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« What will happen if I do nothing? | Main | Diet Report - Day 2 »

Structuring the Day

I’ve been conscious recently that my days have become rather unstructured. The usual result of this is that work starts taking over my life and I cease to feel grounded. This time is no exception - I’m beginning to get that “all work and no play” feeling and, even worse, a feeling of guilt when I take time off from working.

So it’s time to re-establish some structure in my life. What I want to do is two things:

  1. To schedule what I call “depth activities” (see my book “Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play”). There are three well tried and proven depth activities which I know have a profound effect on me when I do them regularly for a prolonged period. These are journalling, walking and meditation.
  2. To cut back my working hours so they stop taking over more and more of my life.

What is needed is a simple structure - one which can be kept to easily. First, the depth activities. That’s easy. I will write my journal immediately on getting up in the morning. I will take the walk at 12 noon before having lunch. And finally I will meditate for 20 minutes at 6pm.

As for the working hours, I am going to do something which I read about recently. I can’t remember where, though it was probably one of the other time management blogs. It’s a simple idea (as all the best ideas are). I can only have my computer switched on from 9am to 6pm on weekdays. At weekends, this is reversed and my computer has to be switched off from 9am to 6pm. Since there is hardly any work I can do without my computer, this should be an effective way of ensuring that I get a life again!

During working hours I will of course be putting the principles of Do It Tomorrow into play.

Now whenever one tries to put a structure like this into play, there is usually one key point that the whole thing turns on. If it goes right, the rest of the day should go ok. If it is wrong, the day will be a disaster. Focusing on this key point is the way to ensure that everything else works. In this case the key point is the time that I get up in the morning. If I fail to get up on time, the whole day will be thrown out. If I get up on time and immediately launch into my journal, the day is off to a good start and the rest of the day will almost always go fine. So that is what I will be concentrating on.

Another important thing to remember is that one needs to identify in advance the days on which one is not going to be able to keep to the structure and give oneself permission to miss it in whole or in part. Then one doesn’t clock up a failure in one’s mind because the structure has lapsed for that day.

Reader Comments (8)

Dear Mark
I like your note that if the structure is lost at the beginning of the day, the rest of the day is lost.
I have look at my list of 'today's items' first thing in the morning,otherwise the items don't get done.
December 5, 2006 at 13:42 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie
Your computer schedule reminds me of Reinhard's "Weekend Luddite."

I also found that, if I get up at 6 or a little earlier, the day's snarls are almost naturally smoothed out. If I get up after 7 or 7:30am, I'm always a little bit behind and feel the urge to work harder to catch up.
December 5, 2006 at 13:54 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown've forgotten that this is the great advice I got from.....YOU! LOL! I commented on it on the Backlogged Discussion...and how this not only made me more efficient at keeping up with my Yesterday Log but it effectively made me complete my entire backlog. I guess that your great mind is so full of wonderful ideas that you forget to give yourself your due credit! Take a bow, man!
December 5, 2006 at 17:17 | Unregistered Commenterclogged like a diaper in a toilet
me, again...Having a fence around the office time not only made me unbelievably more efficient, but it gave me permission to just pursue my pleasure and learning time unfettered with any tasks creeping in besides the usual tidy up after myself as I go along. This little tidbit you taught me did more to help me get more done both duty and pleasure wise than any list or planner system. It's amazing how our brains can laser in on whatever we want when it's not cluttered with shoulds, aughts and I wishes. This little time fencing idea of yours is the best mind liberator and productivity and life satisfaction life hack I've ever used! Again, Thank you so much. Number two best gift to the quality of my life is your yesterday list and three is your backlogged no more. I haven't felt this satisfied with myself and my life since before my disabilities...
December 5, 2006 at 17:28 | Unregistered Commenterclogged like a diaper in a toilet
Interesting thoughts here Mark! I love the idea of switching your pc off at the weekends - i can feel my resistance tho as I work on my business part time, and I'd be a bit worried about getting nothing done!
Still, I think I'm going to think about how I can integrate reducing the time I spend on my pc, as I read something similar to this, about havinga totally day off, somewhere else recently, so I think the universe is telling me something!
December 5, 2006 at 20:28 | Unregistered CommenterClaire Chapman
Mark, I think you should create a nice PDF version of a Task Diary, and place it on the site as a download. Perhaps the fellow at would help if needed. Add an article on your use of a Task Diary for good measure. Just a thought. The term was entirely new to me, and I only grasped it reading others' comments. It is probably an "across the pond" issue.

Best Wishes,
March 5, 2007 at 4:29 | Unregistered CommenterGordon
Hi, Gordon
It would be a bit difficult to produce a PDF version of a task diary, as it is just a blank page with a list of tasks on it. That's all.

My recommendation is that one uses a page-a-day diary (or "schedule" as it's called in America), the sort that can be found in any stationery store.

Full details of how to use it can be found in "Do It Tomorrow", but basically you just write tasks in it as they come up, usually under tomorrow's date so you aren't bothered with them today but can action them tomorrow.

For example:

March 6th

Return Bill's call
Investigate new paper clip supplier
Buy "Do It Tomorrow"
Subscribe to Mark Forster's newsletter
Sort out staff reports
Draft new lunchtime telephone rota
Write to friends telling them about Mark Forster's website
etc. etc.
March 5, 2007 at 11:08 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
identify days without the structure in advance - giving permission to let the agenda go and actually sleep in like today and not feel like it is a wasted day , that is my challenge. I am glad I am not alone in this quest, I didnt think of trying to know in advance which days these will be. Will try that.
January 13, 2008 at 22:22 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

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