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29 Feb

How to ensure that structuring does not require more time than what is necessary

Datum: 2024-02-29 08:45
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Like many times before, I got a cer­tain ques­tion dur­ing one of my lec­tures last week:

All this struc­tur­ing — doesn’t it take a lot of time?”

I under­stand the ques­tion and the con­cern because when I explain how the flows look like in the refined and sys­tem­at­ic approach I advise, it can at first glance look very com­plex and com­pli­cat­ed. This is because our every­day life is, in fact, com­plex. And still, we need to make it all come togeth­er. All the cru­cial things need to be includ­ed in the mod­el to make it work in our every­day lives. If any­thing, the descrip­tion is still a sim­pli­fied ver­sion of the real­i­ty we meet every day — all the time.

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

Does struc­tur­ing take time?

The ques­tion­er had anoth­er ques­tion to fol­low the first:

How much time do you actu­al­ly spend on struc­tur­ing every week?”

My answer is hard­ly any”. You see, when I work the struc­ture is built into my way of work­ing. When some­thing comes up that I do not do direct­ly, I write it down. I put it in the struc­ture, if you want. When I am about to choose what to do next, I use the struc­ture in the form of a pri­or­i­ti­za­tion method that helps me to choose the right thing to do.

The alter­na­tive to this struc­tured approach would be to not write down what I do not do instant­ly and then choose tasks at ran­dom. It would prob­a­bly take less time at that moment, but very soon my sit­u­a­tion could become com­plete­ly unbear­able. I would miss and for­get things, get stressed, and have to spend a lot of time fix­ing all the things that went wrong.

Refin­ing takes time — at first

Struc­tur­ing does take time when we are build­ing a new struc­ture or refin­ing our cur­rent rou­tines, just like any devel­op­ment work does, but once it is up and run­ning”, it is the struc­ture that moves things for­ward and that con­sti­tute the back­bone of our work­ing methods.

Still a slight waste of time

But, the ques­tion was jus­ti­fied, since, in spite of our best efforts and inten­tions, there is a risk that we struc­ture in vain. This hap­pens when we write down infor­ma­tion we do not use. We label some­thing we then nev­er look for, we write an instruc­tion to our­selves regard­ing some­thing that is actu­al­ly obvi­ous, we cre­ate cat­e­gories we nev­er file things into, we sort things in fold­ers we nev­er click our way to (since we use the search func­tion to find what we need instead), and so on.

Do this

If you want to avoid ded­i­cat­ing unnec­es­sary time on struc­tur­ing, exam­ine your habits and ways dur­ing the week ahead, and reflect on the following:

  • Do you use all of the infor­ma­tion you wrote down when ini­tial­ly mak­ing note of a to-do-task? Is it pos­si­ble to exclude some­thing from today onward when not­ing tasks on your list?
  • The labels or cat­e­gories you use for orga­niz­ing tasks, doc­u­ments, emails, and oth­er things — do you ever sort your mate­ri­als, emails and so on by these labels? If not, are there labels you can remove?
  • Do you use all the fold­ers you have cre­at­ed or do you instead do a search to find what you need? Are there any fold­ers that can be merged into one big­ger, more exten­sive folder?

More time spent on the right thing

If you get rid of parts of the struc­ture” you once cre­at­ed but which you in actu­al­i­ty no longer use, you will spend slight­ly less time on struc­tur­ing itself. The time you do spend is used to move things for­ward and you do not have to waste time on mean­ing­less irrel­e­van­cies — tread­ing water.

How do you do this?

How do you spend as lit­tle time as pos­si­ble on the struc­tur­ing itself, so you get more time to spend on things you real­ly want to do? Any tips and tricks are wel­come in an email to me!

(But, do you real­ly get more pro­duc­tive when hav­ing good struc­ture at work?)

Want more?

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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!