I structure a lot in my life. It is the only way that I manage to get over my disorganized nature in order to get things done. Over the past few years, I’ve been adding layers of structure and technology to help me reach my goals. These systems allow me to capture and sort out what is important and what needs to get done.
Oddly enough, I never have to remind myself to write for this blog. I never need to add that unnecessary structure, as it is something I truly want to do1.
Finding that balance between what I need to do and what I want to do has become essential for me. Making sure that there is time for both is a challenge, but not an impossibility. More often than not, it requires sacrifice, but when you take an honest look at how you spend your time, there is almost always waste… waste that, if removed, can give you the space to do what you must while leaving room for what you want to get done.
I have to count on systems to get my obligations done, but I must, to some extent, abandon these systems to figure out what is important to me. This philosophy of leaving room in my systems, not capturing the non-essentials, helps to bring what is really important to the surface.
For years, no one ever had to tell me to watch TV at night, it was always what I wanted to do. Now no one has to tell me not to watch TV, as I know I’d rather write. Suddenly, once I knew I’d prefer to write this blog, the need to watch TV went away. It was no longer a priority once my brain was given the space needed to figure out what it truly wanted.
It is a delicate balance of leaving time to both do what has to be done (the things you capture and schedule) while leaving space for the things you want to do to rise to the surface (the things you don’t). If you have to capture and schedule a “want-to-do,” you probably didn’t really want to do it.
I know that many count on their “trusted system2” for both sides of the spectrum3. However this kind of structure for passion projects has never worked for me. The same layers that improve my work often derail my play. I started out trying to handle both the same way, but quickly found that applying the same structure to a pleasure that you do to an obligation quickly turns the former into the latter.
Systems and structure are an essential part of accomplishing your goals, but becoming a slave to them will only ever defeat the purpose of both. Structure what must be done, but try letting the priorities of your personal time prioritize themselves. You may just find that never wanted to do many of the things on your list and that you can rid yourself of things that take you away from the true passion projects that are just begging for enough space to rise to the surface.
- I do, however, need to capture the ideas, so that I have something to write about when the time comes. I often can’t write when the inspiration strikes, so this process of capture and revisit is an essential part of my creative process. [↩]
- This is a term from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. [↩]
- Some require no system at all to accomplish everything on their plate, but screw them [↩]