To some extent, we are all slaves to routine. Having a schedule to stick to can make our days run smoothly and can help to ensure that we can cross off all of the tasks on our to-do lists. There's also a certain comfort associated with the familiarity of doing things the same way.

In that respect, the phrase "creatures of habit" could easily apply to most of us. As an example, I wake up at the same time every day, follow the same morning routine and leave the house at the same time to catch the same train to work, where I always sit in the same car. I then get on the same subway and walk the same path to the office. Most of us do. After all, it makes sense to pick a route and stick with it when you want to end up in the same place.

But a couple of months ago, I made a tiny adjustment to my morning routine that made a huge difference in my commute. One morning, out of frustration with the fact that the express train from Grand Central to the office always seemed to be anything but express, I decided to take the local train to work.

The local train makes four extra stops and still requires a transfer to the express train to go the additional three stops to our offices. To someone in a hurry, the idea sounds silly. And to a Manhattan commuter, it sounds downright ludicrous. But, to my surprise and delight, I found that the local train is not only far less crowded, which means I almost always get a seat -- a rarity on the express train -- but it also gets me to the office at the same time, if not earlier than the delay-plagued express train did.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with you? Well, the same thing applies at the office. To some extent, a lot of the way we do things at work is based on the fact that it's the way we've always done them. It's easier when you're in a hurry, as we all usually are, to finish a task or meet a deadline, to do things the way you did them yesterday than it would be to come up with a new, untested approach.

If an approach to a problem has worked for you in the past, you may assume that it will lead you to success again. And it very well might — just as the express train would get me to the office, eventually. But sometimes the first successful approach isn't always the best one. And unless you break out of your routine, you may never find a better approach.

Of course, we all have guidelines and rules to follow in the course of carrying out our jobs, and I'm certainly not suggesting that those go out the window. But sometimes you have to ask yourself, are your "best practices" actually best practices, or are they simply old habits? Perhaps not every alternative approach will work out as well as your original method. But if a new approach doesn't get the results you want, at least you have a reason to stick with your tried-and-true routine.

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