Daily routines provide essential structure and predictability, helping us focus on work without wasting energy adjusting to new environments. But by repeating set patterns, they can also lock us into thoughtless unproductive cycles.
Since change is crucial to our development, we need to treat routines as constant “works in progress", regularly breaking and experimenting with them to encourage valuable new ideas, perspectives and interactions. Here are 16 ways to do exactly that – to keep your daily work routine healthy, productive and rewarding.
1. Work in a new place
As the site of your productive output, your workplace needs to be able to satisfy your changing work needs – from creative group collaboration to focused self-isolation. So make sure you move to a space where you can achieve what you need to.
2. Break up mornings and afternoons
Function aside, regularly changing up where you work can work refreshing novelty into your week and help you out of a work rut. Try working a morning from home, or moving one afternoon a week out of the office to give a fresh structure to your days.
3. Reclaim dead time
A ton of our time is lost in the limbo of commuting, awaiting feedback, and waiting for your morning coffee to brew. Use this dead time to carve out space for short, focused tasks – whether it’s for self-development, work organization or life admin.
4. Vary your exercise
Exercise should be fun, not a chore. Don’t get locked into the same uninspired running route or gym class – try a one-off class, give yoga a shot and keep your cardio varied. You may find it strengthens a whole muscle set you forgot about!
5. Access a new community
Broaden your perspective by talking to new people. Go to a conference that overlaps with your interests and skills, look up relevant company-hosted events in your local area, or try out a co-working space to stay in contact with a whole spectrum of specialisms.
6. Have an active lunch
Don’t let your lunch break pass by in an uneventful blur – make full use of it by keeping active. Get out the office, go for a walk, explore somewhere new in your area, visit a new place each day – if it’s an option, try dog walking!
7. Reinvent your work space
We mean your regular, static place of work – like a desk or home office. Reimagine your set-up as much as your means allow you. Repaint, get a new desk lamp, try a new furniture arrangement, get a comfy chair or standing desk, buy plants.
8. Try a new route to the office
Mix it up, even if you only have a 3-minute walk from the train station to the office to work with. If practically possible, try cycling, walking or running. Experience every season.
9. Plan time for self-development
Block out time at least once a week to focus on learning a new skill or developing your specialism. That could be as simple as turning one hour in the middle of your week into a “research” or “reading” hour. Be strict in protecting that time.
10. Get up an hour earlier
While it’s not for everyone, it’s great for making use of those weird occasions when you wake up inexplicably rested at 6:00am. Getting your day started earlier – and therefore finishing earlier – can give you a refreshed sense of control over your time. Since everyone else is still asleep, you may even find you get more done.
11. Go offline
Ditch all distractions and try working a morning (or whole day) without being interrupted by your own technology. Mute messenger and email notifications, keep your phone in your pocket and only use the internet when you need to for your work.
12. Read books
Not just ones related to work – read novels, biographies, short stories, and long magazine features. Nothing challenges your ability for introspection and human empathy than quietly processing the voice of someone else’s lived experience – whether real or imagined.
13. Learn something new
It can be anything – learn how to code, play an instrument, throw pottery, plumb your sink, use sign language, make a new recipe. If you want to work towards a long-term structured goal, enrol in night classes or start a part-time degree. Just remember, it doesn’t have to result in any material qualification.
14. Have a weekend to yourself
It can be daunting if you’re used to constant company, but taking a weekend to focus on yourself can be a grounding experience. Accomplish the tasks you’ve been putting off, go to a film or museum by yourself, exercise, be comfortable in your own company. Better still, make it a solo holiday.
Doing something useful for others that isn’t directly tied to your own ideas of success is great for getting out of your own head. Help support a different community and make other people the centre of your focus.
16. Try new foods
Whether it’s sampling a new work snack or actively planning what you want to eat for a week, extending experimentation to your nutritional life can invite refreshing novelty into your routine. And since there’s some evidence to suggest our gut can influence our emotional wellbeing, it’s worth exploring.