An NYSE exec takes a different route to work every day to remind her of a lesson she learned traveling the world

betty liuJohn Lamparski/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York

  • Betty Liu, the executive vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, says she changes her daily commute to work almost every day.
  • The lack of habit forces her to see new people and new scenery every day, something she first noticed when she started traveling the world.
  • There are scientific benefits to changing your daily commute - research has shown it leads to increased focus, improved memory, and higher levels of creativity.

A lot of successful people have daily routines that they follow religiously, from Apple CEO Tim Cook's 3:45 a.m. wakeup call to Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp's afternoon meditation sessions.

On the other hand, Betty Liu, the executive vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, prides herself on what she does differently every day.

Liu told Business Insider that she almost never takes the same commute to work on consecutive days. Sometimes, that means driving the one-hour trip from her New Jersey home to the NYSE headquarters in Downtown Manhattan. Other times, she takes the train, and she'll get off at different stops each day for no other reason than to vary up the journey.

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"I make sure to vary it up as much as possible. You will not see me day in and day out take the same train every morning for 20 years," Liu told Business Insider. "I would drive myself nuts if I always took the same route every day."

For Liu, the lack of routine is a reminder "not to get too ingrained in habit," she said. It's a lesson inspired by her experiences traveling around the world, like when she was a correspondent for CNBC in Hong Kong and Dow Jones Newswires in Taiwan.

"You go somewhere completely foreign and different and your mind is blown, and you grow so much," Liu said. "That's just something I try to preserve, but on a daily basis."

She continued: "It's the idea that change is OK and change actually helps you grow. It's easy to continue to do the same thing over and over again and get in a rut. Seeing different faces and being in a different place just gives you a different perspective."

Read more: A New York Stock Exchange exec uses the '1-3-5 rule' to eliminate lingering guilt over an unfinished to-do list

There are some scientific benefits to Liu's thinking, too. Deviating from your daily routine can increase focus and improve your memory, as well as stimulate creativity, according to Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab and author of "Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time."

"When we change locations  -  work in a different spot, take a walk at lunch, mix up the commute  -  that actually stimulates our hippocampus, where we store long-term memories," Schulte told the software company Wrike in a Medium post. "So, we'll also remember our lives more with greater emotional depth and connection."

New York Times science reporter Benedict Carey agreed, saying in the Medium post that changes of scenery make us more productive.

"Changing your work environment and daily movements  -  taking a different route to work, for example  -  can maximize the brain's effectiveness, allowing you to retain more information and be more successful," he said.

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