I am always glad to hear of the positive changes they have experienced, because I have been in their shoes too. One of the reasons why I am so happy about my structure is that it never makes me feel as if I am a victim of circumstances. On the contrary, it helps me feel that I have a say in how ”things turn out”, and the times things do not unfold as I would have wanted them to, I can take responsibility for what happened and try again.
A healthy dose of control
And as it so happens, research now shows that the sense of control structure brings could potentially give you a longer life. In a recently published study, the researchers Erik Gonzalez-Mulé and Bethany Cockburn found that for the people who experience having little to no influence over their work, the ones with a demanding job have a 15,4% increased ”risk of dying” compared to those whose jobs are not as demanding.
Another fascinating discovery was that the people who felt in control of their demanding job had a 34% lower ”risk of dying” as opposed to those with a non-demanding job.
This must mean that the sense of being in control of your work, meaning feeling ”on top of things”, apparently matters a great deal - not just randomly throughout the workday, but over time and for life in general.
If you want to use structure to increase the sense of being the master of your work, time and life, these four actions are usually very effective and I regularly recommend them to clients - perhaps you will find them helpful as well.
”Empty your mind” and create an overview of all the more extensive tasks and projects you are responsible for. It can be your main areas of responsibility as well as more temporary projects - if you need to work with it over time, it belongs on this list. This overview will help you stay on track with all the things you are responsible for keeping in motion and doing.
Make it clear to yourself what goals you have to attain for the next while to come, and which should therefore be what you prioritize by. If it is easy to see what tasks contribute to attaining these goals and therefore are important, you do not have to prioritize by urgency. You will determine what to say ”yes” and ”no” to with greater accuracy and confidence - regardless how urgent it seems, because you now know what truly matters.
Decide how you will make yourself unavailable when you need to focus. Get a pair of headphones and find the sounds or music that shuts out background noise efficiently when you need to get work done. Discuss with your colleagues how you quickly, easily and preferably wordlessly communicate to one another that you want to work without being interrupted whenever this is needed. Think of a place where you can go when you really need to work without being distracted for a while. Doing so means taking the reins and taking charge of your immediate environment.
Have few (preferably just one) places where you gather all the things you have to do in terms of small tasks (call, write, email et c). When you look in this one location and see that there is nothing else you should be doing right now other than what you are currently working on, you will feel a great sense of relief since you are obviously ”on top of things”.
A step towards a longer life
If you refine your structure so that you get at least a little more control of what you do and what your day looks like, it will have a positive effect on your wellbeing, and if we are to draw a somewhat drastic conclusion from the research I just mentioned, your chances of living a longer life increase.
Perhaps that is stretching it a little, but let us at least establish that having better structure will not hurt us, but do some good - although the extent of its effect might be debatable.
What is your method?
What changes have you implemented that made you feel ”in control” of things to a greater extent than before the change? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me, because I find this interesting. That great ”on top of things”-feeling is worth its weight in gold, and since I want more of that for both myself and others, I am curious of what you have done.
Thank you for reading this edition of Done!, and welcome back next week.