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!”.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 2023−01−11”.
- 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.
- 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”.
- You are all set. Get started with making the change!
- 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!)