When Does Your Groove Turn Into a Rut?

I like my routines. I have exercise routines, eating routines, writing routines, to name three. I find comfort in my routines. I think of my routines as a groove. My grooves smooth the paths towards my accomplishments.

And, every so often, my groove turns into a rut.

I discovered I’m in a rut now. I need to change some of my results, and the only way I can change them is by changing my routines, my groove. That means I need to change my perceptions of value and my mental models of how to work.

I wrote a lot more when I changed my mental models of writing. I had assumed I needed a long time—at least an hour at a time—to make headway on any piece at all. I changed my mental model from “finishing a draft” to “creating a piece of value.” Since I was no longer “finishing,” I didn’t need the work to be perfect. I needed to write something of value.

I now work in 15-minute chunks to write. Sometimes, I write in even smaller timeboxes. (I still timebox because I have other work to do. Writing is not my only work!) However, I changed my mental model from “finishing” to “create value.”

That one thing invigorated my writing so I find it easy to write now. I rarely get stuck. I keep my WIP low (for articles and blog posts) and finish more writing as a whole.

Note how I changed what was valuable to me. I still value finishing. Possibly more now than before. But, I didn’t value finishing as a goal. I use the chunk’s value as a goal. That has allowed me to write better and cleaner, even in my first drafts. I redraft and rewrite less now than I did before. And, because I write more, I’m a better writer.

All because I examined my grooves when they turned into ruts.

Our mental models help us filter in and out information. Our mental models are often incomplete and rely on our experiences of the world. (I told a story about mental models from my in-home PT after my knee replacement in Our Mental Models Affect Our Problem Solving.) My models are not your models. We can examine them and see if they fit for us, now or later.

When we keep our ruts—when our mental models keep us in a groove that might no longer work for us—we can choose to re-examine our mental models. Every so often, I need to examine my grooves to see if they are ruts, to see if my mental models no longer work for me. For me, it’s a question of what I value to determine if I should change my mental model.

That is the question this week: When does your groove turn into a rut?

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