by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

I don’t know about you, but most of us lead rather less than a dramatic existence.  I mean to say, we’re not exactly television material or front page on People magazine.  As a result, it may be measured a small compliment to denominate one’s life as routine, conveying as it does the flavour of monotony and ordinariness.  There is naturally a reason for this aspersion. In its usual application routine is associated with the commonplace tasks, chores or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals. Such undertakings thus acquire the character of typical, everyday activity even though they may recount the accomplishment of indispensable necessities of life. But routine is not always linked to such unexciting though obligatory responsibilities.  Routine can represent a formula for the perfection of many duties, pedestrian or no.  Importantly, routine is associated by many to the performance of those duties which are for whatever reason especially dear to their heart.  Consequently the adherents to routine value the enactment of those dedicated activities very highly and any unorthodoxy is thought intolerable, even – in cases of mindless celerity especially – a capitulation, an admission of mediocrity and lowliness for example.  The tedious sometimes lumbering fulfillment of a traditional duty is mandatory and equally moral though perhaps colourless in the eyes of some thinkers.

It is a mistake to assume that those who are seemingly bound by humdrum and predictable behaviour are in some sense creepy.  It was for example no less than the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant whose habits were so notoriously regular that the villagers set their clocks by his comings and goings (at least that is until he fell in love and subsequently whispered, “All I have written is false” but that must be an allowable distortion).  On the balance one has be alert not to confound the unexciting outward appearance of a person with the inner depth and passion of his or her thoughts.  There are instances where diversity of activity is sacrificed to the preferred intrigue of introspective discovery and steadfast avocation.

For dedicated athletes routine is second-nature and without it their skill and development would correspondingly suffer. The encouragement to follow such an unchanging sequence is captured in Nike’s trademark slogan “Just Do It!” which is hardly a catchphrase to be daring.  It is instead a strategy to overcome idle contemplation, a manifesto of empowerment (and one which by the way vaulted Nike’s share of the domestic sport-shoe market from 18% to 43% from 1988 to 1998).

In the less glamorous everyday business environment, routine is paradoxically very often the code of conduct which heightens the quality of production and safeguards that the much desired particulars and specifications are not inadvertently or – even worse – negligently unheeded.  Routine is after all that sound course of behaviour which flattens the blips and hiccups of life by securing the barque of adventure to the steadfast moorings of tried and proven reason.  It is easy to be persuaded in a vacuum of experience to deviate from the safe harbours of intellectual and commercial regulation.  That is what routine is in the end all about, regulation – rules, guidelines and directives.

Yet in spite of the tributes which attend the recital of routine activities, there persistently remains the underlying pollutant that routine is either for the pusillanimous or the ill-informed.  Routine just never had a good name, being about as blunt an exhibition as an ox in yoke. Creativity, on the other hand, inevitably trumps the erstwhile dull and foreseeable plot that is routine and seems the perfect contradiction to habitual behaviour.  This however involves a misunderstanding of the two carriages. Creativity is by definition unique and distinct from existing models of performance.  Routine on the other hand is the distilled result of what has not infrequently been years in the making.  The seemingly uninteresting routine does not come about without previous effort.

Routine is not a tool for discovery (as more imaginative and hot-blooded agencies may be) but rather a prescription for success.

Given the unforeseen turbulence of life generally, having a routine is most certainly a precaution.  Granted, its sometimes tedious nature rather compels one to abhor the apparent lack of flavour and dynamism which we might ideally wish for ourselves, yet the precaution embedded in routine comportment contains recognizable efficiency.