Structure vs Flexibility: Finding Your Best Mix



Whenever I am around people who have never been their own boss or run their own business I often get comments like, “It must be great to be your own boss and do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it,” or “I’d love to work in my pajamas all day!” And to some extent these comments are true. When you are your own boss, you make the decisions. And yes, there are perks like making your own schedule, and if you want to take off early on a Friday afternoon you can do it. However, what people who have never been in this role don’t tend to realize is that as a boss you must be even more disciplined because it can be so easy to let that flexibility go too far, and when you are in business, structure is your friend!

I come across a lot of new vegan entrepreneurs who think that as the boss they should foster complete flexibility in a day so they can manage anything that might come their way. But this is a pitfall to avoid if you can. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years is that I am not only responsible for providing structure for my team, but also for myself. Daily structure really helps me to stay on track. It keeps me motivated and moving forward in a consistent fashion. For example, some of the key routines I have implemented into my days:

Step #1: Wait to check email

Since I’ve been asleep for six hours, I feel like one more hour before I check email is fine, because let’s face it: email is the danger zone. It will either suck up your time or become a total downer. So, I make sure I do steps 2 and 3 before I check my email.

Step #2: Nail an early morning accomplishment

Each night I pick one thing to complete before 11 am the next day. This is normally a task that will take between 30 minutes and one hour to complete. Doing this gives me a sense of accomplishment early in the day that can keep me from going down the dark hole of feeling like I’m not making any progress. By identifying a task each night, I don’t have to think about what I’m going to do when I wake up; I just do it.

Step #3: Create a daily to-do list

Each day I create a list of 2-4 things I want to complete. These are key things I want to accomplish for my business, not admin work like replying to emails. This list helps me start my day with a great mindset because I want to fill my time with items that really benefit my business. It also helps to prevent me from getting sucked into things that want my attention (but can wait) or things I’d rather do to distract me from important work that needs to be done that may be less appealing.

After I create my to-do list, I check my email. This helps me to determine if I need to make a change or addition to my task list for the day. This email review is really meant to help me plan my day. I might respond to quick messages; however, I usually save responding to any emails until after my morning workout.

Step #4: Physical and mental purging

I take a spin class or do something to get me moving physically every morning. Not only is this part of my plan to improve my physical health, it also improves my mental health. My morning exercise is one of the few activities in my day that allows me to totally check out from my business. While I’m on that bike, I only focus on the instructor’s queues — I love having an hour in the day that doesn’t require me to be in charge. This physical activity is also a great opportunity to let go of any anxiety that might have crept in from the previous day or my morning email review. Before I started taking spin classes, I would take a walk in the morning. Other people meditate or run or knit. Whatever works to relieve stress and clear your mind, but make it something you love, so you will stick to it, and make it a priority! Carving this one hour out for yourself and making it part of your routine can help your whole day run more efficiently and smoothly.

Step #5: Keeping it realistic

When I am making my list in the morning, I ensure it’s a list I can realistically accomplish that day. Don’t fall into the trap of making a list of ten things you would love to get done because no matter how much of your list you get through, you will never feel like you have done enough. It’s better to make a shorter list, and add to it once you get through it. My goal is to be done with my list about half way through my day, leaving me room to address any emergencies or things that develop during the day.

Depending on the person, sometimes the problem isn’t too little structure, but too much. If you tend to get hyper-attached to your schedule, remember to take advantage of some of that flexibility once in a while — it really IS one of the great perks of working for yourself! It’s not always easy to find the right balance between discipline, focus and flexibility when you are running a business of your own, and everyone’s ideal mix is different. The nice thing about being your own boss is the freedom to find what truly works best for you!

Take Action

What is your perfect mix of structure and flexibility? If you find yourself floundering a bit with your schedule, or if you are frustrated with your level of productivity, make yourself a schedule with a bit more structure, using some of the ideas above to help you brainstorm some structure that could work for you. If you are already stressed and tied too tightly to a schedule, try loosening your grip and adding a bit more flexibility into your day.

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