My clients often acknowledge a need for more structure but struggle to set it up. They’re overwhelmed with the decisions that need to be made to keep a career exploration or job search process alive and feel they’re not making progress. Priorities are hard to see. There’s a sense that time is slipping away and opportunities are slipping through the cracks. Juggling the needs of others alongside their own is problematic and many feel they could get more done if they could just get to it.
Still structure has a bit of a bad rap. For many the notion of structure is that it’s imposed on us by outside forces, school, employer, family, someone or something else. These organizations and relations limit or take away our personal freedoms and independence—anything too structured or planed should be avoided. Some feel that structure reduces personal empowerment.
History provides us with many examples of oppressive institutional systems and structures. Including prison, police, factories, slavery, the military, political parties, in some cases marriage and education, when one’s very self-definition is manipulated and controlled by others. Humanity has reasons to be suspicious of imposed structure.
What if you could create structures/systems that support you in achieving your goals, without sacrificing personal freedom? If you’ve ever missed an important event or appointment because you “spaced out” you will admit you need a way of tracking, organizing and making decisions, if you’re going to be as successful as you want to be.
Our adult ego is equipped with something called executive functioning. These mental powers enable us to define, sort, prioritize and make decisions according to our values, positioning us to take action in meaningful and substantive ways. Any civil rights movement, creative small business or alternative school is a structure too, a handful of routines.
So how does it work? What are some steps to take and ideas to consider that will support you to achieve your version of success?
Create a flow; go with your natural, human daily rhythms as much as possible. If you’re an early riser, do focused work in the morning. A night owl? Take advantage of evening hours to increase productivity.
Integrate your preferred way of doing things into daily and weekly priorities. If you like gardening in the evening like George Harrison did, do your watering at night.
Routines can be as flexible and adaptable as they are firm. Make plans that benefit from things being worked out ahead of time but are also able to change if need be.
People like their systems firm or loose depending on their personality. Where are you on the spectrum? Do you like to have the same thing for breakfast but play lunch by ear?
Remember “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Do laundry on Monday, sweep on Tuesday, mend clothes on Friday, into town on Saturday. Things had a day and a season. Harvest in the fall, plant in the spring. They called it “chunking” when I worked at Fred’s. It’s a basic organizing principle that allows you to focus on the task at hand; knowing that everything else will get done when it’s time comes. What’s a good weekly or bi-weekly schedule for you, to do the things you need/have to do, along with your favorite things?
Add to and subtract activities from these weekly patterns. Continue to observe and think about improvements to your designs. Experiment freely. Reflect on your results. Get a journal or your phone and write down what’s on your mind.
See what you can do with these ideas and please check back October 30th for Part 2 and ending of “The Marvels of Creating Structure or Why I Love My Laundry Routine.”