Every morning the alarm goes off at 5am. Bathroom. Dress. Eat the same breakfast. Off to work at 6:15am each morning. The same 45-minute commute. In through the same door at work. Coat hung in the same place. Bag set down in the same place. Same startup routine: Computer on, check email, check calendar. And so on. Every day. This rut repeats and repeats. It saps energy and motivation out of everything you do. You’re going through the paces, but without any vitality. You get the work done, but you know that you’re not having the impact you could. How do you break the cycle?
Tim Irwin, in his book Impact: Great Leadership Changes Everything, labeled this “dailyness.” It’s when the normal rhythms of real life invade a leader’s inner desire for challenge, responsibility, and the opportunity to make a real difference.
Irwin said, leaders “really want to make a positive difference and to have their lives count for something more purposeful than simply making a living.”1 But dailyness sets in very quietly. Dailyness sneaks up on leaders in the same way that sleep sneaks up on the driver of a car when he hasn’t had enough rest.
So how do you stay awake? How do you fight off dailyness so that you have the fresh vision and energy required to pursue something meaningful?
5 Ways to Fight Dailyness
Break up the routine — Take 15 minutes to create a detailed outline of your day. Identify every routine process and action from the time you wake to the time you go to sleep. Focus on the things that are the same most days: List each step of your morning routine at home. The route to work. Where you hang your coat. When you check email. Which bathroom you use. Which chair you sit in for the weekly status meeting. When you eat lunch. What you eat for lunch. Who you eat lunch with. And on, and on, and… Your list will likely be very long.
Each day for one week change five aspects of your routine. Five new things each day. At the end of the week you will have made some interesting discoveries and uncovered fresh insights.
Develop greater awareness of others — Pick an emotion and look for it in people’s words and actions. Fear. Hope. Hesitancy. Anticipation. Curiosity. Anger. Sadness. Joy. Trust.
Pick one emotion each day for a week. Keep a running log on a notepad of what you see in others. Identify the situation (“Sales update meeting”) and the emotion trigger (“Frustrated that Francis missed quota again.” or “Frustrated about inability to influence VP.”) Be careful about recording information that might be damaging to others, though. Use common sense. What do you learn about others? What do you learn about your culture? What do you learn about yourself?
Learn about someone’s job — It’s amazing how much we take for granted about what people do. Honestly, most of us know very little about the details of others’ work. What skills are needed? What kind of training and education? What are the challenges? What is exciting and motivating? What tools and resources are used? Who are the key partners? Key consumers of the work? Etc.
Identify three people in your company, or outside, and ask them, “What you do looks interesting. I’d like to learn more about it to develop greater appreciation for your part of the company. Could we have coffee or lunch together?” Interview them. You’ll be amazed at how excited people are to talk about their work. You’ll also develop insights about your own work, too.
Serve — There are many people around you in need. They need your gifting. They need your ability to do things. You have so much to offer and if you’re like most people, the best of you is sometimes squandered on people who already have a lot. (I confess this is very true of myself, too. Of the ideas presented in this article, this is where I struggle the most.)
Contact a local place of worship or a city hall and ask about people who need help. Make a serious commitment to help someone or a group using your gifts, strengths, and skills. You can’t cheat by giving money or indirectly helping someone (mowing a lawn or washing windows). Spend time interacting with people at least once per month for six months, at least two hours each time. You’ll find your heart opens and you develop a perspective on life and your own situation that can be truly transforming.
Get Back to Basics — It’s easy to lose sight of simple principles of leadership.
Refresh your personal mission, values, and vision. Develop an action plan to pursue one element of your vision.
Leaders want to make an impact. Leaders want to have a significant influence on people and organizations. It is easy, though, to get lost in dailyness. The longer you are lost in dailyness, the harder it is to break out. Take action now with the strategies above to peel back the curtain of routine and see the bright light of life, people, and working together.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
1: Tim Irwin, Impact (Dallas, TX: BenBella, 2014), 7.