*Edited and reprinted with permission from the Boozy Gardener. Originally published September 2018.
I've written repeatedly about how it is important to have structure to our days, or we'll often waste days with mindless apps or TV reruns. However, it is also important to occasionally shake yourself out of routine, especially if you want to boost your creativity.
While visiting Georgia, I enjoyed a period of creativity that I hadn't felt in ages. Part of this could be attributed to the fact that I was free from the worry of work, but experience tells me the new environment had a larger part to play. Once, while on a work trip, I skipped out on the useless conference I was attending to work on my thesis in my hotel room. After a day of frenzied writing, I had a solid draft complete. The same thing happened at the La Quinta in McDonough, Georgia.
Why do I do my best work in hotel rooms (and why do I think you would as well)? First, in hotels, we are totally free from mundane distractions. There's no pressure to clean or declutter because it's not our house. If we don't make the bed--who cares? If there's toothpaste on the mirror--what difference does it make? (Confession: I actually do make the bed and keep the bathroom clean, but you get my point). In hotels, there are no closets to clean, lawns to mow, or cars to wash. It's just you, your traveling companions, and the day in front of you. Much like the guy in the Twilight Zone episode, you finally have time enough at last (though hopefully you don't break your glasses).
Not only does vacation free us from our to-do list, I think the new locale opens parts of our brain that get silenced by the day-to-day operations of normal life. Business-as-usual has us floating through life, barely aware of our surroundings. Since we cannot go on autopilot when we're on vacation, we are more mindful; we take in the sights, sounds, and scents around us. Because we're living in the moment, our brain is aware, and we can think clearer and more creatively.
This need for a fresher environment is what motivated me to remodel my house (well, and those broken blinds). I had been in a rut, so I wanted to bring a change of scenery to my home.
It's obviously not realistic to go on road trips every weekend or repaint your house on a monthly basis (unfortunately). If you find yourself in a rut, though, I would encourage you to shake yourself out of your routine. Walk around a new neighborhood or park on your lunch break to see if it helps you think through a problem at work. Take your laptop to a coffee shop (keep Facebook and email closed) and try to work through song lyrics you've been wrestling with. Take your sketchbook to the library to see if new pictures form in your mind.
While habits and routines are important for living a healthy and productive life, you also need to free yourself (in healthy ways) every once in awhile, or you'll grow stagnant.