The Daily Grind

By doing essentially the same thing each day for an extended time, most of us are prone to seeing it as the daily grind. Are there ways to escape that mindset?

A Reality Check

Let’s face it. Most jobs, even if you own the company, have certain things that need to be done daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. The yearly ones are not the ones we get bored with as a general rule. But monthly, weekly, and especially daily routines can become rote and boring. Putting aside the boredom and potential burnout, there is a hidden danger. When we do the same thing over and over we can easily lose sight of why we do things and not notice when something is not quite right. The status quo looks just fine and it is easier not to upset that. That is the reality of how most of us tend to operate.

Of course, there are those of us who despise a constant routine and because of that are always looking for a way to do a task differently. Different is not necessarily better, but without at least experimenting we will never know. But first let me get back to the hidden danger inherent in a daily grind. Actually, I should say dangers.

Hidden Dangers of the Daily Grind

I already mentioned that we may be prone to not noticing when something is not quite right. Along with that, our boredom can make us more prone to mistakes. We all know the old adage, “But we’ve always done it that way.” There is of course something to say for having a set way of doing things. For example, it makes training an employee easier. It also creates natural checkpoints to see if we are on track. An example would be a monthly closing routine for accounting. It is common to have a checklist of things to do to complete the closing process, including accruals, reconciliations, journal entries, etc. But again, we can get so caught up in this routine that we fail to notice something important. Here is an example from a daily routine.

At a company where I worked quite a few years ago the company owner got a routine daily report that told him the sales of each branch and a number of other things that I do not recall. One of the things I noticed was that the sales numbers he was getting often were not correct because there were incomplete activities in the branches. He still insisted on getting this sales information, but I always wondered how useful it was if he never really knew if the numbers were accurate. How was he to see any real trends? On top of that issue, by focusing so much on the sales dollars distracted from examining the quality of the sales. By that I mean such things as the profitability of sales and who were the customers making the purchases. For example, if sales are increasing but much of the increase is due to sales to customers who are unlikely to pay or who will pay very late, perhaps the raw sales numbers are a bit misleading.

The Point

Here is the point I am making. Make use of routines where they truly help, but always be willing to step back and take a fresh look. It may be that a routine can be improved with a little tweaking. It also may be that the routines are missing some critical elements and masking problems. We cannot totally avoid the daily grind, but we can and should guard against it dragging us into human robotic activity where we disengage from thinking. Yes, we need to get the work done, but we are also paid to think and make improvements.

When was the last time you made a deliberate effort to break out of the daily grind long enough to get a fresh perspective on things? Routines may improve our efficiency but not necessarily our effectiveness. In fact, bad routines can have the opposite effect by making us efficiently ineffective.

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As always, your comments are welcomed.

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