Have you ever experienced that overwhelming feeling of your calendar being out of control, to do:s appearing from all over, and a disquieting feeling that you may be forgetting something? There is a cure, and it is called structure. Structure will not only help you to get in control of all your tasks but it will also make your work smoother and faster. We were curious to learn more about this and decided to talk to an expert in the area, David Stiernholm, the one and only with the professional title Struktör (‘Structurer’ in English). This is what we learned.
- Structure is the decisions that you have made about how to do things in a hypothetically optimal way, the best way that you can think of, David says. It is also the tools that you have chosen to use to do these things.
There are plenty of things that we can do to simplify our workdays through structure. Structure consists of three major areas where we can finetune our work, David explains. These three areas are ‘organize’, ‘focus’ and ‘automate’. The ‘organize’ area includes how to keep track of everything we have to do, how to keep a good order among our documents and how to handle the constant inflow of information such as email and chat in a systematic and less overwhelming way.
In the second area, which is ‘focus’, we finetune how we prioritize and how we get rid of distractions that we so easily are exposed to, David continues. The third area is ‘automate’. Here, we simplify the things that we have to do and the tasks that we are responsible for. This gives us more time for the most important and the most interesting tasks.
- Structure is not a purpose of itself, David says. The benefits of the structure is what’s important.
Structure must fill some kind of need that we are struggling with, David explains. We could, or should, structure the aspects of our work that we want to run as smoothly and swiftly as possible. All the things that we want to get done as easily as possible, and that we don’t want to reinvent everytime that we have to do this task.
One example could be how to handle the email that you receive, process, and reply to. This is something that you do often, sometimes plenty of times every day. Everything that you do plenty of times, many iterations, you can optimize in some way. You can fine-tune and get it done in an easy way or in a way that takes less energy. Other examples could be how you handle the monthly report that you have to put together or the meetings that you have. Everything that we are repeating, that we want to get done in an as easy way as possible, is something that we can structure.
- With structure we save time, but time is not everything. With good structure, you don’t have to work so hard, things get done more easily, David says.
There are tasks that we don’t want to structure, tasks that we want to use our energy for and that we really want to focus on. But then there are all these other tasks that we just want to work, that we want to get done as automatically as possible, David says. And things will get done slightly more automatically, or even entirely automatically, if we structure them. This means that we can spend less effort on doing things if we have created a good structure for them. So, in the end, it’s about optimizing how you are using you time.
- Most of my clients start with the 'organize' area. Typically, they seek my help because they feel overwhelmed. They feel that they are not in control of their work situation, they are stressed and have a hard time prioritizing among all the tasks they have to do, David says. The first step is then to collect all notes of what they have to do into one single list.
Some of the stress comes from a feeling of not being in control of the to do:s. You have to-do:s spread out in several places, some are in your mind, some are in your email, and some are on notes that are spread out on your desk, David says. This makes it difficult to get an overview, and you are in constant worry that you are missing something, or that that you should have done something else with your time than what you are doing right now. To get a grip on the situation, and get in control, you need to collect all the to do:s in one single list, David continues. Then you are able to get an overview and see everything that you have to do and everything that you have to prioritize among. The next step will be to choose where to keep the list, and there are plenty of digital tools available for that.
Listen to the full interview with David to learn more about how to organize your work and how to execute the other two other areas - focus and automate. This podcast episode is packed with tools, tricks and inspiration on how to structure your work and once and for all, get rid of that overwhelming feeling of the to-do:s controlling you instead of the other way around.
Read the interview with Dr Deborah Rupert to learn about how work-related stress can be reduced and how burnout can be avoided.