Most of us are creatures of habit. Same route to work … same people on the train and even our work has a familiar cycle … daily lunch with the same crowd, weekly updates, monthly reviews, quarterly briefings and seasonal events. Work long enough in the same role and you can tell the time, month and season just by the event in process

Routines are comfortable … and at the risk of being redundant, habit forming. Eventually, routines become mind numbing.

While breaking the routine is uncomfortable and even frightening for some, deliberate effort to do things differently will stimulate neural activity…wake you up and revive a mind that’s grown lazy and sleepy.

Yes, you’ll be learning. New situations require active assessment and trial and error, and eventually, they lead to learning. Your on-going routine shuts off this mental fitness work and our brains become blobs of gray-matter, growing sluggish and fat.

5 Thought-Starters for Varying Your Routine

1. Take the path less-traveled. Take a different route to work and pay attention to the new details as you drive. When you get to work, play the equivalent of “this picture isn’t the same,” and jot down as many details as you can recall about this new route.

2. Change up your fitness routines. I know many professionals who are “religious” about their fitness programs. They subscribe to a strong-body, strong-mind philosophy and you can set your watch by the time they’ll show up at the gym. You also know that people are creatures of habit within their workout routines. If that’s you, try mixing up your pre or post-work workouts with different activities. This will minimize boredom, keep you striving and to ensure you exercise different muscle groups in different ways.

3. Change-up your lunch routine. One day a week, find someone in your firm you don’t know well and ask him or her to join you. Don’t talk about yourself … ask questions and listen.

4. Meetings are mind-killers … try mixing things up. Rotate responsibility for facilitating your recurring meetings. Encourage people to put their own twist on the meeting when it’s their turn. Reward people for creative and effective approaches!

5. Read. Read outside of your preferred genre. Read outside of your industry. If you are on the move, change read to listen (podcasts, books, book summaries etc.). Same rules apply. Mix things up.

The Bottom-Line For Now

We all learn in different ways … by listening, by writing, by talking, by reading, by doing and so forth. While you don’t have to vary your preferred method of learning, try something different within that method. Break the routine and enjoy the new rush of energy and ideas. Of course, the next step is doing something with these new ideas and insights, but that is a post for another day.

This blog originally appeared at artpetty.com.