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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Routine, ritual, and improvisation

Routine is beneficial: it provides efficiency, safety, and comfort.

Efficiency because you don't have to think about the order in which you do something. Routine tasks are quick and efficient.

Safety, because you can avoid error. Always put your car keys in the same place, they will not be lost. Never transcribe someone else's words into your document without at the same time noting whose words they are and marking them off as separate, and you won't commit certain kinds of plagiarism.

Comfort, because a routine provides familiarity.

Ritual is the sacralization of routine, on top of its utilitarian benefits. It is a kind of "magical thinking" applied to routine. "This routine is not only efficient, but it will make everything else work right as well. It will make me safe not just from certain kind of errors, but from ERROR itself."

The problem with routine is that breaks from routine provide opportunity for creative thinking. Drive a different route to work, or do a routine task in a different way, work in a different space, or at a different time of day, and you might have an idea you never had before.

So the question becomes knowing what to approach "routinely," and what to approach creatively. Placing your car keys in the refrigerator is a creative move you might not need to take. Doing the same thing in the exact same way every day, though, will deaden the mind.

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