Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mr. Blue Sky: Changing Up Your Routine

I lived in Dallas for two and a half long years early in my career. I had moved to Dallas to be the Manager of Corporate Human Resources for a commercial real estate company. It was a great career opportunity. I had been working and living in downtown San Francisco as an HR Generalist, and in New York City as a Corporate Recruiter before that. Dallas was the next rung on the career ladder, but could not have been a worse place for me to live. It is hot, flat, hot, in the middle of nowhere, and if I haven't mentioned it yet, hot. You can't escape it without getting on a plane. I lived in an industrial loft downtown and commuted in a nondescript Volvo to a nondescript office building. Every day it was the same. Wake up at 5 am, put on a Brooks Brothers shirt, suit and tie, stop for coffee at Starbucks, in the office at 6 am… working. Every day. It was the same thing for two and a half years. Around that same time, Volkswagen put out a commercial that perfectly described the sad routine of my life in Dallas.

I was thinking about Dallas, routine and career development this morning. While it was a great move for my career, and I eventually became the Director of HR Services in Dallas before moving to a start up, it was one of the hardest times of my life. Every day was the same thing, every trip down the expressway, back and forth, draining a little bit of life out of me. The Brooks Brothers, the Starbucks, the Volvo reinforcing that I was just another twenty-something doing exactly the same thing. "Where did we go wrong," I would ask myself. But it didn't have to be that way.

There are two important lessons that I learned in Dallas. First, WE create our day in and day out. We create our routines, our habits, our daily work lives. We each decide what we get out of this. Every day can be the same, the same set of customer issues, the same challenge in driving adoption, the same reports and schedule and one on one meetings and… and… It can all repeat until a VW commercial makes you want to cry. Or you can make it your own. You can change it up. Shift the schedule. Approach it differently. Work from home or a coffee shop or North Dakota. Work without a computer for a day or two. Don't use email for a week. Change it up.

Second, habits and routines are great for some aspects of your work life, but if you are doing the same thing day after day and doing those things in the same way day after day, then you are going to get the same result. Whether that is emailing customers to drive adoption with the same message you sent last week, leaving the same voice mails again and again, or providing the same insights from the same reports. You are going to get the same results. This is also true of career development. If you are working on the same development activities you worked on in your last role, asking the same or similar people for feedback on what you are good at and what you need to improve, or reading the same types of books, you are going to get the same results.

This week do something different for your personal development. Make a point to inject something unusual in your plan. It doesn't have to be outrageous or complicated or made by Volkswagen. Change your story just a little bit. And then do something different again next week and the week after that. The results will surprise you.

About David Verhaag

David is the Vice President, Client Experience at Degreed, the lifelong learning platform. Prior to Degreed, David established and scaled the Customer Success function at Kahuna and HireVue and spent eight+ years with SuccessFactors where he led the development of the global Customer Value team. David lives on a sailboat in Half Moon Bay, CA.

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