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Stuck in a Rut and Loving It!

Guess who isn't an “official influencer” on LinkedIn?

I don't want to influence your answer, but it's me. I may be an unofficial influencer, or unofficially official, or officially unofficial, but whoever decides the awesome title of official influencer, didn't decide on me. They decided on Deepak Chopra, instead.

I can't blame LinkedIn for choosing Chopra. The man has written more than 80 books. I don't think I've read 80 books! But lowly unofficial non-influencer that I am, I must conclude that Chopra is way off base with his latest posting, “The Best Way to Deal with Routine Work.”

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According to Chopra, routine tasks are “tedious and dull at best. At worst, they sap your attention and energy. They undermine anyone who wants to be alert, creative and fully present.”

You see the problem, of course. Some of us want to have our attention and energy sapped. Some of us live for opportunities to sap, snap and generally kick the hell out of our attention and energy. [Let's face it – if you wanted to be "alert, creative and fully present,” you wouldn't be reading this column.]

And why in the world would you want to be fully present? So you could fully appreciate the mediocrity of your management or the idiocy of your co-workers? Anyone in their right mind strives to be totally brain dead at the job, except, of course, for that wonderful time every two weeks when they pass out the paychecks. Now that's a moment when you want to be present.

To Chopra, routine work includes paperwork, meetings and answering emails – “repetitive routines that permeate the work we do and occupy several hours of the day.” What's wrong with these activities, he believes, is that they “condition the brain to follow old, familiar neural circuits.”

Why this is considered a negative, I can't imagine. By following your old, familiar neural circuits you are much more likely to actually accomplish your given tasks, without ever risking an innovative flash of insight that could get you noticed. And, trust me, given your abilities, you don't want to get noticed.

How much better to tread mindlessly on the same boring neural circuit, day after day after day. It's quite an accomplishment, really, like your amazing ability to make your way from the fire escape in the back of the office to the bar at the Kit Kat Klub without thinking twice. Or once!

For influencer Chopra, not thinking is not good. A routine job “makes you go on automatic pilot,” he says. “Hours can be filled keeping busy without actually thinking.”

For us, this is the ideal state in which to work. What could be better than walking out the door at the end of the day – or better, the middle – with absolutely no idea of what you did since walking in the door eight hours earlier?

Despite my major objection to Chopra's objection to routine, there are some useful facts to be gained from the article. In Chopra's world, you want to avoid routine so you can have a “conscious lifestyle.”

What you don't want, he insists, is an “unconscious lifestyle.”

Chopra recommends that we calibrate the mindful and mindless parts of our lives. And I agree. Only instead of choosing the conscious activities, I recommend you look for even more occasions to stay unconscious – if this even possible considering your brilliant ability to stay checked-out in the face of assignments, deadlines and emergencies.

Yes, it will be difficult to become a total brainless automaton at work, but, as Chopra concludes, “one of the greatest hindrances in everyone's life is low expectations.” So, aim for the stars! If you don't have enough email to answer, start sending emails to yourself. If there are not enough boring meetings to attend, find another department and start attending their boring meetings. If you can't find enough paperwork, start responding to memos from the past – classic memos, like those urgent emails from HR demanding that to avoid accidents, employees should wear bicycle clips on their knickerbockers in case they run into a horseless carriage.

I'm not saying it will be easy to stay unconscious all through the workday. Some devastatingly unexpected, surprising and delightful task may try sneak in, but with the routine pathways you've establish over all these years, you should be able to quickly shoo it away and get back to your boring, old routine.

You may never be an official influencer, but you will be happy.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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