Benefits to Breaking out of your Normal Routine

The regular routine you have can be one of your most valuable assets. A good routine can allow you to increase your productivity and produce results on a more consistent basis. However, if we are not careful our normal routine can slowly move us into an average or ordinary life.

It can be similar to driving to a familiar location (Like your work or home). I’ve driven the same route to work for over 3 years. There has been several times when I’d leave work to go home and upon arriving at home not remember anything in-between (Which is always a little scary to think about. Has that ever happened to you?). Recently my wife brought to my attention a faster alternative route from my home to the highway I need to get onto. This new route would save me around 5-8 min. of travel time and also allow me to avoid a highly traveled area.

You’d think I’d automatically remember to turn off my auto-pilot and take this new route, wrong. Breaking out of my normal routine was more difficult than I thought it would be. Several times I drove right past the turn that would save me time and frustration. It took about two weeks of intentional effort to break free from my past routine to take the new route.

Breaking out of your normal routine on a regular basis would be beneficial for anyone to consider doing, whether it be in your driving, life, or leadership. It can bring these benefits:

It moves you outside your comfort zone- A normal routine can cause you to be and stay in your comfort zone. Breaking free of your routine can allow you to move outside of your comfort zone, into new growth, experiences, and opportunities. Author Neale Walsch says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Allows you to change and adapt- It can be difficult to see more effective and proficient ways of leading or accomplishing a task while in a normal routine. Moving away from your normal routine can allow you to clearly see old patterns or habits which can prevent you from moving toward your potential and a better future.

Questions: Can you add to the benefits that would come from breaking your normal routine? How has breaking your normal routine benefited you in the past?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I used to equate routine with discipline. Then I realized that doing the same things in the same way was stifling creativity. But, like you said Dan, habits can be hard to break but usually worth the effort.

    • A definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” A lot of us are insane at times and need to break from the normal routine so that we moved in a better direction. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  • I would add, that it helps you see the details again. When you take a new path or change something up, you notice more of the things that you normally overlook.

    • That’s a great addition, Paul. Seeing those maybe overlooked details can really help us. Thank you for reading and adding to the conversation.

  • Breaking routine often helps me break through the mental clutter and reignite my creativity. This can be applied in numerous ways. For example, I mix up the places I walk and run, choosing different neighborhoods and trails on a regular basis.

    Most of us go on vacation and explore, but rarely take time to discover everything that our own area has to offer. However, there are generally many possibilities available within a few minutes drive of our own homes that can help us break routine. It’s a matter of getting creative and finding them.

    • Hello Chris,

      Changing your workout routine is a great idea! I totally agree with you about not taking advantage of what our own area has to offer. Looking back, after moving from Portland OR to San Diego I regret taking advantage of what Portland had to offer, I’m not making the same mistake while in SD. Thank you for reading and sharing.

      • Enjoy your years in San Diego. Obviously, there’s plenty to see and do in southern California that could last you a lifetime. I need to get back out there!

        I know what you mean – I grew up in east Tennessee, and I didn’t take the time to hike in the Smoky Mountains often enough. Whenever I go back to visit my parents, I usually try out a new trail. You don’t always take advantage of what you have until you have gone and come back.

        • Thank you, Chris. It’s a great place to live. Let me know when your in the area, it would be great to meet face to face.

          At least your taking time to explore when you visit.

          • I will definitely let you know. My goal is to take a trip out west int he next two years. Looking forward to connecting in-person at some point in the future.

  • It isn’t so much moving out of my comfort zone Dan. it is more like moving out of sameness and blahness. It give a whole new perspective when coming at it from behind instead of in front (metaphorically).

    • Great point, Bil. The “sameness” and “blahness” can prevent us from a better life. Thank you for sharing.

  • Razwana

    Hey Dan – I’ve absolutely not recalled the journey to and from the office, on may occasions! This is the best part of being on autopilot.

    And as you’ve discussed, it also means the autopilot is difficult to switch to another direction. It takes concerted effort, for sure!

    It makes you aware of this change process for sure.

    So how many times did you take the old route before the new route became the new routine?

    • Hello Razwana,

      Ha, ya. autopilot can have it’s advantages:) This has been a recent change so I’m still working through the process. It’s starting to become more “new” to me. Thank you for sharing.

  • If we’re not willing to change the world will do so without us. We tend to stick with what works, even if it’s not always the most wise or efficient. We all tend toward it… and need to be on our guard against it. Thanks for the reminder, Dan.

    • So true, Floyd! Being proactive against it is so essential. It’s why I wanted to write this post, for the reminder:) Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the discussion.

  • Routine is good in certain circumstances. But I totally agree that it can hurt our growth in the long-run.

    By not breaking free from a routine, we will start to stagnate. Things will become too easy and we will be engulfed by our comfort zone. But if we mix things up a bit, whether it’s a new workout regimen or a new route home, we become more conscious of our actions and grow at a deeper level.

    • Kevin, that’s a great observation. We can become too relaxed by the ease our comfort zones provide.

    • Yes, it’s all about mixing things up so we are never too comfortable. Thank you for taking the time to read and add your thoughts.

  • Tweeted this out. Great post Dan.

    • Thank you Sean! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Hi Dan,

    This was a great post my friend.

    Breaking out of old routines is so important for our growth. I think another benefit of breaking out of old routines is that we experience different perspectives and encounter new people. Doing so can open new doors of opportunities for us.

    Thank you.

    • Thank you Hiten:) That’s a great addition. All great reasons to break from a normal routine. Thank you for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  • Ha! i feel you Dan! Routine can be helpful but it does numb the mind…not a good thing when you need to be alert! Great post!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Wouldn’t you love to have someone come into your house and evaluate all your routines? Sometimes we’ve been doing things the same way for so long, we can’t see the drawbacks of doing it that way. Thanks for the reminder to check our routines.

    • Ha, ya:) Someone could make good money being a coaching evaluator. Glad to remind everyone, including myself. Thank you for sharing.

  • I love that you point out how helpful routines can be. When establishing a new habit, routine is your friend! But at a certain point, routine can blind us to the existing opportunities. We have to walk a fine line!

    • I had to mention that because not all routines are bad or harmful. Thank you for taking the time to add to the discussion.

  • Excellent post. I wrote a post last year on 9 motivators that help me breakthrough familiar routines. I refer to those 9 motivators often because I fall easily into mind numbing routines. Here is the link (http://leadtoimpact.com/9-motivators-to-breakthrough-a-familiar-routine/) to that post. Dan, I appreciate the inspiration.

    • Thank you, Bernard. I tried going to the link but it came up with an error. Can you re-post the link so myself and others can read it?

  • I’ve done the drive home and not remember driving home thing before. It’s kind of scary. One one hand I agree with you that getting out of your normal routine can be a great way to engage your brain and get it working out of it’s comfortable boundaries. On the other hand you can also over do it. Personally I find myself trying to get back into the routine more often than not because too much disruption also can create problems. Anyway, I think that is just be personally because I tend to do a lot of travel.

    • It’s good to know I’m not the only one:)

      Good point about “over doing it.” I totally agree. The key is to have a balance and be self aware when we need to change things up or keep things the same. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  • I often switch things up. I like to change my writing and blogging routine. This is partially out of necessity as I have to take care of my health and family, too. Changing routine can be good for your health.

    • I totally relate with you, Dan. My day job, well-being, and family come first. This means that I have to switch up my writing and posting routine. Thank you for sharing.

  • DS

    I’m definitely a hyper-miler commuter. I am on automatic, so much so that I ask my wife when we leave my house to go somewhere in the area to help me remember to turn off auto-pilot (yes we’ve headed to work numerous times!). When we move out of our comfort zone, it helps challenge our brain. I think of it like exercise, and how your muscles have memory. To continue to grow muscle you have to create variety in your exercise.

    • Glad to hear I’m not the only one:) Great point and analogy. Changing our brain and thinking is important. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  • Thanks for writing, Dan. This may be crazy: But, I’ve heard from a physiological perspect that when we just take the same path, do the same things, etc. it wears mini ruts in our brain. Might be far-fetched but cool to think about. :) I’m thinking that changing things will definitely help benefit our creative thinking.

    • Your welcome, I hope you enjoyed the post.That’s very interesting. Thank you for adding to the topic.

  • I’d also add…

    Breaking routine allows you to see things from a new, and possibly improved, perspective.

    I was training a colleague at work several weeks ago, when he asked the question, “Why do you do it that way?” My autopilot response was, “I’ve always done it that way.” He then proceeded to show me a short cut.

    That’s just a small analogy to say that there may be a better way of doing something if we are only willing to try.

    Great post Dan.

    • Great additional point, Larry!

      Thank you for sharing the story and analogy. It really added to the post.

  • Using your analogy, when I drive home a different way, it is interesting the things I notice. By breaking a routine, we enhance our awareness. It may be self-awareness, which is a critical leadership skill to develop and use. It may be other-awareness, which is essential in building empathy with the people around us (another important leadership capability). By breaking our routines, we can either develop new skills or strengthen old ones that we may have not used in awhile. Either way, it is a win. Great thoughts, Dan. Thanks. Jon

    • Hello Jon,

      Self awareness and awareness are so important when it come to leading effectively. Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the discussion.

  • Great Post Dan. Always when you break an established routine, you have benefits (some times more than those you been expecting!). Outside your comfort zone marvelous things, might happen. But only when you have prepared for this out the filed trips and have cultivate a state of readiness, vigilance and awareness (and a culture of constant curiosity for everything and everyone around).

    Thank you for sharing your ideas, Dan.

    • Hello Takis,

      First off thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you enjoyed my blog content.

      Yes, great things happen when we move outside our comfort zone. It requires being intentional.

  • Its been difficult for me to break old habits and gain a new routine. But i know that by doing it, it will increase my productivity and my ability to adapt to many situations. Familiarity breeds contempt and that means that as we continue to stay the same and do the same routine, we lose focus on goals that are truly important to us.

    • I think it’s difficult for most people:) Seeing the benefits really help when it comes to changing though. Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the discussion. I appreciate it.

  • Breaking out of my normal routine helps me find new ways to do things, and it happens in every area of life. It can also help me see a problem I am having in a new light, and therefore gain new perspective to keep going. Vacations help a lot with breaking a normal routine, especially ones allowing for lots of down time, relaxing & connecting. I think having routines provide comfort to able to be uncomfortable, so there is definitely a balance between sticking to routine and letting routine be broken.

    • Hello Kari,

      Gaining perspective on our problems is so helpful. Great points about vacation using that to break free from our normal routine. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • There are good things and bad things to having a normal routine. The good thing is that you can make things more efficient by knowing when you’re supposed to be doing something and how you’re supposed to do it. The bad thing about it is that you don’t get to stretch yourself as a person. If you always do the same things, you always get the same results. It’s important to get out of that routine every once in a while just to see what you might be missing.

    • Hello Steve,

      I totally agree with that. I shed a lot of lite to the benefits and not the potential negative side of breaking a routine. Maybe I’ll have to do a follow up post. Thank you for reading and adding to the topic.

  • I’m not good at breaking my routines- I like them. But God has been using my son to teach me the beauty of being flexible.

    It helps give me new insight and appreciation for life when I don’t let routine dictate my every moment.

    • Some routine is a good thing though. Though being self-aware of the bad or non productive pasterns is also important. Sometimes that requires us breaking from our routine to see. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

      • As I grow in Christ, I’m learning to depend on Him to show me when a routine needs breaking and when it’s working! God’s awesome in helping us, if we only seek Him.

  • I think that having a normal routine for a “work day” works for me – but on a “rest day” I’ll shake things up.

    • That’s great! You know what works for you and you stick with that. Thank you for taking the time to share.

  • I needed this Dan! First off, you hooked me because my husband recently found a shorter route home and I am the one who keeps going the same old way. :) But in bigger ways than that, I have gotten in a bit of a rut with my weekend routine. I’m working on being more productive and have actually set goals to help me accomplish that.

    Some of my routines are comforting and good. I’ve always been aware of the need for developing good habits and keeping them. But there are new ideas that need to be embraced. I’m doing it!

    Thanks for giving some insight!
    Karen Hoyt

    • Hello Karen,

      It’s amazing how we can take the same road without even knowing their might be a shorter route.

      Setting goals is huge when it comes to getting the things we need to do accomplished. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts:)