Make your ”before” clear so that you better… | David Stiernholm

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11 Jan

Make your ”before” clear so that you better appreciate your ”after”


Datum: 2023-01-11 10:00
Two polaroid pictures on a string. One says "before" and the other "after".

How much bet­ter has your struc­ture got­ten since you began refin­ing it? It can be hard to tell. Some of us find it easy to take our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion for grant­ed and quick­ly for­get how things used to be.


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


Per­haps this is not the case for you. Per­haps you notice a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in your life after mak­ing changes in your struc­ture, and enjoy them dai­ly since you vivid­ly remem­ber what things used to be like.

Win­ning, but with­out the feel­ing of victory

But for he who eas­i­ly for­gets, the sweet taste of vic­to­ry is rarely felt. There are few rewards that beat know­ing and tan­gi­bly feel­ing that we have made things bet­ter. (Some peo­ple who read my book on struc­ture email me and tell me that they the enjoy­ment they get from the improved struc­ture, and how it makes their lives eas­i­er, is reward enough and have no need to reward them­selves fur­ther.) We can clear­ly see what our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is like, but we might only vague­ly remem­ber how things used to be, which makes it easy to feel a lit­tle dis­cour­aged and as if noth­ing real­ly changed.

That was then — this is now

This is exact­ly why we need a lit­tle help to make the mem­o­ry of our past come alive. By giv­ing our­selves a con­crete and clear before” to com­pare our after” with, the fruits of our efforts become much more obvi­ous and we can whole­heart­ed­ly cel­e­brate our progress with a qui­et bra­vo!”.

Do this

  1. Choose to take a clos­er look at one of the struc­tur­al changes you are cur­rent­ly in the process of imple­ment­ing. If you can­not think of one or are not work­ing on improv­ing some­thing spe­cial at the moment, here are a few com­mon projects”:
    • Cre­ate a bet­ter struc­ture amongst the fold­ers in your email
    • Emp­ty the email inbox, if only for a moment or two
    • Improve upon how you store dig­i­tal documents
    • Reduce the num­ber of items on your com­put­er desktop
    • Get rid of the piles on your desk
    • Clean out your bookshelf
  2. Doc­u­ment how you are expe­ri­enc­ing your present, which in anoth­er word con­sti­tutes your before”. Take a snap with your phone or take a screen­shot. This is how you do it in Win­dows and this is how it is done in OS X. So the image could be of what your com­put­er desk­top looks like, how your email fold­ers are struc­tured, how many emails you have in your inbox, how high the piles on your desk are, how full your book­shelf is, or what­ev­er you are about to improve.
  3. Save the image in the same loca­tion as you save oth­er doc­u­ments and files that con­cern your efforts to improve your struc­ture. If you do not have such a loca­tion yet, I rec­om­mend you cre­ate one. This will be the des­ig­nat­ed dig­i­tal fold­er where you gath­er every­thing you find use­ful in your process to improve upon and main­tain good struc­ture. A good idea is to put today’s date in the name of the image as well, for exam­ple My email inbox 20230111”.
  4. Alright. Your before” has now been prop­er­ly doc­u­ment­ed and safe­ly stored away. Now decide on when you will com­pare today’s sit­u­a­tion with how far you have got­ten in mak­ing the change. If you are not sure how far into the future you would want to make a com­par­i­son, make it a month from today.
  5. Cre­ate a task and add it to your to-do-list which is due on the day you wish to make the com­par­i­son, and let the task be to take anoth­er pic­ture of the same sce­nario as pre­vi­ous­ly — but this time it will rep­re­sent your after”.
  6. You are all set. Get start­ed with mak­ing the change!
  7. When the day for com­par­ing before and after arrives, take a pic­ture and real­ly notice the difference.
    • Does your after”-picture look any bet­ter than the before”-picture? If so, then lean back and enjoy the fact that your efforts have made a pos­i­tive difference.
    • Was it worse in the after”-picture? Chin up, don’t wor­ry. Put away the before”-picture and sim­ply allow today’s pic­ture be a new before” pic­ture in a new phase of improve­ment. Change some­thing you think would make a dif­fer­ence in how you work, and the result will most like­ly be more evi­dent next time. And now repeat the steps above once again.

A clear start­ing point makes for a clear fin­ish line

If you make your cur­rent sit­u­a­tion more clear by tak­ing a pic­ture or a screen­shot, every change you make and main­tain will become more evi­dent. You will get to expe­ri­ence the feel­ing of hav­ing suc­ceed­ed both eas­i­er and faster. And even if you only man­age to make a slight improve­ment, it will still be clear and pal­pa­ble. You get to feel vic­to­ri­ous and might feel more inspired and moti­vat­ed to make fur­ther changes and improve­ments, hence mak­ing your work­day even easier.

What change will you make?

What did you just take a screen­shot or pic­ture of as the start­ing point of a change you real­ly want to make? Tell me!

(By the way, there are plen­ty of ways to cel­e­brate small wins like those I men­tion here!)

A young, dark-brown haired woman listens intensely to something in ping Beats headphones.

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