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I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. J. K. Rowling
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« Getting Going Again: Day 3 Report | Main | "Do It Tomorrow" Rankings »

Structure v. No Structure

I’m getting back into the swing of things now by using the Do It Tomorrow methods, but it’s brought back to me that there is a definite tension between having a methodical system for one’s work and being spontaneous and creative. It’s very easy to become a ‘prisoner of the system’. That is in fact the reason that I have spent the last year or more trying to find a more intuitive and spontaneous way of working. The fact that I failed shows how necessary it is to have structure in one’s life.

Nevertheless it is immensely important to preserve the creative aspects of working without preconceived structure. So the solution is to wear the structure lightly, but also to be able to avoid doing nothing more than drift when the structure has been relaxed. How can we do that?

In my article Feeling Good I wrote about how using a simple method to monitor one’s state of mind could have a major effect on one’s productivity and effectiveness. Basically it consisted of asking oneself at regular intervals “How good am I feeling right now?” and then marking oneself out of 10. I described in my article how I even succeeded in curing myself of a fear of flying by using this technique.

I’ve discovered an even more powerful question to use in this way. The question is “How much resistance am I feeling right now?” Just as with the “feeling good” question, you mark yourself out of 10. However in this case you are aiming for a low score rather than a high score!

What does the question mean? You may be saying to yourself “resistance to what?” The answer is resistance to whatever your mind is subconsciously telling you would be the best thing for you to be doing at this precise moment. You are either doing it, or resisting doing it.

So for instance this morning instead of getting on with the next item on my list I started following up a thought I had just had by googling it. Instantly my resistance went up from 0 to 7! And it took a while to fall back to 0 even after I had stopped surfing. By contrast when it was time for lunch I felt the resistance grow because I was working instead of relaxing.

Like the Feeling Good method, it is important you don’t try to force this. The idea is simply to monitor your level of resistance and let it adjust itself. The process of monitoring itself will cause the resistance to fall overall. You will soon begin to discover what sort of things make it rise and make it fall. You will also discover that they will be different things according to the time of day or the circumstances.

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Reader Comments (2)

Mark, I'm really pleased your blog is up and running again. I was slightly discouraged that it had, to all intents and purposes, stopped because if you (the creator of the system) weren't managing to stick by it what hope was there for the rest of us!I have to admit I hadn't realised that you were experimenting with other systems so it was good to learn that is the reason for the hiatus.

Anyway with regard to your comment about creativity - have you read Twyla Tharps book "The Creative Habit"? It talks about how being creative actually requires structure and habits - it is not all about being spontaneous.

I have found that this has helped me alot. I now try to schedule times to be creative - this is often large blocks of time - and I think this only works if there is a structure like DIT to help with keeping the rest ticking over and moving on. Also these creative times will still be related to specific tasks even if they are quite large.

I shall be following your blog with interest again and learning lots.

February 22, 2008 at 16:01 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Rose
Thanks, Naomi, I will check out the book.
February 23, 2008 at 10:27 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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