Having a proper working routine is comfortable. You have your tools, your methods, your process, and you know how to get in the flow. Every other morning you punctually wake up after your third alarm clock has rung and cruise with your eyes half-closed through your apartment to reach that shiny red button at your tea pot or your coffee machine. You are just on time, and the world is waiting for you. And you rush into your daily routine, ready to change the world, as you always do.
When was the last time you let the world wait for you for a while? Just as you regularly wake up at the same time, do you also regularly plan on shaking things a little bit every now and again? When was the last time you consciously left your comfort zone entirely to challenge the unexpected, the unpredictable, the unfamiliar territory, to confront yourself with an entirely new set of complex problems — and find just the right solution for them?
The beauty of good ideas lies in their unpredictability. You can’t schedule good ideas, and you can’t come up with just the right sparkle of innovation at just the right time. They come up when you don’t expect them, and often the best way to approach a problem is to leave it alone for a while, walk away, study something completely unrelated — in fact, as much as possible — and then get back, synthesize the ideas you discover in distant places and apply it in the right mix, in the right proportion in just the right context.
Routine is deadly for creativity. It’s deadly for innovation and challenging design problems, too, because it hinders spontaneous decisions, random experiments and weird ideas. So what about scheduling break outs of the comfort zone a few times a month? Perhaps you’d like to try leaving your code in a broken state before you finish off for the day, or motivate yourself to try unrelated new things every morning. Alternatively, instead of being as fast as possible with your design, what about being as slow as possible instead — integrating slow, intelligent storytelling in your interface? Take the time to explore how a problem can be solved intelligently without rushing into the design or coding stage right away.
If you love lettering, why not try painting instead? What about setting up your alarm clock at 5:26 AM tomorrow? Or perhaps read a comic book backwards? Maybe just take a slightly longer, perfectly inefficient and crowded route to your office? Get a dog. Or a piano. Or a newspaper. Ask total strangers in the coffee shop what they do for a living and what excites them most. Perhaps you’ll discover things that you wish you’d always known and rediscover passion for things that you felt you’ve lost forever. And most importantly, perhaps you’ll meet people who will change your life, or at least a tiny bit of it. Isn’t it worth getting out of the comfort zone after all?
Let go, and get back to what you like doing most with a new energy, new perspective, new outlook — and try out a new coffee, pencil, text editor and music every now and again. To find your comfort zone — and leave it a few days later.