… said Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
I think that she may be in the minority there: most of us have some routine in our everyday life. For example, you probably have a morning routine. Maybe yours is like this: silence the alarm; stagger to the shower; emerge more refreshed – or cleaner, anyway; eat something you won’t remember later in the day; kiss the family; walk to the station. Perhaps you wake naturally as the sun rises; exercise; spend some time in contemplation; eat a nutritious breakfast; spring into action. Whether your routine resembles one of those or is entirely different, it’s a routine.
A sequence of actions regularly followed: “I settled down into a routine”.
Performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason: “a routine dental check-up”.
Adjective: regular; ordinary; usual; customary; everyday
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with routine: there are some situations where this is the most appropriate and effective way of simply getting things done.
However, in my sessions with clients, we’ve noticed that routine is sometimes the enemy of progress. (That last clause should be read in a scary film trailer kind of voice for best effect!) When we want to make progress in our careers or our lives, we may have to break out of the very routine which has worked so well to bring us to our current position.
Einstein’s words about us being unable to solve problems by using the same level of thinking that created them are relevant here. So is the maxim (attributed to Mark Twain, Henry Ford and Tony Robbins amongst others):
‘If you always do what you have always done,
you will always get what you always got’
That seems so obvious, doesn’t it? And yet most of us do the same thing time and time again and expect a different result. One of my clients talked about a difficult relationship with a peer with whom she needed to set up regular meetings in order to make progress on a project with which they were both involved. ‘I’m always very flexible, I never complain when he’s late or cancels our meetings. I know how busy he is’, she explained, ‘and yet nothing seems to change. He doesn’t even seem to notice. I always end up feeling short-changed and bottom of his list.’
We discussed how the routine she’d fallen into really wasn’t working. I asked her to imagine the opposite extreme of the current routine – to go really over the top in her reaction to the situation. ‘I’d be really frosty with him. I’d say I had no flexibility in my diary when he called to reschedule; I’d let him know how angry I was when he doesn’t show up; I’d point out how busy I am and make him wait to see me’, she grinned. ‘Okay, so now tone that down to something that you would be comfortable with,’ I suggested.
‘I’m going to make sure he understands why it’s important for us to meet and exactly what I need from him and what I can offer. I’m going to suggest we look at our calendars together and choose a regular time when we can meet. That will give me a chance to show him that I don’t actually have as much flexibility in my diary as I’ve led him to believe and hopefully he will be less likely to be late, not turn up or cancel,’ she decided.
The next time I saw her, my client reported that, after a friendly but frank conversation, she and her colleague had agreed mutually convenient times to meet. ‘It’s earlier days,’ she said, ‘but he’s turned up to the first two as scheduled so that’s a great start.’ Breaking her routine way of treating the situation had allowed her to resolve it.
Today’s pebble for you to examine:
Do you have a routine which is an obstacle to your progress? How will you break that routine?
I’d love to hear from you,
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?