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The benefits of breaking routines

The benefits of breaking routines
By Chris Lovejoy • Issue #16 • View online
Over the last couple of months, following the birth of my first child, it’s fair to say my routines have been disrupted.
At first, this felt like a source of frustration. “It’s 10am and I haven’t made it to the shower!”, “I haven’t meditated for four days!” or “I just need one good night’s sleep” are examples of thoughts that went through my head.
Over many years of trial and error, I have developed routines to optimise my performance: Morning routines that get me out of bed and in a great state of mind to tackle the day; Lunchtime routines that enable me get work done in my break; Study routines, writing routines, nighttime routines, etc
However, I have recently been forced to break many of this rules and routines. I worried that this meant I wouldn’t perform well; that I wouldn’t learn and grow in my studies and projects.
However, two months in, I have noticed something quite different:
I have now developed new routines, and the nature of my “productivity” has changed – in my opinion, for the good.
I realised recently that, within the routines I had developed, so had self-limitations. For example, my desire to sleep 8 hours and meditate every day had evolved in my head into “I can only perform well if I’ve slept 8 hours or more” or “I’m only positive and clear-headed if I’ve meditated consistently the last few days”.
Being forced out of these routines has enabled me to identify and question these beliefs. After not being given the option of sleeping 8 hours each night and meditating every morning, I’ve realised that I can actually still function pretty well. In some ways, I even function better.
For example, in the past I would often put off big decisions or big projects being ‘the conditions weren’t right’ (such as not being on a stretch of good sleep). Now, I spend less time questioning myself and more time just doing things. Also, I’ve noticed I work more on what I’m inclined to work on rather than what I ‘should’ work on from a strategic perspective.
The randomness and unexpected daily variations that were once a source of frustration have become a source of joy and new perspectives. There’s a lot to be said for ‘going with the flow’.
I heard an interesting anecdote a while back. Apparently, there was a study looking at patterns of commuting on the London tube. When there was a strike of line closure, people would have to find an alternative route to work. However, after the line re-opened, a certain percentage (around 10%?) would stick to the new route that they found. By being forced to find an alternative route, they’d ended up deciding that it was better than the one they were previously taking.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in here about how we should deliberately disrupt our routines every once in a while, to see what happens. I think it’s easier said than done, given that we are creatures of habit, but it may enable us to discover new ways of doing things.
What do you think? Are there any routines you should try and break?

This week’s video is on maintaining focus while studying (or doing any other activity prone to distractions) - you can watch it here.
ACV22: A Crash Course on Machine Learning, Where AI Fits Into Healthcare, And More (Dr Chris Lovejoy, Doctor / Machine Learning Student) - Alternative CV
That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.
Have a good one :)
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Chris Lovejoy

Hi! I'm Chris, a Cambridge medicine graduate now working as a doctor in London and exploring a career applying machine learning to medicine. Every weekend I send out an email sharing my experiences, life lessons as I learn them, and links to my favourite things on the internet.


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