The Freedom of Structure

People usually hate rigid structure. Schedules that tell you when to be where, budgets for your money, even rigid structures for your data - most people hate it all, because it imposes too much rigor in their day (and frankly, exposes the weaknesses that are covered up by sloppiness). Often, you’ll hear people talk about a much more “free” way of living. Unfortunately, lack of structure is exactly the opposite of freedom - it’s a silent set of chains.

Having structure is really important. Structuring your day helps you know when you need to do what, all the way down to when you should wake up, to when you should write a blog post (as I’m doing now, at my scheduled time). Structuring other areas of your life, like your money, gives you instant clarity on where everything is, and answers so many decision-making questions that inevitably come up.

However, having more structure in your life goes much further than simply helping you get things done more efficiently: structure actually gives you freedom.

Take for example, my reading time. I have 30 minutes in my daily schedule allocated to read, after my morning workout and right before I start my day. Knowing that I have that 30 minutes already reserved for reading means I don’t feel guilty for not already starting my day. I don’t feel guilty for not checking my email yet. Scheduling that time give me permission to read, which I would otherwise be likely to feel guilty about.

Money is the same way. Budgeting every month gives you permission to spend what’s in the budget. If you gave yourself $500 to spend on eating out and having fun, and by the last week of the month, you’ve only spent $300 of it, go have a blowout time! Without that structure, you’d feel self-conscious about spending $200 on a nice dinner, but because of the budget, you’ve got the freedom to spend that money.

It doesn’t end there. Structure is valuable in any area of your life and work. If you work in technology, and are creating content, coming up with a firm structure for how that data will be stored and presented seems hard and unnecessary at first, until you realize that it gives you the foundation for building more products and experiences off that data and content. More freedom, brought to you by structure.

It’s tempting to look at structure as an old-fart way of approaching things, flying in the face of creativity and spontenaeity, but the truth is actually the opposite: structure gives you freedom, it doesn’t take it away.

So, a challenge: find an area of your life that isn’t structured. Whether it’s your daily schedule, your money, your work, your dinner/eating plans, whatever, and come up with a way to structure it. Try it for two weeks, and I think you’ll be blown away by just how much more free you feel when you lock things down.

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