The Power of Routine

Creative Outliers have a greater tolerance of ambiguity multi-tasking, and, yes, distraction. When you both notice more and feel more empowered to react, there is a greater tendency to go off on tangents.  This is why having a practice can be so helpful. We have all heard of the authors who write a few pages every morning. It has been said that Jack Londen only wrote four pages per day, but this generated well over a thousand published pages.  Writing a few minutes of music every morning also can yield similar results.  No matter how you do it, getting centered every morning can get you to flow sooner and more reliably. 

As creative outliers, you can invent your morning or night practices if you are a night person. What you do and when you do it is not the most crucial part; consistency is.  Consistency eventually becomes habituated and being a creative type, it is likely that you have purpose-designed practices comprised of behaviors to achieve your very own goals. We can program ourselves to automate specific behaviors to achieve specific desired results, including even getting into a flow state.

A practice is not the same thing as just throwing yourself at what you are doing all of the way. A practice is an opportunity for a more balanced, sustainable integrated, productive life.  I knew a National Geographic photojournalist who, when he was not flying around the world shooting, got up early every morning and completed all of the things he needed to do by 11 AM, which gave him the entire rest of the day off. At 82, he is incredibly productive and free as a bird even now. He has led multiple adventure expeditions worldwide and is still contributing to all sorts of projects but amazingly seems to do all of this between 5 and 11 every day.

A practice is a set of constraints that can set you free. To get terrific at anything requires a tremendous amount of work. And this work has to be intentional, deliberate, focused and primarily automatic. Automatic behaviors, also called habits or routines, make the heavy lifting of doing great work a lot lighter because something feels amiss when we are not doing it. When desired behaviors are automated, they dramatically reduce the overhead associated with creative expression, enterprise creation and even research and discovery. 

In addition to the reasons delineated above, there is another underlying principle at work here. Routines can be “Forces of Convergence”.  When creative outliers inevitably and involuntarily have piles and piles of new ideas right in front of them at every single moment, it can be incredibly useful to have a force of convergence applied to prevent, delay or at least manage distractions.

In fact, for some of us, it is imperative, for we can be very good at surfing waves of new ideas and insights.    And our curiosity creates incredible appetites for new interesting, exciting projects, which can be problematic. I was once told by a colleague decades ago, early in my professional life, that I was the company’s best starter and he was the best finisher, but he could never come up with a tiny fraction of the ideas I had.

Knowing we love to fly and explore, it would be crazy and even counter-productive to try and prevent this natural, somewhat involuntary tendency. Still, we could design lives that get a full day’s work completed in the first part of the day, leaving free a ton of time to fly around and explore like my friend, the super-productive photojournalist, did. This is possible because some creative outliers also have abnormal amounts of energy to expend. And these are the ones who can benefit the most from routine.

Cultivating routines to act as appropriate forces of convergence for you will radically increase your productiveness and effectiveness.