Two months ago, as the school year was beginning, I read a handful of articles discussing the correlation between productivity and routine. Business journals, blogs, tweets, and newspapers praise the importance of routine. Wake early, exercise, browse headlines before leaving for work. Work on creative tasks in the morning and mechanical tasks later in the day. Make lists and wind down before sleep. Setting a routine and completing tasks based on that routine would certainly make anyone more productive.
Whether we consciously follow a routine or not, we all have daily patterns. As a teacher, my class has a routine; over time patterns emerge and habits form. Deviations from our routine signal importance. We are doing something different for a reason. I hope to encourage my students to realize that changes signal importance. I hope to say: “Hey look, we are doing we are doing something different!”
Those moments only happen when the routine is broken. This past summer, my day-to-day routine changed as I worked for a summer program on a rural college campus. I had to run at different times of the day and worked until later in the evening. My entire routine- mental and physical- changed and my body responded as if to say: “Hey look, we are doing we are doing something different!”
Ultimately, a routine will put us into a position to complete our daily tasks and be productive. But those moments of innovation or ideas sparking in our minds will only happen if we consciously break our routine. Consider Google’s “20% time,” which is the one day per week that employees spend time working on side projects. This time is a structured (our routine) break of routine. This time has been lauded as the nest egg of innovation.
Personally, this blog is my opportunity to break away from my day-to-day routine of teaching, coaching, and economic researching. I need to make this break of routine a common activity; it is an opportunity for me to think through issues and current events and put my thoughts on “paper.”
Breaking away from our day-to-day habits gives us opportunity and the signal that our task is worth the time. Within the framework of the routine encouraged by productivity experts, we can incorporate intentional breaks to signal importance and generate opportunities for growth.