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04 Jan

Let structure be about habits

Datum: 2024-01-04 10:09
An assortment of stationary including a pink notebook, two pencils, a pink post-it pad, a marker, and plain cards laid out on a wooden surface.

Erik emailed me the oth­er day and asked me what struc­ture habits that make the great­est dif­fer­ence when it comes to our effi­cien­cy — both my own and oth­ers’. I think it is an inter­est­ing ques­tion, that also in a way pin­points the core of what work­ing with struc­ture is real­ly all about.

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

We cre­ate and estab­lish habits for our dai­ly lives and work as to avoid pit­falls of struc­ture and to get our work done eas­i­er. We orga­nize and sys­tem­atize the tan­gi­ble parts of our work (such as doc­u­ments and tools), but to auto­mat­i­cal­ly act accord­ing to how we would want to act in a giv­en sit­u­a­tion is def­i­nite­ly an impor­tant key to being efficient.

Our com­mon habits

The habits that real­ly help us can be of all kinds and deal with every type of con­ceiv­able sit­u­a­tion. After pon­der­ing the mat­ter, I list­ed a selec­tion of the habits I, and per­haps you too, find most important:

  • to at least once a day col­lect all the poten­tial­ly scat­tered notes with all the things we have to do and once again com­pile them by adding them to our to-do-list
  • to only use reminders when we tru­ly need them, so that they still mean some­thing to us and are not just dis­missed as distractions
  • to close or hide the email pro­gram when we want to get things that have noth­ing to do with email­ing done
  • to shut out back­ground noise with music or white noise in head­phones when we can­not do any­thing about the dis­turb­ing sound and need to focus
  • to scan receipts with my smart­phone and send them to the accoun­tant imme­di­ate­ly instead of just putting them some­where for now”
  • to start every work­day by doing a morn­ing rou­tine that gives me a quick overview of what I have planned and sched­uled through­out the day, and what ideas, tasks or meet­ings I have added in the past 24 hours
  • to draft a sim­ple check­list as soon as I do some­thing which I am notic­ing is dif­fi­cult and which I will need to do again
  • to ded­i­cate four hours a week to devel­op­ment work
  • to add what I promised to get done dur­ing the meet­ing as to-do-tasks to my to-do-list right after the meet­ing is over
  • to label the tasks that dis­tinct­ly con­tribute to attain­ing the busi­ness goals with an important”-label, and begin the day by doing these tasks
  • to take a look one month ahead and one month back in the cal­en­dar once every week
  • to set my phone to do not dis­turb” mode as soon as I want to make myself unavail­able for phone calls — regard­less the rea­son for want­i­ng privacy
  • to put away every­thing on my desk that might dis­tract me from what I want to focus on right now
  • to use the time I spend stand­ing in line or wait­ing for some­thing to read mate­ri­als that oth­er­wise tend to pile up
  • to pri­or­i­tize a task that I need to be in a cer­tain loca­tion (which I sel­dom vis­it) to do, when I hap­pen to be in the vicin­i­ty of said location
  • … and so on

It is hard to say what spe­cif­ic habits that have made the most dif­fer­ence to me, but they all some­how have their part to play and serve a pur­pose when they turn sit­u­a­tions that might have caused frus­tra­tion and anger into parts in a con­struc­tive and smooth work­flow. Instead of try­ing to sin­gle out a few super-habits, let us view our habits as part of the struc­ture we have cre­at­ed to make our work­day as sta­ble as pos­si­ble, espe­cial­ly in places where it might have been weak or unpre­dictable with­out it.

Do this

If you want to, do this:

  1. Sit down for a few min­utes and make a list of all the habits you are grate­ful for hav­ing established.
  2. Take a few extra min­utes to think about what sit­u­a­tion you often find your­self in that you might be able to improve or remove com­plete­ly by estab­lish­ing a new habit. The more vivid­ly you describe the sit­u­a­tion or prob­lem, the eas­i­er it will be to think of a habit that could solve your predicament.
  3. So, what could you do to avoid the prob­lem or stop the sit­u­a­tion from occur­ring, or to take the edge off the dam­age” once it is done? (If you real­ly can­not think of any­thing — email me, and per­haps I will have a few ideas for you.)
  4. Try for­mu­lat­ing the new habit as con­crete­ly as you can, for instance in the form of when [some­thing hap­pens], I will [do this]”.
  5. If you want some tech-sup­port when estab­lish­ing the new habit, use an app such as Strides (iOS) or Habit Streak (Android).

Bet­ter and bet­ter for each habit your establish

If you cre­ate, estab­lish and adhere to new habits as you dis­cov­er new areas in your work that could use a bit of effi­cien­cy, you will grad­u­al­ly cre­ate a bet­ter struc­ture and by doing so have more time for what tru­ly mat­ters — in your work and in your per­son­al life. By con­tin­u­ous­ly refin­ing and mak­ing small read­just­ments you will keep improv­ing your effi­cien­cy, and even­tu­al­ly deal with the stress­ful moments in your life with greater ease.

What is your favorite method?

What would you say is the habit (or habits) that has influ­enced your struc­ture and effi­cien­cy the most? Please tell me!

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