It’s easy to fall into a routine. We are habit seeking creatures. Our habits determine our actions and our actions determine who we are. Because of this, I’ve discussed a few times how to make your goals your habits.
However, another lens to view your habits through, is the explore vs exploit tradeoff.
What is the explore vs. exploit tradeoff?
It’s the decision of whether you should try something new or stick to what you know.
- When you explore, you are gathering new information.
- When you exploit you are using the information you have gathered.
There is a cost to exploring and an opportunity cost for not. The cost of exploring can be missing out on the return from a known exploit. In this case, you’re maximum downside is simply missing out on the current known best option, one time.
The opportunity cost of not exploring is missing out on an unknown potential upside above your current best known exploit. For every time in the future.
When to choose explore vs exploit?
In the book Algorithms to Live By, I've learned to decide by looking at how much time you have left. The more time you have to exploit new information, the more you should explore. If you just moved to a new town and bought a house, you likely will be there for a while, you should be exploring a lot. If you are about to move away, it’s time to hit up your favorites instead.
Explore your habits
I want to point out that, our daily habits are actually life-long activities we have a lot of time left with (hopefully). And therefore, we should do more exploration on our daily routines.
For example, if you have a fitness regime, how often do you try something different? You’ll likely be exercising for decades to come. Maybe you should try a different training method, a new exercise, or perhaps even longer rest periods. A little experimentation can open up endless new possibilities. And the best part is, you have ample time to exploit any new information that results.
I call this out because I think it’s very easy to get stuck in your familiar routines of ‘this the way I’ve always done it’. When in this state, it’s easy to feel good because you are doing something. But without occasionally seeing what’s new, you may be cutting yourself off to a better option. Similar to how we can tweak our habits over time, slow and steady, we should also tweak our routines in such a way that allow for a little more exploration.
Try new things
This could mean doing something random on occasion or just intentionally doing one thing new. I’m sure you have an idea you’ve kicked around for sometime but just haven’t gotten around to giving it a try. But take a look at your routine, is there room to try something new? How can you experiment with that idea?
I encourage you, take the time to explore it. Make it a habit to experiment with your habits. Keep what’s working and discard the rest. Remember, you may keep doing some form of these habits your entire life, that means even a slight improvement can have significant compounding effects over time.