I am a person who struggles with structure. I don’t like to feel hemmed in (absolutely hated office life with its cubicles and 1pm lunch hours), I don’t like to make plans, I don’t like to make to-do lists, and I loathe project management software. I’ve bought countless numbers of those pretty ‘ladyboss’ style diaries and planners, all promising to help me get my shit together, get organized and crush my goals and business milestones. They are all happily gathering dust on my desk, with precisely zero pages filled in and zero weeks planned. It’s just not how I roll.
On the other hand, and somewhat confusingly, I have come to the conclusion that I am a person who absolutely must have structure in order to retain a modicum of sanity as I juggle my coaching business with motherhood, house renovations, the usual ups and downs of being a human being on this here planet and a burning desire to write stories and share them through the medium of theatre.
You could say there are two entirely different souls jostling for space in the same body and on any given day I struggle to decide which one is the dominant twin!
How am I to reconcile these two very different sides of my personality, seemingly completely at odds with one another?
I have decided to try a little experiment. I’m looking at ways to get more organized without feeling like a slave to plans and deadlines. ‘Structure Lite,’ if you will. This has involved taking some time on a Sunday evening to plan my week – loosely I might add – with the help of a terribly unattractive yet thoroughly functional whiteboard. Ten minutes on a Sunday evening is spent filling in the sections with what I think I might be able to accomplish in any given day. No pressure, just, you know, the tasks are there should I feel inclined to tick them off the list.
And whaddaya know – shit is getting done quicker than it has gotten done for the past year. I have discovered that my planner gives me the impetus I need to get the ‘work’ work done quick smart, so that I can focus on the creative work with a clear head and a free heart, and no little ‘guilt’ monkey sitting on my shoulder screeching that my plays won’t pay the damn mortgage.
While I do think it’s part of the creative sensibility to be a little all over the place, brain jumping from one idea to the next, head firmly in the lovely fluffy clouds, I am realising that lack of structure and planning can cause more anxiety in the long run. Hours can go by in a fog of random Googling, looking at paint colour charts for the spare bedroom, the newest additions to RiseArt or Art Finder, the obligatory check in with Facebook to observe the latest politically motivated scrap between friends – anything but actual work. And before you know it a deadline is looming and bugger all been done.
Today marks my fourth day of obeying the commands of ‘The Whiteboard’ and I can honestly say it is working a lot better than I thought it would. I suddenly seem to have so much more time. I’m not scrabbling to hit those deadlines and I can set aside periods throughout the week that are entirely dedicated to my creative work. As opposed to staring at my script at 10pm when I can barely keep my eyes open and my writing is fuelled by Diet Coke and sheer grit. Nothing wrong with the latter of course, but it is so nice to write from a place of calm, allowing the ideas to download with ease and enjoying the process without any guilt. ‘The Whiteboard’ is here to stay and ‘The Monkey’ has been silenced.
If any of this resonates with you, why not try your own version of ‘The Whiteboard’ – just for a week. See how you get on and feel free to share your experience in the comments!