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Is routine the roadblock to creative thinking?

September 5th, 2012

As summer slowly comes to an end, and September stress sprawls out in front of us, I have been thinking about the act of using routines to reduce stress and create positive flow in our lives.

As you all know, I love routines. I believe in routines. When I recently typed “routine quotes” into Google and found results like “routines reduce creative thinking” and “routines prevent people from excelling through lateral thinking,” I was firmly reminded how many people out there reject routines.

I was not surprised as perhaps creative people feel it is limiting – something with so much constriction or explicit direction must surely prevent them from expanding their possibility of success.

I’d like to argue the opposite. Studies show that routines allow us to free our minds of wasted energy on daily tasks like getting dressed, brushing our teeth, and getting out of the house in the morning. Therefore, shouldn’t simple routines help us be more creative and free up more time for spontaneous bursts of fun?

At the finale of this great piece in Time Magazine by Annie Murphy Paul, she suggests that maybe creating a routine that inspires creativity would allow the benefits of both worlds. Take this wonderful example – setting your alarm to go off earlier so you have time to daydream in bed. I think that sounds like a compromise we can all live with.

What are your thoughts on routines? Creativity killers or a recipe for smooth and stressful living?

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