don’t fall into that trap. Changing from routine is an opportunity to experience more excitement in life, which isn’t a bad way to spend the day.