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Work with a rhythm

So many things provide rhythm to life.

  • Music
  • Dance
  • The seasons
  • Waking strides
  • Heartbeats
  • Speech
  • Faith

What rhythm means to me.

Before I ever thought about my daily routines mapping to a rhythm, I was following patterns. Looking back, I remember specific practices I used during high school to complete assignments and study for tests. I used time blocks in college to stay organized with activities and school. Today, I have routines for work, exercise, money management, and a host of other life spaces. These elements provide rhythm to my life.

I don’t see standard disciplines as some robotic repetition. To me, life rhythm is a recurring set of actions that are completed for a purpose. Exercising at set intervals is meant to keep the body healthy. Arriving at work before the official start of business is meant to allow time for uninterrupted planning and thought. Avoiding or minimizing personal debt is done to allow more freedom in spending choices later.

A few of my favorite examples.

Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative, says it this way, “There is a way, however, to ensure that you’re always poised to experience creative insights when you need them. You must establish practices that support your creative process and give you the focus, energy and time you need when an opportunity arises“. Establishing rhythmic practices in your routines is a how he supports creative processes in his life.

The Apostle Paul found rhythm in God and his faith. In a speech in Athens his words are recorded in Acts 17 as, “For in him we live and move and have our being.

One of the Principles of Lean and the Toyota Production System is, “Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.” The point of standardized tasks is not to become inflexible, but to find and expose pieces of work that can be improved.

Find a rhythm but understand the why.

Creating and setting a rhythm in life is important for achieving success on our daily ‘to-do’ lists. But the benefits of setting a rhythm are way better than accomplishing a few to-dos. If we use our mission statement, personal or business, as a basis for our rhythms then we are building a foundation s for working on what is most important while at the same time creating opportunity for continuous improvement.  Now that’s a song worth dancing to.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: Ineke Hulzing via Flickr Creative Commons

Not so routine

Speaking of daily routines. 
I have tendency to leave things at home in the morning when I don’t follow a set routine. Things like my cell phone, lunch, or security badge. One day I even forgot my wallet. Sheesh! This often happens to me when I’m rushing to get out of the house or place things in a different location in the house. For example this morning I left my phone at home because it was on my night stand from last night. I normally leave the phone in my office.
But the thing is I don’t like set routines. I like to vary my sequences to add a different dynamic. That’s probably why the movie Groundhog Day annoyed me when I first saw it. I like variety in my daily activities so that I feel like I’m doing something new. Maybe I vary my morning ritual subconsciously to feel better even though I hate when I get to work missing something.
Business thrives on routines but allows disruption. 
The there’s the business world which thrives on predictability and routines. We don’t like surprises in business. We want to know that we’ll produce the same output each time we follow the steps. Employees are expected to follow routines and processes to get good marks on their reviews and to keep their boss happy.
Yet disruption happens. Plan a day when and see how often the unexpected happens to change those plans. Work is a collection of collisions as people with different priorities and to-do lists try to get the attention of each other for help and service. It can lead to chaos!
Does routine hinder creativity?
Todd Henry argues that rituals unleash creativity and  “provide solid ground when facing the uncertainty of your daily work”. He goes on to say that good rituals and routines help to forge healthy habits and achieve a flow to our day.
I agree with this thought. Some routines and rituals are healthy and have good consequences. Things like staying out of debt and good dietary habits. I make intentional decisions through my week that are part of a routine that I think help me to think and create. One of those is writing on Saturday morning. I’ve hit a rhythm in life to use Saturday mornings as a think-and-write time. While it’s a routine in my schedule, the output of the routine isn’t the same. I don’t always feel creative when I write, but my hope is that this routine time leads to creativity and new thoughts.
 
When routine isn’t routine.
So as I think about it, I like to follow routines that make life not so routine. It’s a paradox of sorts. Use routines to find new things and creativity. Use routines to make yourself better.  Maybe I’ll use this to remember to take my cell phone to work next week.