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by Sheela Hobden
22 September 2021

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Maximise brain efficiency through the power of routine

With autumn now here, we start to get back into our familiar working patterns. Sheela Hobden takes a look at how powerful routine can be for our well-being.

The human brain craves certainty. This helps us into ‘competency’ mode, in which we think rationally. 

Having a set way or pattern of doing things, such as a routine, is like a massage to the mind. We don’t have to ‘think’, we get into ‘flow’ and feel the cumulative effects of consistency.

Neuroscientist David Rock includes certainty in the SCARF leadership model, and how we can maximise it in times of change. SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. The model examines how the brain responds with a threat or reward to these aspects.

Make routine a habit

A routine is a habit — a practice performed regularly. James Clears’ useful discussion in his book ‘Atomic habits’ shows you how to make small changes to incorporate routines that have can have a transformative effect on life overall. 

Studies show that when people focus on a process, rather than the end-goal, they get better results. 

This means there is power in having ‘identity-based’ goals rather than ‘outcome- based’ goals — for example, ‘to be a runner’ (identity based) or ‘to run a half marathon’ (outcome-based).

Many people stop after the outcome goal because the task is ‘done’, but continue with the identity based on, because it is now part of ‘who they are’.

An example in the world of business might be that getting through that pile of supplier invoices won’t ever be ‘the end’, and so finding a way to ‘routinize’ the process may help, e.g. do them at a set time on a set day, for a specified amount of time. Some call this ‘batching’. An ‘identity-goal’ here might be ‘the type of manager who is organised’.

Try out these ideas to help you to implement more routine:

  • Review any activities you procrastinate over, and try ‘batching’ these into regular slots
  • Examine the why and the how of a routine. This will help you be physically and emotionally attached to it, and more likely to stick to it
  • For an activity you would like to become a routine; ‘anchor’ it to something else. For example, when I go for my first coffee of the day, I will make a start on…[insert new routine to create]…