5 Ways to Create More Structure in Life (With Examples)
We deeply feel the messiness of our lives. We feel it in all areas of our lives, which stresses us out and causes us to shut down, feel overwhelmed, run to distraction and comforts. It creates tremendous uncertainty for us.
We resist sticking to structure and routine. We want to have a great order to our lives, but when it comes to actually following it, we struggle. It feels too rigid, too constricting. So we immediately toss the plan aside and start free-forming it, answering messages and going to distractions and reading or watching things online. This creates even more uncertainty, not being able to stick to structure.
Now, I don’t think you can get control and order over everything in your life — life is inherently messy and uncertain, and all attempts to make it ordered and certain are fundamentally futile. It’s often more helpful to practice mindfully with the uncertainty rather than try to control it.
That said, this is not an all-or-nothing choice. We can create structure and practice with uncertainty. We can even create structure for our uncertainty practice. And we can learn to be unattached to the structure, so that if we have to do a day or week without it, we can be perfectly OK.
Two Reasons to Create Structure
- The messiness of our lives causes us to be messy. When we have a huge mess around us, it’s hard to be impeccable. It’s hard to be focused. It’s hard to really put our best effort into our meaningful work. We are greatly affected by everything around us, and by any kind of messiness in our lives. That doesn’t mean we should strive for perfection, but instead that we should recognize the effects of this messiness on us.
- Lack of structure creates a lack of trustability. When our lives are completely unstructured and messy, it’s hard for others to trust us. If you were to go into business with someone whose office and life were a huge mess, vs. someone whose office and life seemed to be in impeccable order … all other things being equal, who would you choose? This messiness is felt by our spouses or partners, felt by friends and other loved ones, felt by our colleagues and bosses, felt by our clients, even if they can’t completely see it. And we feel it ourselves, and it erodes our trust in ourselves.
None of this is reason to freak out or beat yourself up. It’s just bringing awareness to the effects of lack of structure. And maybe resolving to create more impeccable structure with time.
The many benefits of having a structured life
Having a regular routine can help you to feel a sense of control, which can reduce your stress and anxiety levels. Research shows that routine helps to make life feel more predictable, stable, and controllable, which can give a calming and anxiety-reducing effect.
Structure can also help with increasing productivity and ending procrastination. When you establish structure in your life it is easier to complete tasks that you need to do. Having a routine and schedule allows for better time management and the effective completion of mundane tasks, leaving more room for enjoyment or extra tasks that need to get done.
A lack of structure may result in worrying about finding time to complete tasks and neglecting your health. For example, if you do not schedule time for healthy meals or grocery shopping, unhealthy substitutes become the norm.
5 Ways to create structure
1. Establish a healthy morning and bedtime routine
Having a structured morning and bedtime routine will have a significant impact on your day. A good quality morning routine can help you to feel in control of your day and assist you in attending to your self-care needs.
A morning routine can include your skincare, brushing your teeth, eating a healthy breakfast, and even squeezing in an enjoyable activity such as reading or watching your favorite show. Exercise and meditation are other activities you can incorporate into a healthy morning routine.
A healthy bedtime routine can have an incredibly positive impact on your sleep habits, which are inextricably linked to your overall health. Evidence shows that having a good routine can improve your quality of rest, which in turn can positively affect your mental sharpness, performance, emotional well-being, and energy level.
A good bedtime routine means trying to sleep at a similar time each night, attending to your personal hygiene (for example brushing your teeth, washing your face, taking a shower), and activities that help you to relax and get ready to sleep, such as meditation, reading a book or having a caffeine-free tea.
2. Make a to-do list
Making a list of things you want or need to get done in the day can help you to prioritize and manage your time. When making the list it is important to set objectives that follow the SMART goal guidelines. Setting SMART goals helps you to develop the focus and motivation needed to achieve the goals on your to-do list.
That being said, it is important to remain flexible when it comes to the to-do list. Sometimes your days can become unpredictable, or plans will change, and you will not check everything off your list. Other times you may find it difficult to find the motivation, and that’s okay! Don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s okay to have off days where you don’t achieve everything you wanted to.
3. Plan your meals
Planning meals can also help you to eat better and can even save you money! As with any new routine, meal planning may take time and practice to get used to. You may have to experiment with what works best for you.
4. Make time for self-care and activities you enjoy
Sometimes when we are trying to increase structure in our life, we may neglect to engage in enjoyable activities due to feeling like our time is too occupied by other routines or activities that need to get done.
It is important to ensure that you are intentionally scheduling time for activities you enjoy when implementing structure into your life. In other words, you need to set aside time for self-care. This can provide a sense of connectedness to others and improve your overall quality of life.
5. Make sure your structure suits you!
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, make sure the structure you implement suits you! Your life is unique, and the structure that helps you may not be suitable for the next person. For example, if you work a nine-to-five job, your sense of structure may look quite different from a freelancer who is a night owl, or a post-secondary student.
There are no rules when it comes to establishing a structure that works for you. As long as the structure and routines implemented are healthy habits that serve you and help you maintain a balanced life, then keep doing what you’re doing!