If there is one thing I have noticed about humans as a species, it’s that we have a complicated relationship with monotony.
On the whole, we don’t enjoy jobs where we have to perform repetitive actions over and over.
The mere thought of being on a production line in a factory is enough to give some people the shivers, myself included!
However, when you look more closely at people’s habits, monotony is ever-present.
A lot of us remain in the same job for years on end, performing the same tasks over and over. We commute to work the same way every day.
As much as we don’t like monotony, it appears we like familiarity even more.
While some familiarity with one’s surroundings and work is good, too much of it can be a bad thing.
Live to Learn
Humans want to learn, it’s one of our innate gifts. As children, we are eager to learn more about the world, and learn how to accomplish different tasks.
The older we get, the more we lose this desire. We regress into our habits and neglect to exercise this muscle.
Ask yourself this question. Since you left formal education, how much time have you dedicated to learning something?
It can be anything. Learning a new language, learning a new skill, or even taking up a new sport.
For the majority of us, the answer may not be what we expect.
Once we slip into the routine of the working world, it’s all too easy to neglect learning. We become accustomed to our schedule and don’t look to add anything in.
The key word here is routine. Without realising it or not, we all have a routine. Some are good, some are bad, but all of them are difficult to break out of.
When we develop a routine consciously or unconsciously, we find it difficult to break free from its shackles. We are bound to the routine, only a conscious effort to change it can break free of those shackles!
Monotony is counter-productive to creativity. Repeating the same processes and routine over and over continuously isn’t stimulating.
It dulls our thinking, and we tend to lapse into auto-pilot mode without even realising it.
This is why it’s common to fail at reaching goals when you set them. Say your goal as going to the gym three times a week after work.
You have to consciously break from your previous routine and force yourself to go to the gym. You know it’s going to be difficult, and you may not enjoy it. The temptation to skip it for just one day is enticing.
Missing one day isn’t bad, but that can easily snowball into two or three days. Before you know it, you haven’t been to the gym in a few weeks, and your goal is over before it even started.
Whether we like it or not, we are governed by our routines. It’s important to have control over them, otherwise, they control us.
If not, our desire to learn will be dulled and we will lapse into stasis without even realising what is happening.
The Problem With Monotony
When we do monotonous tasks our brain is on auto-pilot mode.
Once we become accustomed to the task we are no longer thinking about what we are doing, we are just doing.
This has its benefits. It means we can go about most everyday tasks without too much thought, and that helps us to focus our mind elsewhere.
The problem begins when what we d for a living involves monotony.
If you’re doing the same task for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, chances are you’re going to be bored out of your skull by the end of the week.
This could be a breeding ground for creativity. After all, if you don’t need to think about what you’re doing, your mind can wander off and come up with new ideas.
One person this worked for was Immanuel Kant. Even though he didn’t have a receptive job, his life was one of perpetual repetition.
He would wake up at 5:00 am every morning, write for three hours. Next, he would lecture at university for four hours, after which he would eat lunch at the same restaurant. Finally, he would go for a walk, following the same route as he had the previous day, leaving and returning at the same time he had the day before.
Kant repeated this process for 40 years! This is an extreme example. Kant’s job was in a creative sector, he was paid to think.
For the majority of the population today, we are not paid to think. We are paid to produce without thinking.
Therein is the issue. Kant was actively using his brain every day, despite living a monotonous life. If your brain is not active, you will not be creative.
Your brain is a muscle and it needs to be trained otherwise it will atrophy.
If you’re looking to strike out and move into a creative industry, or learn something new, you need to break with monotony, and actively engage your brain.
Otherwise, you may be stuck in a monotonous loop for longer than you wish.
We are creatures of habit, that we cannot deny. Our habits define us, and if we aren’t careful, they control us.
While monotony worked for Kant, not everybody is Kant. The man was unique, for the majority of us, monotony means mediocrity.
The way to counter this is to be conscious of what you are doing. How many times have you driven to work without even thinking of what you are doing?
How many times have you walked the same route to the shops or the gym, without a second thought for where you are going.
Our brain craves new challenges, new ways of doing things.
Routines are hard to change, so it’s best to take it one step at a time. Simply changing the way you go to work once in a while, can have a great impact on your creativity.
You have to snap yourself out of auto-pilot because you are unfamiliar with your surroundings. Your brain is making new neural connections, as opposed to going through the motions.
Take the time to snap out of your routine today, you’ll be surprised how quickly your creativity comes to back to you.
Your brain is similar to your body, you need to use it, otherwise, you’ll lose it.
Start using yours today.