Let structure be about habits

October 5, 2017

What structure habits make the greatest difference when it comes to our efficiency?


This question also pinpoints the core of what working with structure is really all about.

We create and establish habits for our daily lives and work as to avoid pitfalls of structure and to get our work done easier.

We organize and systematize the tangible parts of our work (such as documents and tools), but to automatically act how we would want to act in a given situation is definitely an important key to being efficient.


Our common habits

I have listed a selection of the habits I, and perhaps you too, find most important:

  • Collect all the potentially scattered notes with all the things we have to do and compile them by adding them to your to-do-list at least once a day
  • Only use reminders when you truly need them, so that they still mean something and are not just dismissed as distractions
  • Close or hide your email when you want to get other tasks done
  • Shut out background noise with music or white noise when you need to focus
  • Scan receipts with your smartphone and send them to the accountant immediately instead of just putting them somewhere ”for now”
  • Start every workday wth a morning routine that gives a quick overview of what is scheduled for the day, and what ideas, tasks or meetings you have added in the past 24 hours
  • Draft a simple checklist as soon as you do something
  • Begin every day by writing for 25 minutes
  • Add what you promised to get done during the meeting as to-do-tasks to your to-do-list right after the meeting is over
  • Label the tasks that distinctly contribute to attaining the business goals as ‘important’, and begin the day by doing these tasks
  • Take a look one month ahead and one month back in the calendar once every week
  • Set your phone to flight mode if you want to make myself unavailable for phone calls – regardless the reason
  • Put away everything on your desk that might distract you from what you want to focus on
  • Use the time spent standing in line or waiting for something to read materials that otherwise tend to pile up
  • Prioritize a task that you need to be in a certain location to do, when you happen to be in the vicinity


Useful habits

It is hard to say what specific habits that have made the most difference to me, but they all somehow have their part to play and serve a purpose when they turn situations that might have caused frustration and anger into parts in a constructive and smooth workflow.

Instead of trying to single out a few super-habits, let us view our habits as part of the structure we have created to make our workday as stable as possible, especially in places where it might have been weak or unpredictable without it.

Sit down and make a list of all the habits you are grateful for having established.

Take a few extra minutes to think about what situation you often find yourself in that you might be able to improve or remove completely by establishing a *new* habit. The more vividly you describe the situation or problem, the easier it will be to think of a habit that could solve your predicament.

So, what could you do to avoid the problem or stop the situation from occurring, or to take the edge off the ”damage” once it is done? (If you really cannot think of anything – email me, and perhaps I will have a few ideas for you.)

Try formulating the new habit as concretely as you can, for instance in the form of “When [something happens], I will [do this]”.

If you want some tech-support when establishing the new habit, use an app such as Strides (iOS) or Habit Streak (Android).


Create, establish, improve

If you create, establish and adhere to new habits as you discover new areas in your work that could use a bit of efficiency, you will gradually create a better structure and by doing so have more time for what truly matters – in your work and in your personal life. By continuously refining and making small readjustments you will keep improving your efficiency, and eventually deal with the stressful moments in your life with greater ease.


What would you say is the habit (or habits) that has influenced your structure and efficiency the most? Write to me at david@stiernholm.com and tell me all about it.


About the author

David StiernholmSUPER STRUCTUREDDavid Stiernholm is a trainer who teaches thousands of people every year in companies, government authorities, organizations and universities how to become more structured and attain a higher degree of personal efficiency.

He is also the author of Super Structured.

“Information overload”, “too much going on”, “full email inbox”, “too much on your plate”, “heavy workload”, “ASAP”, “piles that keep growing”, it has to get better soon… Yes, there are many ways to describe the chaotic life many of us lead at work. But, if we create a better structure at work, we will have more time for what matters most to us and to our business. Super Structured is based on a highly successful training program and is for anyone who wants to create a workday that runs smoother and with greater ease. In short chapters with useful advice and tips.

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