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Hymn for the workplace

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Just another average day here at the 30th Space Wing. Now that I probably have the commander’s attention, let’s talk about an “average” day in the Air Force before I get fired.

Is it even fair to say “average day” in a profession of arms? Our base literally encompasses rocket science, missile defense testing, and satellite tracking all at the same time.

Even with job tasks to include launching a missile, moving a space shuttle, wiring telephone poles, tracking satellites, guarding the base and defending legal positions, even our jobs can sometimes fall into a routine state. If you don’t believe me, ask someone who has attended many six-hour launch windows, or anyone at the front gate.

So how do we break up routine? We balance it.

Routine isn’t necessarily all that bad. Did you know that your brain is only capable of making so many choices in a day before it gets overwhelmed?

“The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts,” John Tierney of the New York Times writes.

This is why it’s easier to pick up that Snickers bar at the Base Exchange. It’s at the checkout isle, and it’s hard to resist because we’ve already exhausted all of our decision-making energy while shopping.

With this in mind, routine tasks are essential to preserving our brain’s energy for more important tasks such as sorting through that Outlook inbox you’ve been ignoring.

The balancing force to routine is unpredictability. So where does this come into play? I’ll remind you of the phrase “flexibility is the key to airpower.”

This is because there are plenty of surprises for even the simplest of tasks in the military. We need to embrace these opportunities of not knowing the outcome.

Why? Because that’s what keeps you from ripping your uniform off and running into the street like a crazy person – balance.

So if you’re falling into too much of a routine, find a way to make things unpredictable. Find a different way of accomplishing a mundane task, seek team-building opportunities to build creativity, or just hold some Play Dough while you work at your desk.

Trust me, the shock of something as simple as Play Dough travels a long way in a rigid, serious military environment. And it might be all you need to keep that balance in check for your own mental sanity.

Maybe things are all over the place, and you’re struggling to get a grip on your time management and planning.

You might set up a morning routine, decide to eat the same breakfast every day that week, workout at the same time or shop with a predetermined list and actually stick to it. These routine tasks will free up your brain for the unpredictability in your life.

“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make.” - Barack Obama, on why he only wears grey or blue suits.

Obama isn’t the only leader who does this. According to Leslie Ye of HubSpot.com, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and late Apple cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs wore the same outfits every day as well.

Bottom line, remember that life is a balance. You can always add more weight to one side of the balance if you feel your life is either too routine or too hectic.

Now here’s hoping that came full circle enough for me to keep my job. Back to another “balanced” day here at the 30th Space Wing.