Pattern Break

Pattern Break

When you wake up in the morning, you check your emails, probably from your phone. First thing. Yes? Why?

There’s no good answer to why. Even brain surgeons can wait until they’ve done other things before checking in on the world outside of your immediate proximity. So why do you do it? Because it’s a habit, a pattern.

Do you read the top tech and marketing blogs? Why? Why do you read this blog? Because you’re subscribed? Are you getting something from it? If no, then why are you still doing it?

Twitter and Facebook are hugely pattern-driven. They thrive off the same game dynamics as slot machines. Hit with even a small win every once in a blue moon, and you’ll reinstate that pattern incessantly. In the slot machine and gaming industry, they know that they can bleed you out of all the money you might spend with this method. They even have a term for it: “time to expire.” They look at you as a clock running down.

Breaking Patterns Is A Starting Point to Success

If you want to find great success, learn to recognize your programming, to assess whether it’s actually doing something useful for you, and then to break the pattern. This works with all things. Julien Smith asked me why I blogged daily. I said something lame and forgettable. He asked me to try blogging less than daily. Result: just as much traffic, just as much engagement, and probably better posts for you to read.

I’m moving my pride and joy, my free newsletter from Tuesdays to Sundays, because I’ve decided that I like the concept of the intimacy of being in a conversation with you on Sunday. It’s a break from my previous pattern, and I will see whether it yields better results for my goals.

Deciding to unfollow most everyone on Twitter was a huge shift and a break in my pattern. From it, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve reclaimed some needed cycles.

What Are You Missing?

One of the biggest reasons we do a bunch of the things we do, especially online, is for fear that we’ll miss something. When eBay first came out, its explosive growth came from the ability to watch auctions spool out in real time. Twitter is like that, and so is Facebook and Google+. We love watching information roll past in real time. Further, we really love it if people reply to us, or share our stuff, or like or whatevers. We crave it.

When we are alone, we start worrying that we’re missing something. We check our phone for phantom texts. If nothing we regularly follow is updating fast enough, we might go off and scan things of lesser value, just to see something new.

But why? What’s the big value in that particular kind of “new?”

There are so many patterns you can break. Your choice of snack. Your choice of after-work activity. Your choice of online haunts. Your reading materials. Your target goals for your efforts. Your lack of planning. Your over-abundance of planning. Your reliance on the calendar. Your disregard of the calendar.

What patterns could you break? Which patterns are you missing? What are you doing on autopilot and is that serving you? How much time and opportunity can you get back by breaking some of these patterns?

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  • http://twitter.com/HillaryRubin Hillary Rubin

    awesome post. i try to mix it up with my activities… and with my newsletter i change it up. actually did this week + sending out on sunday as well. thanks for a thoughtful post.

  • s20100

    somehow I see patterns linking to how we balance our approach to events: experience vs change. When we tend to react based on experience, this mean we tend to look for more routines and find comfort, and when we tend to react based on managing the changes, we tend less towards routines and we get more energy.

  • http://www.arongadd.co.uk/ Pet Portraits

    Good post and not heard them called patterns before – usually routines or habits. Time to break a few maybe!

  • http://twitter.com/DeniseIordache Denise Iordache

    Breaking patterns can become a pattern in itself.

  • marcusttaylor

    I read this post becasue it was sent to me via @EnergyVanguard and Iread all his stuff from habit. Try this sometime get out of the shower and towel  yourself dry in some new pattern, it is a very surreal experience

  • Leonard Scales

    This is excellent! Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/my3rdact Hattie Horn

    It’s not easy to break from some patterns. I drink my morning coffee and read blogs before my kids get up.  I probably need to change it up.  Write something instead.

  • http://www.podroznystudio.com/ Melissa

    Interesting timing.  My morning pattern was changed this morning (not my choice) and, as usual, it made me extremely cranky.  Then I read this article.  The timing makes me think that perhaps I’m too stuck in my patterns if small changes make me bad-tempered.  If a small schedule change does that, that will NOT help me to get out of the day job I seriously dislike at all.  Time to work on breaking a few patterns on purpose!  Thanks for the nudge!  

  • JessGreen2484

    My routine is currently: Check emails, check all social media platforms and update, read 5 of my top blogs and then start work. I might mix it up a little. Off to have a think!

  • derekdonnelly

    So much that is true about patterns and habit. Now all i need is some self hypnosis  to break a couple of not so good ones. Thanks for making me think.

  • Jack Lynady

    Good stuff Chris. 

  • http://www.heritagepropertyservices.info/ Builders Andover

    Breaking a pattern is good and better if you get to choose it than it choosing you :)

  • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

    I think routines are good and bad. I have a hard time keeping the ones I want to continue and battling against the ones that have become obsolete or work against my quality of life. 

    That said I will work a bit better on following up on tasks that support my core business. 

  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    This goes for email, too. I discovered earlier this year that I can answer email twice a day (first thing and last thing) and the world does not end. It makes me much more productive during the day and people still feel like they are getting a fairly immediate response. The funny thing that happens with email particularly is, if you email someone back immediately, they email you back, you email back, and suddenly you’ve lost an hour. 

  • http://twitter.com/wilsuthers Wils

    Great post.  I didn’t read this as part of my daily routine or pattern, in fact this is  one of the very few times I have read this blog and have got something interesting from it!  In the same vein why do we stop a conversation when our phone is ringing, which is more important?

  • http://bizzytoothmommy.com/ Bizmom32

    I read emails first thing in the morning before work, because I’m not awake enough yet to DO any;) By the time I get there, I’m ready to be productive. It works for me.
    But an interesting thing I’ve noticed in the last couple of years (no doubt some relation to getting older–more questioning, more reflecting), is the consistent need to change (old) patterns. There’s more awareness, more focus and the need to get back to a path more in line with core values.

  • NewClientsEachMonth

    Great post!  Breaking bad or unproductive habits and testing new ones is key!  Thanks for the post!

  • Gloria

    Thanks for another thought-provoking and inspiring post, Chris. :)

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  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

    I feel you, but the digital marketer in me says that breaking a pattern just to break it is no better than having a pattern. On the email for example, why not send a ABCD split test so that 25% of your list receives it Tues, Wed, Fri, Sun and see what happens? 

    The great thing about online is that the truth is knowable if you look hard enough. 

    • http://whatifandwhynot.wordpress.com/ ann

      i could be totally off the mark, but it seemed to me that he was more on about firstly examining our patterns to try and ascertain their benefits and detriments to our lives, and then actively changing those that could be replaced with better, more effective ones.  the patterns we subscribe to now manifested perhaps out of need at some point, but may have become unnecessary or even unhealthy now, and i think he’s suggesting more consciousness – not less – around how we decide which patterns to follow.

  • David J. Singer

    Chris:

    Patterns, habits. Absolutely. Thanks for this.

    David J. Singer

  • http://bsoist.com/ bsoist

    Great stuff! My son and I were discussing this yesterday. He deactivated his Facebook page yesterday and told me he wants to rethink how he uses it and what he really gets out of it. He plans to go back to it and use it differently. He and I plan to talk more about it when he comes home for summer break next  week. 

    Patterns can be extremely valuable – if they are the right ones – and they should be examined from time to time. 

  • http://www.creativehogg.com/ Josh Hogg

    I think its a good idea to challenge our comforts for many reasons - the main one being that it allows us to continue to be creative. If we keep doing something just because it works, we aren’t doing anything new and innovative. More importantly, if we are conscious of our patterns – we can decide whether or not they are the right patterns to hold onto. Thanks for the post. 

  • http://owengreaves.com/ owengreaves

    Always question the Status Quo – do it regularly and you’ll break the patterns : )

  • http://www.seorus.com.au/ Local_SEO_Melbourne

    Thanks for another thought

  • johnPGISelfDirected

    Well, most of us just say “it’s always been done this way ever since!” Some are afraid of change because of the stigma of being considered as a violator. What do you think?

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  • Debbi

    As always valuable information. And that’s why I continue to read this blog. What you say has probably been said before (no offense) but you make it compelling, interesting and I don’t leave feeling like I’ve failed. :)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KTMK2LK63EBJSXPSPHUNBHE6SE ayan g

    What if “breaking the pattern” becomes “the pattern”? Just a thought…..

  • http://www.grandwills.com/ wooden raised beds

    yes, just do something creative, it si good for all the people. if we keeps doing something normally, the wold is no progress.  

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  • Jnis

    Not true. Its a habit but a sustainable life one. Not to be judged.

  • http://www.realtimeoutsourcingservices.com FerdinandFelix

    Breaking pattern is basically re-organizing your priorities.  It can
    also be your creative desire to experiment, observe and analyze the
    results of what other  efforts could bring, considering the timing and approach.

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  • http://twitter.com/Clarity4theBoss Sharon GilmourGlover

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the great post. It really got me thinking. It inspired me to write a post of my own and I’m working to change one of my own patterns.

    Thanks for the great content and inspiration,
    Sharon

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