Autopilot is a great tool for our vehicles, but sometimes the concept can creep into our personal or professional lives. We check off the same to-do list day after day, which turns into week after week and month after month. It’s September, and we had goals we set in January that have become lost in the shuffle. It’s an easy thing to do as we become familiar with our day-to-day routine. We become comfortable, complacent, and mindlessly efficient.

The concept of “mindless efficiency” sounds like an oxymoron. Those two words don’t go in the same sentence together, much less side by side. I’m willing to bet that a lot of us operate in a state of mindless efficiency more than we realize and more than we would like to admit. Who hasn’t driven the same route home from work, focused on something else other than driving, and pulled into our driveway only to not remember the drive home? It’s alarming and scary when it happens.

If the same thing is happening in our professional life, shouldn’t that also be alarming?


We all know the feeling of your first few months in a new job. You’re probably self-conscious and nervous but also eager to help, share new ideas, and tediously checking your work. Fast forward a year or so to an employee who feels much more confident in her position, but maybe a little too comfortable.

Tenure and previous successes should foster confidence, not complacency. Previous successes are a great thing but don’t guarantee anything except high expectations going forward.


Autopilot means doing the things you’ve always done the way you’ve always done them. Innovation and success requires thinking outside the box, getting creative, and finding new, more efficient ways to do things. This almost always requires taking a risk.

Changing the way your office runs, introducing a new idea or product requires you going out on a limb. Don’t let anyone tell you risk taking isn’t scary. Risk taking does not insure success, but complacency guarantees you stay where you are.


You may not even realize you’re on autopilot. The busier you are, the easier it can be to default to autopilot simply because you’re hustling to get through your to-do list every day. Start checking in with yourself throughout the day or at the end of each week to see what you’ve done to be more mindful and more efficient. If you can’t quite remember what you’ve done with your time all week, it’s probably time to work on a few things.

Sure – our careers can survive on autopilot. But, do we really want to look up in a few years not knowing where time has gone or what we’ve done with it?