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If you want to get more done, or do things better, check your habits. Routines are useful, but they can also severely limit us. For clairty, I’m using ‘habit’ to mean a single task and ‘routine’ to be a series of them.

Habiits are good because they allow us to get things done without thinking about them, which saves time, effort and decision-making. The downside is that our habits and our routines mean we tend to do things on automatic pilot, mindlessly.

Be mindful

When we do things mindlessnessly we neither examine the reasons for our actions nor notice what’s going on around us as fully as we might. Its may be handy to be able to knit while watching the telly, or check our emails while listening to the news, but these then drop out of awareness. When we know we can do something but we no longer know how we do it, it’s has become automatic.

This doesn’t matter with mundane tasks perhaps, but when we go about other things unquestioningly, like our routines, we miss a lot. An example of this would be driving to work through beautiful countryside without noticing the beauty of Nature. Paying attention to our surroundings has known benefits because it literally ‘takes us out of ourselves’, and away from cares and concerns.

Concentrating on the task in hand brings you into the present so that you fully appreciate what’s going on around you. Developing a mindful habit of paying attention to your surroundings, particularly when your surroundings are the natural environment, has a soothing effect,

On the other hand, being on ‘automatic pilot’ allows the mind to wander. While some people might call this multi-tasking (it isn’t), if we are distracted by stress or worry, negative thoughts can take over.

As we are so often reminded by fans of mindfulness, the antidote to this is to give whatever you are doing your full attention, and so exclude the troublesome thoughts and quieten the mind.

Habits can limit us

Habits blunt our perceptions precisely because they are habits. It’s the same with routines. For anyone interested in living better, becoming more creative or even getting more done, questioning habits and routines should be part of daily life.

We need the occasional jolt to nudge us out of the comfort of our habits, enough to get a fresh perspective, find new ways of doing things, or even asking ourselves whether they need to be done at all.

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