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12 May

Does good structure really make you more efficient?

Datum: 2010-05-12 13:44

I sometimes get the question whether it really improves the efficiency to be structured.

Doesn’t it create even more work if you write down everything you have to do (which you’re not going to do right away) and categorize every task in different ways? Doesn’t it just turn into a constant shuffling and moving of papers from one folder to another, which in turn are to be browsed and emptied at different dates?

Since I think faster than I write, shouldn’t I be able to save time by storing everything in my head instead of writing it down? In what way can you really get more done with less effort and in less time, if you acquire all these structural things and habits to keep track of as well?

That truly is a legitimate question.

It’s true, that if you wanted to, you could spend lots of time recording, categorizing, planning, organizing and documenting before you actually can get down to work and actually get something done. There are definitely enough tools, boxes, solutions and software to keep you busy for an unnecessarily long time.

But, if you use good structure as a means to get more of the right things done easier and faster, then you’ve hit bull’s eye.

The benefit of keeping track of things

Often when I meet people who have found a more structured and systematic way of working, they tell me that the most significant merit for them is the sense of security. Now, when they feel they have a grip on their situation, they can feel much more relaxed since they know they’ve taken care of everything they had to do, and therefore don’t have to keep it in their head any more. They’ve also determined what is most important right now.

A woman I met recently said,

“Yes, sure I’ve become more efficient, since now I’m doing the right things, and I know that I am doing the right things, which creates a pleasant gut-feeling”.

That certainly is an experience I share with her and it’s one of the reasons why I’ve chosen to work with what I do.

Three tips on how to be structurally successful

How do you make sure that your efforts to be more structured are successful?
Here are a few tips on how to:

  1. Cherry pick – Pick and choose the handful of structural tools, tricks and techniques which appeal to you. Don’t think that you must choose a certain system just because your colleagues have chosen it. If you choose tools you like, then you will use them, otherwise you won’t.
  2. Dig on the spot – Start right here, right now, even if it’s only on a small scale. You don’t have to wait to start until the situation looks brighter, once you get a hold of that special tool that will help you solve everything, the next time you’re changing office-space, when you are through with the giant project and “have time to work smarter”.
  3. Get going first, buy the tools later - Do not make the mistake of acquiring all the gadgets and software that you think you need to be more efficient right away. Start off by working more systematically with the material you’ve already got. ??Make, for example, sure that you write down everything you have to do instead of having some of it memorized and some on a list. Make sure to formulate your to-do tasks as concrete steps which you can complete in one single go rather than as whole projects that actually requires several separate steps and activities to be completed. Even the most ideal structural tool will only become an additional burden if you use it unsystematically.

...and then there’s the part of keeping everything in your head instead of writing it down

If you keep everything in your head, it’s never the case that things conveniently stay out of your way until you need them and neither is it ever so that your brain simply presents the score of to-do items you can take care of where you’re situated right now. Rather, everything floats around in there randomly in no particular order and pops up into consciousness on a more associative basis without you being able to control it. Naturally, the associative and relaxed state of mind also needs to get its share of time. This is the time when you can think freely and reflect upon your day at work or when you are chatting with some good friends over a delicious meal.

But, when your time and energy is limited, you need to use focus in the best possible way. To get done what you really have to get done before Friday easily, you need to be able to choose what you see, hear and do consciously. You need to turn off and shut out everything that distracts you so that you can devote your full attention to the task which is just the right thing to do right now.
?If you’ve then got one single place where you’ve written down/entered/noted everything you’ve come up with from “what’s on your mind”, you are able to consciously block out everything that isn’t a priority right now, while being rest assured that it’s there whenever you need it.

How do you do it?

What’s your smartest, simplest trick which in a tangible way has improved your efficiency?

Please leave a comment below.