You get up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to work. Or maybe you go to the gym, have a shower, grab a smoothie on your way to the site. What’s the difference?
I’ve just come back from a couple of weeks of travelling interstate only to find that my daily routine has been completely annihilated. I keep forgetting to take my vitamins and my healthy morning snack of cut vegetables doesn’t magically appear at my desk after I’ve drunk my coffee, which it used to once upon a time when I’d automatically prepare them at breakfast.
My frustration with this reminded me of a blog post I recently read on Benjamin Franklin, the guy I will always associate with flying a kite in a storm with a key on the end of the string, though much more famous for being one of the founding fathers of the USA. Franklin had a list of 13 virtues he valued but instead of aiming to achieve all 13 all the time (and probably failing), he would work on them one per week at a time throughout his life.
It got me thinking about routine in general. Routine is great for those things you shouldn’t need to think about—having a shower, making breakfast, packing your kit for work—but really terrible for tasks that require your full attention, particularly when it comes to key decision-making. How often do we reach for the easy, familiar option without questioning why? Routine thinking is the source of unconscious bias and can also blind us to risk, according to Risk Doctor David Hillson.
I want to form good habits, like automatically taking my vitamins and preparing a healthy morning snack but, as my trip away showed, all it takes is a little disruption to shake things up. So I decided to use it as an opportunity to do a check-up of my routine: what do I want in my routine? What habits do I want to edge out? More importantly, is there a way I be like Franklin by instilling self-improvement as a habit, but with a focus I can change from day to day or week to week?
The habit I think we need to make, as decision-makers and managers, is the one that stops us before we sign off in order to throw light on whether we have really considered everything we need to or whether we’ve submitted to routine thinking.
Does your routine help or hinder your decision-making?