Whilst it can be fantastic to be relaxed in our outlook and the way we live our lives, there are situations and times when this is not only an ineffective approach, it may also unwittingly create undue pressure and stress.

We’re often not all that good at handling uncertainty or the unknown and we don’t like feeling out of control, yet many of the situations we find ourselves in are by their very nature uncertain, with outcomes that are beyond our control. A great way for us to deal with this lack of certainty, can be to create a bit of structure.

Some of the things we do already have a lot of structure built in to them – in our jobs, the way we make and build things and even – to provide a very simple example – in the way we cook. You’ll know that to make an omelette you’ll have to follow a different recipe than to bake a cake. That’s a structured process in action!

So, although we’re used to applying a structured approach to many aspects of our lives, we may not be aware of the benefits this can bring to our personal lives and in particular the way we deal with change and challenge outside of the routine. As counterintuitive as it may seem, in order to FEEL more relaxed and “on top of it” we actually may need to bring in a bit of structure or a more systematic approach.

As with many of the other things we’ve talked about in this blog, there’s an optimal amount of structure. Too little and you risk contributing to your scatterbrained, head-cluttering mess (stress) and too much and overly rigid means that you’re potentially missing out on cool opportunities that may spring up or fun to be had off the beaten track.

 

Why structure?

There are so many reasons to employ a bit of structure in the way you operate, here’s a few of them:

  • It enables you to do perhaps the more mundane (but necessary) things faster and more efficiently.
  • …thereby helping clear your headspace for “fun” stuff.
  • In a work or business sense it means that important things aren’t missed, ensuring consistency and replicability of results
  • When you’re structured and systematic, things can become habits quicker. By breaking processes down, engaging in a bit of trial and error, tweaking and iterating until you find what works, then your structure will become embedded as a habit or process. Again, this frees up time and headspace.
  • Structure is almost always necessary to enable you to set and achieve goals – particularly larger, more complex and challenging longer-term ones.
  • Another reason to create some structure in your life is that when you’re structured you are more able to enjoy your downtime knowing that even if things aren’t finished, they’re in hand, you won’t forget them and you can pick them up again. In this respect structure declutters and makes loops feel closed – something that’s essential for our peace of mind.

 

What do I mean by structure?

When I’m talking about structure, I mean systems, processes and habits. Sometimes it could be plans or strategies (if they’re needed or relevant). In some areas, such as work or business (but also in organising your personal affairs) it could be templates or things to “copy and paste” or to build on. Diaries and calendars can be considered structures, so can filing and organising systems.

 

Structure for the sake of it isn’t always effective

It’s important to take stock from time to time to assess whether what you’re doing is effective. Is it just “busywork” and being a control-freak or is what you’re doing working well? If not, how can you revise the structure (or structures) you’re working with to be more effective?