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11 Mar

Five things which do not define structure

Datum: 2015-03-11 11:00

Dur­ing a pleas­ant con­ver­sa­tion with a good friend over lunch a cou­ple of years ago, it sud­den­ly occurred to me that not every­one have the same pos­i­tive asso­ci­a­tions with the word struc­ture” as I do. 

Of course I occa­sion­al­ly meet peo­ple who express their uneasieness with the term, but dur­ing this lunch the real­iza­tion that what is so obvi­ous and self-evi­dent to me, mean­ing that struc­ture gives you more free­dom and inspires cre­ativ­i­ty, is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the same asso­ci­a­tions oth­ers get, real­ly dawned on me.

So, allow me to ded­i­cate this edi­tion of Done! to clar­i­fy­ing five things which do not define structure.

Mis­un­der­stand­ings cre­ate uneasiness
Struc­ture is not…

… that you make your life so rigid and square that all joy evap­o­rates, and makes your life so explic­it­ly defined that it suf­fo­cates you, bores you and rids you of all space for impro­vi­sa­tion. Rather, struc­ture serves the pur­pose of mak­ing all the things that sim­ply have to work (and be remem­bered) in your every­day life work and run smoother and with less effort than before.

… that you have to be struc­tured just for the sake of structure.
You can abuse vir­tu­al­ly any­thing, includ­ing struc­ture. If you expe­ri­ence that the struc­tur­ing in itself requires more time than you are gain­ing by becom­ing more struc­tured, your meth­ods are some­how too cum­ber­some and redun­dant. Sim­pli­fy your meth­ods and low­er your ambi­tions so that you only apply inten­tion­al struc­ture to the areas where it is nec­es­sary and useful.

… that you may nev­er budge an inch from your orig­i­nal plan, no mat­ter what happens.
For most peo­ple, sev­er­al unfore­seen events come you way on a dai­ly basis. We can­not pre­dict what will turn up, but we know for cer­tain that some­thing will. Even if we do not know in advance what will come our way, we can cre­ate struc­tured work­ing-meth­ods designed to deal with what shows up when it does, and hence avoid get­ting stressed by the fact that our plan fell to bits. And it is first when we have a plan in the first place that we have some­thing to replan.

… being incred­i­bly disciplined.
If it was just a mat­ter of dis­ci­pline, there would be no need to be struc­tured. For me struc­ture is a way to make the desired work­ing-method (or rou­tine) into the sim­plest method pos­si­ble, so that I will choose to use this method spon­ta­neous­ly rather than by using a harsh, dis­ci­plined tone towards myself in order to force me to choose and use it. 

… get­ting as much done as possible.
As I see it, doing a lot is not an end in itself. Struc­ture helps us get what we choose to do done with as lit­tle effort and as smooth­ly as possible.

Do this

  • Lean back for a minute.

  • Think about if there is some part of your struc­tured work­ing-meth­ods which feel dif­fi­cult, cum­ber­some, bureau­crat­ic, rigid or even unpleas­ant in any way.

  • Does it con­cern how you fill some­thing out, how you cat­e­go­rize, how you plan, how you coor­di­nate with oth­ers, how you pri­or­i­tize, how you com­mu­ni­cate or how you doc­u­ment things?

  • Now think about how you could sim­pli­fy these processes.

    Could you reduce the num­ber of options?
    Could you cre­ate a template?
    Could you remove a step in the process?
    Could you clar­i­fy something?
    Could you hang some­thing on the wall so that you see it pre­cise­ly when you need to see it?

  • Do what­ev­er you came up with imme­di­ate­ly or define the first step in this sim­pli­fi­ca­tion as a to-do-task and add it to your list.

Well done! You have now tak­en a small step towards a smoother, eas­i­er and more stru­cured way of work­ing. And the con­cept struc­ture is now hope­ful­ly slight­ly more asso­ci­at­ed with a good feeling.

The tool­box of your every­day life
If you sim­pli­fy your struc­tured work­ing meth­ods into being less square, rigid, bureau­crat­ic and lim­it­ing your dai­ly life will become eas­i­er and run smoother. You gain more time and ener­gy to do the tasks which you real­ly look for­ward to doing. 

What is your trick?
What is your pri­ma­ry indi­ca­tion to that some­thing needs to be improved and refined in your cur­rent work­ing-meth­ods? Leave a comment!

By the way, if you want more tips on how to cre­ate good struc­ture at work — here are many ways to get just that.