The blog

Previous article

Next article

19 Feb

How structure becomes a facilitator rather than an inhibitor

Datum: 2024-02-19 08:10
Two pairs of feet stand opposite each other on either side of a yellow line on the ground.

I have always died a lit­tle on the inside when hear­ing words such as struc­ture’, order’ and rou­tines’”, wrote a read­er of my book on struc­ture last week. I per­ceive this to be a rather com­mon per­spec­tive on the sub­ject in question.

Per­haps it has to do with a fear that struc­ture will bring on rigid­i­ty, lim­i­ta­tion and even bore­dom. I under­stand this con­cern and am there­fore pleased to announce that it by no means needs to become real­i­ty and that it is up to our­selves if it does or not.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

A lot, but not everything

You see, we do not need to struc­ture absolute­ly every­thing — not even I want to do so (in spite of my self-cre­at­ed title). When it comes to get­ting cer­tain things done, we do how­ev­er want to ben­e­fit from the pre­dictabil­i­ty good struc­ture pro­vides us with. And when it comes to oth­er mat­ters, we want to enjoy the spon­ta­neous, unpre­dictable and cre­ative — with­out con­sid­er­ing the for­mat, tem­po, effi­cien­cy or hav­ing to do things in a par­tic­u­lar order.

With­in and out­side the bound­aries of structure

I made a sketch to make it clear where I per­son­al­ly draw the line of struc­ture. On a hor­i­zon­tal sheet of A3 paper, I drew a large cir­cle in the mid­dle, sim­i­lar to the flag of Japan. With­in this cir­cle, I spon­ta­neous­ly wrote down the things I do (both in my work as well as in my per­son­al life) for which I appre­ci­ate using struc­ture. Out­side of the cir­cle, I wrote down things I want to feel free whilst doing; free from struc­ture and rou­tine. All in all, this exer­cise took me no longer than five minutes.

I looked at what I had writ­ten down. With­in the cir­cle, I had writ­ten things that generally:

  • are not fun, but necessary
  • have to work; oth­er­wise, things get dif­fi­cult or stressful
  • are use­ful, but which I tend to skip anyway

Out­side of the cir­cle, how­ev­er, I wrote things that are:

  • enjoy­able
  • about being present in my rela­tion­ships with my loved ones
  • fun

(That was the break­down of my list — per­haps yours will be different).

Some things had a foot on each side” — they were writ­ten halfway inside and halfway out­side of the cir­cle. An exam­ple of such an activ­i­ty would be that I very much enjoy tak­ing our lit­tle boat out for a ride. When I am at sea on an island I want to feel entire­ly free to do what­ev­er I want, but in order for the whole affair to be an all in all pleas­ant expe­ri­ence, I need to have remem­bered to pack and bring all the nec­es­sary food, sup­plies and equip­ment. Pack­ing requires struc­ture, enjoy­ing an unin­hab­it­ed island in the arch­i­pel­ago does not.

A lit­tle more, in order to have a lit­tle less

Except for it being enlight­en­ing as to what I should keep my struc­tur­ing paws away from, it also occurred to me that there was at least one thing writ­ten in the cir­cle for which I cur­rent­ly have not devel­oped ade­quate struc­ture or rou­tines. That is why I just thought of a way to make this one thing slight­ly more struc­tured, so if all goes well, this slight improve­ment will make me enjoy the activ­i­ties out­side of the cir­cle even more — since if the things in the cir­cle run smooth­ly, I will be able to relax and enjoy those out­side of it even more.

Do this

If you should want to, draw your own sketch of where your lim­its of struc­ture are. Inside the cir­cle, you write down all the things you want to do using struc­ture, and out­side of it, you note all the things you would rather do free as a bird and with not a struc­tur­al thought in mind.

Look at what you wrote. Can you draw any new con­clu­sions? Do you need to struc­ture any­thing fur­ther? Do you have few­er things out­side the cir­cle than you would actu­al­ly want? Do you have so many things you want to spend time on that this exer­cise even made you feel a bit stressed? Could you remove some­thing and hence low­er your ambi­tions to a rea­son­able lev­el? Did you notice any­thing else?

More sta­bil­i­ty with­in means more free­dom outside

If you cre­ate good struc­ture for all the activ­i­ties you want run­ning smooth­ly and with as lit­tle effort on your part as pos­si­ble, you will to a greater extent be able to whole­heart­ed­ly enjoy all the things you do not wish to sys­tem­atize or struc­ture. The struc­ture then enables the spon­ta­neous rather than lim­it and restrain it.

The read­er I men­tioned above con­tin­ued her let­ter with: But now I am begin­ning to think of these three awful words as some­thing that can help me live the life I want, both at work and pri­vate­ly.”. That’s spot on if you ask me.

What con­clu­sions did you come to?

What became clear­er to you as you drew your ver­sion of the sketch I told you about? Write to me and tell me — I would like to hear your rev­e­la­tions. Feel free to share them with me — or an image of your sketch for that matter. 

(By the way, did you know that an old mem­o­ry can moti­vate you to work more struc­tured?)

There's more!

A man wearing headphones seems to be enduring a snowstorm.

If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.

Yes, I want more tips!