February 21, 2018

The trap of structure

Fork in a pathIf you already have the structure of something—a task, a project, an issue…

…it might not be the thing you most need to do. Maybe you should hand it off, or be done with it altogether.

We like when we know where we are and where we’re going; when we are clear on the structure we need. We can act on that.

We don’t like when we don’t know where we are or where we are going; when we don’t have a map. We feel uncertain and hesitant.

And so we tend to focus on those things where we have structure, but they may be the very things we should be moving on from in order to grow and develop.

Structure is great. Structure is comfortable. Structure might be a trap.

Should you be moving on from the structured to the unstructured? Should you be in uncharted territory?

How do you finish the unfinishable?

Depending on our background, certain kinds of tasks are easier to tackle than others because different types of work require different mindsets…

Smaller, more discrete tasks can be worked on until they’re finished. (Good to do the high priority ones first, but remember the low priority ones need to be done sometime.)

Exhausted computer userBigger, more amorphous but still bounded tasks need a time-based approach if we are to stay productive—work from morning until lunchtime and then from lunchtime till evening, for example, with appropriate breaks at intermediate times. Stick to a timing discipline like that, in our own shift system, and we can get through the biggest of labours.

All fairly familiar…

But what about the tasks which never end? Like websites, social media, reading, and so on. How can we best organise ourselves for them?

My experience is that the best way is to decide that between this time and that time, we will work on one of the endless themes, like a website, then in the next time slot, we will switch to another theme, and so on. Keep that pattern up and we make good progress and are freed from the burden of trying to finish the unfinishable.

So three kinds of work organisation then…

Task-based, shift-based and time-slot-based.

Worth thinking about which suits you and the task best.

How do you finish the unfinishable?