Is your routine creative?
A human myth is that there are creative people and people who simply aren’t. The truth is that we are all creating. Some of us simply create more routine in our lives than others. Others create a more adventurous lifestyle. Many of us hone artistic qualities or even can create much drama in their lives. One of the determinants of how you will use your creative skills will be based on your personal preferences.
We approach routine differently depending on our personality type
MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), is based on the psychology of Carl Jung. Jung identified eight distinct personality functions which can strongly influence the way we create our world. Our creative approach will differ depending on our type preference.
Until I understood my personality type preferences I used to judge myself for “not having more attention to detail”. I also used to prefer spending time on my own than with friends (not always, but often!). With millions of ideas, not being able to finish implementing many of them made me feel inadequate. My unconscious preferences made me act in a certain way. I was enlightened when I knew I could choose to do things differently. Even though it felt uncomfortable, it was liberating.
So while some people love routine and feel lost without it, I get bored very easily with routine tasks. I love starting new projects and trying new things. I have learned enough about myself and created sufficient discipline to get the routine stuff out of the way. The reason is I simply don’t enjoy it, procrastinate too often. I look forward to the day when I can afford to pay others to carry out the routine tasks to free me up to vision, imagine and create new adventures.
The routine at work is inevitable
Setting up my new business has been a steep learning curve. I have been self-employed in the past but simply worked as an associate and worked with many different companies. This time, I’m setting up a business, with outcomes, structure and financial plans. Up until a few months ago I actually sang my way into the office every day. Using my imagination to decide what I wanted to create, with real meaning and purpose has been exciting, new and adventurous.
A few months ago the social media side of the business took a remarkable positive turn which meant lots of services being delivered to new clients. Enviable isn’t it? Well yes, it certainly is and we are counting our blessings every day. The problem of course for me is it meant routine work increased because we simply had to deliver. Not my strong preference!
A systematic approach does not need to feel routine
So over the past few months, I’ve been setting up systems and processes to deal with the routine aspects of the work. Many of these processes are time-consuming, routine and don’t take much brainpower once they are firmly in place. I was prepared to be bored! But yet that’s the thing, what happened has been far from boring.
I have in the past introduced many process mapping and re-engineering systems in the workplace including. TQM, EFQM and Lean/Six Sigma; for example. But despite being responsible for implementing these models with consistent success, I didn’t really achieve my “Aha” moment about being creative about routine until now. The whole process has reinforced and made me approach routine work with a whole new perspective. One which I am enjoying enormously because instead of approaching the tasks with a “routine” mindset, I approached them creatively.
I also realised that this creative approach to routine work might not only benefit people like me who find it hard to knuckle under to routine, it could possibly also help those who loved routine so much they had created a huge comfort zone of doing the same thing day after day. As you can imagine neither of these traits can lead to creativity and innovation!
Tips to approach routine tasks creatively
So if you have routine tasks and you either find them yawningly boring or conversely you find them comfortably reassuring, then you are on the wrong track! You are not going to be working at your best and you need to change something! This is what I found when I took a different approach to routine tasks, and, as a result, my tips to approach routine tasks creatively!
When you pay attention to routine tasks, and I mean pay attention to every process in the routine you notice what works well and not so well. It’s a bit like motoring the same route to work every day, hitting the same traffic jam, and then realising that actually hitting the traffic jam isn’t inevitable. So my first tip is to pay attention to each part of the process.
Measure the impact
My second tip is to measure the impact of the routine task. What is the outcome of repeating the routine task, does the outcome justify the time spent doing the work? Sometimes we simply do things for the wrong reason, but the minor gains simply do not justify the input. For example, a common mistake is when companies send out letters to charge nominal amounts or send standard letters rather than an email; these can cost lots more than the impact or outcome.
Use a fresh pair of eyes
Look at each task as if you were looking through a fresh pair of eyes. Many years ago as a young admin assistant I started working on very routine tasks in a large government office. Every day the powers that be brought box loads of records over from the IT centre so that if the admin staff needed the records they were there. This had been the routine for years. No one had raised a query, nor was I trying to solve any problem, the whole routine just niggled me. I went to my line manager and said to him. “Instead of printing off every record and wasting all that paper, why is there not a system whereby if someone needs a record they have to apply for it?”
Was Simple really! Well yes, but everyone in that office was in their comfort zone and routine was king. A few days later there was a flurry of activity I was taken into the “big bosses” office and told that they were changing the system and it would mean millions of fewer records printed off each year, and I was thanked and asked if I had any other ideas. Honestly! Boy in later years did I wish they’d had a compensation based staff suggestions box! But hey you and I both know it wasn’t rocket science, and it really wouldn’t happen today, but you get the principle. A fresh pair of eyes is my third tip.
Challenge the status quo
Tip number four is to challenge the status quo. When Hannah and I were preparing for her two weeks off over the Christmas break, we took a number of routine tasks and where we could we prepared in advance. It’s a bit like that syndrome, where you work week in and week out with a slight backlog, but when you are off on vacation from work you can catch up, and clear your desk. Well, we had some wins like that. Of course, now Christmas is over, we are replicating those steps we took in that situation because not only did we greatly speed up the process, but our results were equally as good with a more efficient routine.
And my final tip is: Understand the absolute power of consistent, small but efficient routine tasks in your business. Setting up and refining systems have become a bit of a byword in our office and actually, it’s become quite enjoyable because we know that if we do things regularly, consistently and efficiently the outcomes are actually massive results. Too often it’s easy to be spasmodic with routine stuff especially for small business and priorities have to be juggled.
Do you take a creative approach to routine work? Do you have any other tips to get the most out of your routine tasks?