Big, sweeping life changes really boil down to small, everyday decisions.”     Ali Vincent, Believe It, Be It: How Being the Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life

I have been talking for years about the benefits of becoming organized and managing your time, and the systems I talk about can definitely help in these quests. But beyond systems for organizing and for managing time is structure. Systems help you know what you need to do and how to do it – structure helps you know when and how often to do it. Structure is the glue that holds systems together, that keeps you from having to get organized over and over, enabling you to be consistent with time use and self-care routines, and keeping you using the systems you create rather than lapsing back into older, less productive methods.

Once you have created and de-bugged your structure, you don’t have to think about whether or how you will do something – the routines created will guide you into doing activities or actions when, how, and where you want or need it to. Although structure takes time to develop, it enables becoming consistent, raising self-esteem and creating healthier habits.

Examples of structure are getting up and going to sleep at roughly the same time each day, following a consistent set of getting-up and preparing-for-sleep practices,
having regular times for doing laundry, dishes, or vacuum, exercise or do relaxation, run errands or visit with friends. The predictability of your schedule helps to keep less important activities, such as watching TV or reading the paper, within bounds so that they do not take over your whole life.

As a rule, structure in one area of life supports having structure in other areas as well. This is why exercise is such a powerful keystone habit (a keystone habit is a constructive practice that supports the implementation of other positive behaviors and habits). Appropriate and sufficient exercise increases energy, stamina, strength, and self-discipline, leading to increased ability to “just do the next right thing” which is often to do the next task on your list or to follow your routine. If not done incorrectly or overdone, exercise leads to feeling good in your body, an uplifting sensation that leads to increased self-esteem (because any form of self-care sends a subtle but powerful message to the unconscious that you deserve to be taken care of, be healthy, and feel good; neglecting the body sends the opposite message and leads to deterioration of many life quality measures).

Establishing a routine for consistently exercising (usually something that starts slowly and gradually builds in intensity to reduce health risks) often creates the beginnings of better organization, time use, and implementation of constructive systems throughout your life.

As an example, you may want to start changing your bed linen once a week; creating a structure that says “I will change the linen just before doing laundry” increases the likelihood of actually getting it done. Assuming that you have a regular day of the week for doing laundry, this approach will give you a logical and natural way to plan fitting these tasks together so that they reinforce each other.

Creating a structure for doing important self care and housekeeping helps to make sure that they happen and are not skipped or overlooked, allowing the work and needs to become overwhelming. Building a structure for exercise first, which will lead to feeling better, having more energy, an increased sense of hope and possibilities, and the ability to do more, may put you in a better position to carry through with housekeeping and other tasks.

The truth is, most people have a lot of routines already, they just aren't serving their needs as well as ones that are deliberately worked out with a view to being as constructive, productive, and creative as possible. Lots of people have routines that could be more beneficial with just a little tweaking. For example, if you watch TV and do nothing else, then that time is lost to any more productive or healthful activity. However, if you make it a rule to always exercise while watching TV and to always get up and move around the house putting things away or cleaning during commercials, your body and home will both be better off.

© Gloria Valoris, 2013

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