For some of us, the thought of living a ‘routine’ life makes us want to run for the hills screeching like banshees!
It can conjure up an image of being ‘stuck’ or ‘lacking excitement’, and yes, in that context, routine can be a real fizzer.
But imagine if we had to rethink every single thing we do, every day, such as brushing your teeth, washing clothes or driving a car. Without routine, the general tasks that we complete each day would be exhausting!
The ability to do these things does not just happen naturally, it takes time to develop skills, especially for driving a car! But eventually, thanks to repetition, a routine develops and we carry on unconsciously.
In everyday life, getting out of bed and ‘going with the flow’, means that we carry out our day-to-day activities with a developed familiarity.
Did you know that even the human body relies upon routine for maintaining optimum health levels? Regular eating, sleeping and toilet patterns have the power to maintain a sense of well-being and reduce the impacts of stress.
Who has ever had their routine disrupted? For me, long-distance travel is my nemesis. There’s nothing like a 26-hour flight, and the resultant jetlag, to throw my body’s routine out, making me feel all sorts of terrible!
So on a personal level, routine definitely has its place in supporting our wellbeing.
Now transfer routine into the workplace. Routine should revolve around the natural rhythm, or flow of the environment; positively contributing to the shape of the workplace culture.
But let’s be honest, the workplace, for many Managers and Coordinators, can feel like an unrelenting uphill battle, particularly if rules and routines have not been established, or are not followed consistently.
How do I introduce a positive and effective routine into my workplace, you ask?
Take a look at your work day and notice the patterns; what are the first things you do when you get to work?
Perhaps you turn on the air-conditioning, switch on your computer and then make yourself a cup of coffee. Generally, you don’t feel stressed carrying out these tasks, because they are familiar; you do them every day. Great start!
From there, you can continue to map out the habitual and obvious patterns throughout the rest of your work day, and begin to develop a schedule. If you notice any ‘bad habits’ in your routine, think about what you can replace these with.
For example, if you’re a manager, you might start the day by checking your emails, you also revisit your email account multiple times each day, or respond to email alerts as they appear on your desktop or phone. You end up responding to a myriad of side issues that may not require your immediate attention, just because you are so accessible.
Well being responsive is good isn’t it? Not necessarily. Not if it distracts you from the ‘important’.
What if, instead of starting with your email account each morning, you address one or two key items on your ‘to do’ list first up in the morning. Then schedule email reading time at 9am for 30 minutes. Address whatever is a priority out those emails. Delegate wherever necessary and, if it is faster and more appropriate, pick up the phone and have a quick conversation with the person; deal with it and move on. Turn off all email notifications and only check on your emails again at 3.00pm, once all the important things have been accomplished.
Let your staff know of your email response times, you can even add an automatic ‘out of office’ response if appropriate, letting people know when you will be checking and responding to emails. This way if something is urgent they will know to call you instead.
Well, that’s you sorted, but what about staff that work under your direction? Can you implement a routine that will support them?
Implementing routine in the workplace can be tricky, especially if bad habits or chaos have been the ‘norm’ for a long period of time. But persevere, because the aim of establishing workplace routine is to minimise stress for all, which will, in turn, increase productivity and morale.
The best approach you can take to implementing routine and supporting your staff to develop good habits is to model it. This is a key leadership skill to aspire to.
When positive routines are developed, in line with the natural flow that exists, everyone will find it easier. As a team you’ll stop paddling upstream, turn your canoe around and go with the flow!
You’ll find that you’re no longer using up all your energy trying to allocate tasks to staff. Instead, they’ll know exactly what they should be doing, because it’s generally the same thing, at the same time, each day.
One of the things that we’re often called in to do is assist organisations with developing frameworks, structures, and organisational routines, that work for the context and individual requirements of the organisation. It’s great to see organisations transformed by developing routines that fit with their ‘flow’. When used in a positive context, routine is definitely not a dirty word.
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