In today’s world, we have an acronym called TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday). The basis for this acronym is that people who put in difficult hours at work during the weekdays do not have to do so during the weekend. Instead they ‘get to do’ something leisurely and things they really love. TGIF suggests that you are slogging through your week and doing what’s not important to you. It says that you have given up control of your life to someone else who isn’t allowing you to do what you please. It says that you are a slave. It says that your life as you want it only happens during the weekends. TGIF is a depressing acronym.
With a career I love and with my each day being an opportunity to learn more and work on things I care about, the concept of TGIF is lost on me. But, I agree with one aspect TGIF suggests. Do something different from your daily routine at least once a week. Here is why.
Routine breeds productivity, but not creativity
Why is routine so important? Read about it in Let’s fall in love with routine. Setting up a routine makes sure that you don’t think all day about what to do next. Once you have planned your life’s goals or have committed yourself to working with others for mutual goals, you must have a routine that steadily takes you towards those goals without distraction. A routine makes it easy to focus on what’s really important.
But that’s all routine is good for. Working towards your goals. Goals you have set for yourself sometime in the past and that must be achieved in the future. Routine is a set plan with a predictable outcome and no space for serendipity. How will you grow as a person unless you expose yourself to new experiences? How will you know if you have other interests or fears, things to achieve and overcome unless you have some way of trying new things? How will you get to know how problems are solved in fields different from your own? Sometimes the best solutions in life are from different fields put together.
That is why it is important to break your routine at least once a week. Twice works best. On Saturdays and Sundays, I refrain from doing any software engineering. This is not because I hate the field and want to see the back of it for two days. But because I would otherwise lose the golden opportunity to expand my horizons beyond my profession. The more fields you expose myself to, the broader your reach and the more your creativity increases.
Doing something new creates more neurons
While the size of your fingers and nose are fixed once you are an adult, there is no proven limit to the growth of your brain. The more you expose yourself to fresh experiences, the more neurons the brain develops, thus storing more information and building new connections within your brain. For the growth of your brain, you must give it something new once in a while.
Doing something new gives a new perspective
While working within a routine in your own field, your thoughts get limited to a finite space. Scientists who try to come up with solutions within a lab are limited by thoughts of research in physics, chemistry, microbiology or bioinformatics. After working too long inside the confines of a lab, their method gets restricted to following a physical law too hard or mixing too many chemicals. Accountants are stuck within two columns, be it debit or credit, profit or loss or asset or liability. After a while, they start seeing things in black and white, not being able to accept a world where there is a middle ground.
However, The best breakthroughs in science or the best changes in attitude are brought about due to experiences outside profession. The genesis of inventions like velcro and helicopter were results of talking a morning walk. Most people have dramatic shifts in perspective as soon as they give up the daily newspaper in favour of travelling to places to see and experience things by themselves.
Block time for learning
Among the days that you refuse to follow a routine, you should block some time for learning new skills. It may be for a new language, an instrument or any other skill. A few hours from your non-routine day(s) should be used for skill-building. Sure you can learn plenty of things during your job hours, because the work demands it. But, when you learn without any pressure such as a delivery deadlines, you can learn the subject deeply, simply because you want to master it for your own sake. New skills help you discover new hobbies or even new careers.
Bonding with people
I have often found that on days when I have no committed routines to take care of, I speak to people in a more relaxed manner, allowing the conversation to flow instead of cutting them off for my next scheduled work. This is true even when I am spending time with Priya, my wife. Weekends and festivals are some days when I spend plenty of time with people, catching up with them both personally and over phone.
Short trip as a way to break routine
It is a misconception that a getaway trip must be several weeks or months long. A short weekend getaway is very enjoyable too. A weekend trek, a day around your own hometown with a camera in hand, a bicycle ride in the least frequently used roads around your town, an adventure getaway such as paragliding on the hills near your town, all count as rich experiences that snap you out of your routine and get you to do something new.
Whether you are an employee working long job hours, a freelancer, a businessman or simply a homemaker, you should consider at least one day every week when you deliberately refuse routine and do activities that are outside your usual domain. You will be amazed at what you learn and how your perspective changes.