Continuously practicing is how we become better at something – at school, at work, at sports, at a hobby. The converging destination at the end of countless hours of practice is usually routine. The task becomes routine. This is what we want. Finding the toughest questions on the problem set routine and banal is how you realize you are ready for the calculus final. Having managed myriad complications and knows what to do for each combination of things-gone-wrong is how you would want to pick a surgeon. Routine is good. Routine means no surprises. Routine is how you know you’ve gotten there, surpassing the threshold of difficulty and now looking down at the remains of the world.
Surprises can sometimes be bad, but so can routines. As we learn to become experts we take on the thought patterns of other experts. Experts make the mistakes of experts, and, surrounded by other experts, become blind to these cognitive errors. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see just how far off center we have gone.
Slow down and take a breather. Then look around and see if things look a little different. Of course things are not actually different. Your tasks remain the same, the calculus problem is still there, and the surgery will not perform itself. No, what was different in those 10 seconds was you. Deliberately doing something a little differently, even something immaterial, breaks up the routine and monotony, bringing back new perspective to the old problem.