At seventeen I joined the staff of a Boy Scout camp, and as an activity area leader I had a role to play in leadership, instruction, and the interactive programming that occurred each week. Each day had something special happening that made the schedule differ from one day to the next, making preparation, instruction, and even rest difficult. With scouts in camp for just a week at a time the strategy to engage them was clearly to make sure there was always a competition, series of skits, cookout, campfire show, ceremony, or recreational extremity (optional, happily: run off the end of the high pier! race to the far rock and back in an overloaded canoe! swim two miles in frigid water!) to draw attention and raise the available hype.
No one day was “normal.” There was no opportunity to settle into a routine, so there was lots of opportunity for scouts, generally between 11 and 16 years of age, to wind up in the wrong place, unsure of where they were supposed to be and how that matched up with what they wanted to be doing, swimming in options and unable to settle into a helpful routine.
It seems the same is true for knowledge workers – above a certain flavor of entry-level position, it’s difficult to settle into a daily or weekly routine that would foster comfort in one’s competence. It only gets worse as you enter into management or become a senior leader; you are constantly adapting, adjusting, re-focusing, trying and abandoning directions.
I’ve learned not to lament the lack of routine. This is the job. But I do try to create it for the people I support who need it.