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Productivity / Processes

Why we all need more structure and routine

One of the challenges for many soloists is having too much freedom. When you work alone, no one notices when you don’t follow a structure or routine, tidy your desk or get your filing done. But productivity can nosedive if you’re not careful.

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You tell yourself that one of the reasons you went into your own business was to get away from rigid structure and routine and if you’re anything like me, you think it’s much more fun to jump from one thing to the next.

For those of us who are naturally inclined to work in a creative manner (ad hoc, occasionally untidy and a bit disjointed) structure sounds like something akin to torture. For years I resisted, thinking that freedom meant doing what I liked, whenever I liked, in whatever manner suited me on a given day. I loved the informality of this approach.

Working from home exacerbated the issue. I could half make the bed, wander up to the computer to start drafting an email, stop to grab a coffee, get distracted by an article in the newspaper and then sit back down to finish the email. Many hours of my day could be spent in this way and as enjoyable as I found it, it was less than ideal in terms of productivity.

The turning point for me was hiring my new PA, Lisa. A week after she started, Lisa politely hinted at the fact that my diary was a bit of a mess.

As I began to review and modify how I used my time to make Lisa’s life easier, I realised how much more efficiently my business was running. I was saving about an hour every day simply by doing things in a structured way.

I have come to realise that I really do prefer structure and routine. The more I create routine, the more room I have for genuine creativity and strangely, the more freedom I feel.

"The more I create routine, the more room I have for genuine creativity and strangely, the more freedom I feel."

The irony is I’ve always been pretty good at helping other people do this stuff but I’ve been a business coach like the plumber with dodgy pipes. I needed the help of a PA to break my bad habits.

It’s commonsense, of course, and most of us know what we need to do but if you’re anything like me, you might resist the idea of changing old habits.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Begin by working out what your ideal week looks like – for me that means setting aside some client free hours every week for tasks such as marketing, admin, writing and so on.

2. Make a list of all of your ‘working on the business, not in the business’ tasks then prioritise the list in terms of which tasks are most important for you to complete and which can be delegated.

3. If there’s more on your list than you can realistically achieve, hire an assistant (virtual assistants are a great way to start) and start delegating.

4. Schedule time in your diary to complete your top priority tasks. Make sure you set aside a block of time that is realistic and when the time comes around, stay at your desk until you’ve completed that task.

5. Enjoy the extra hours doing something you really love!

Has structure helped your productivity, or perhaps a routine doesn’t work for you. Share your experience in a comment.

Kate James

runs coaching programs for creative startup businesses and she facilitates mindfulness workshops retreats in Melbourne, Bali and Byron Bay. Kate is the author of Believe in Yourself & Do What You Love and Be Mindful & Simplify Your Life.

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