From the Desk (and Mind) of Marc Landsberg

Routine is Good, But Can Be The Enemy of Great

We all need routine in our lives. It provides comfort, predictability, security. It enables us to relax our minds and place them on auto-pilot, even for a few minutes here and there. The familiar brings stability, and eliminates ambiguity.

As we all lead our lives on the clock, the structure of routine guides us for on time arrivals – to meetings, to appointments, to dinner dates.

But routine can also be the enemy of free thinking. It can constrain our creativity without our even knowing it. With routine, we become habitual – and habitual thinking isn’t always the most creative. It certainly isn’t the most out-of-the-box.

Breaking routine is the surest way to spark a new thought, conceive of an idea, or solve a problem previously intractable.

Breaking routine enables us to create a new vantage point – and seeing things through a different lens is a fundamental step to fresh thinking.

So, a few suggestions for day in, day out ways to break from routine:

1. Take a new route to work. Sometimes just changing the way we get from point A to point B presents us with a new perspective.

2. Talk to a stranger. On the bus, the train, the plane, at the SBUX…wherever you find yourself with a few minutes and the opportunity to say more than “hello” to someone standing next to you. You’d be amazed how potent the impact of hearing someone else’s story, or take on current events, can free your own viewpoint

3. Change your sleep pattern. If you are an early to bed person, stay up late. If you are a night owl, go to bed by 10. Changing your routinized sleep patterns unlocks your brain and forces it into new rhythms…and gives your brain more creative room to work…and thus, more opportunity to wake up with that “aha” idea or solution

4. Give your brain new stimulus. If you read a lot of books, put them down for a week and instead, take long walks and let your mind roam. If you aren’t an avid reader, then choose some great ones and dive in asap. Don’t like movies? Go. Hate travel? Take a trip. The point is simple – your brain needs something tasty to chew on, too…feed it often.

5. Move your desk at work. If possible, sit somewhere different every day. Take your laptop to the cafeteria, sit in a common area, or just walk down the block to SBUX. Finding a new place to do your work will liberate your thinking more than you can possibly know

Above all, remember this. Routine can be a good thing – life is chaotic enough without the daily structure routine affords. But your brain needs a break from that routine to wake up, to stretch itself, to take you to uncharted territory where the cool ideas are found.

Breaking from routine is the surest way to free your mind and stimulate your brain to find a fresh idea.


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