Is your routine creative?

A human myth is that there are creative people and people who aren’t.  The truth is that we are all creating.   Some of us simply create more routine in our lives than others.  Others make a more adventurous lifestyle.  Many of us hone artistic qualities or even can create much drama in our lives.   One of the determinants of using 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 judged 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 quickly 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 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 to envision, 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 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 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.  Of course, the problem is it meant routine work increased because we 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 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.  I am enjoying it enormously because I came creatively instead of closing the tasks with a “routine” mindset.

I also realised that this creative approach to routine work might benefit people like me who find it hard to knuckle under routine. It could also help those who loved routine so much they had created a considerable 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 for approaching 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 for approaching routine tasks creatively!

Pay attention

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 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 result justify the time spent doing the work?  Sometimes we do things for the wrong reason, but the minor gains do not justify the input.  For example, a common mistake is when companies send 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.   As a young admin assistant, I started working on routine functions in a large government office many years ago.  Every day the powers that be brought box loads of records over from the IT centre so that if the admin staff needed the documents, 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?”

It was Simple!  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!  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 several routine tasks and where we could.  It’s a bit like that syndrome, where you work week in and week out with a slight backlog, but you can catch up and clear your desk when you are off on vacation from work.  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 significantly speed up the process, but our results were equally as good with a more efficient routine.

Be consistent

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 motto in our office. It’s become quite enjoyable because we know that if we do things regularly, consistently, and efficiently, massive results are possible.  Too often, it’s easy to be erratic with routine stuff, especially for small businesses, 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?

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