Do spaciousness and structure seem mutually incompatible to you?

If you are called to increase your impact, sooner or later you’ll have to make peace with the fact that to have a broader reach, you will need a sturdier structured process to get you there.

Do you have a love-hate relationship with structure and managing your time? I hear things like “I know I need to manage my time more effectively in order to (start writing my book / launch my own business / establish a more inspiring mission for our company), but any time I try to impose a structure the rebel in me comes out and distracts me.”

If this is your dilemma, it’s a great opportunity to examine your assumptions. For example, notice the use of the words “impose a structure” in the sentence above.

Have you only experienced accountability and time management imposed by others? This is often the case with those in the corporate sector who leave to start their own business. Sometimes they become their own worst boss, as they follow the only model of accountability they’ve ever known.

Or, you may need to be more proactive to gain enough independence from upper management to take the time to develop your ground-breaking idea for the company.

What would it be like to have structure that was created from the inside out? This is not the kind of rigid one-size-fits-all structure that may be the only model in your mindset.

It would require reorganizing your life to be purpose-directed rather than demand-driven. If you are constantly driven by external demands, your inner vision won’t have enough room to reach fruition.

Think of the difference between floating in a hot-air balloon that goes wherever the currents take it, versus flying a jet that keeps on course by adapting to prevailing winds.

A structure that enhances your creativity rather than squelching it feels spacious, because it’s open-ended and adapts to your evolving vision as well as objective outer needs. There’s room for trial-and-error while you find what works for you, and this type of structure holds many details in place so that you can focus on following your own creative thread.

Held within the safety and comfort of the jet, you’re free to walk about the cabin. There’s no need to strap yourself in and limit your options except when there’s bumpy air.

When the outer world gets bumpier by making more demands, a tighter structure will keep you firmly on course. Entrepreneurs with children may have to schedule child care and specific work-focused hours of the day. If your most productive hours are first thing in the morning, honor that by postponing routine tasks until later.

I used to force myself to handle all my business tasks first before enjoying the reward of my writing projects.  But by the time I got to writing late in the day, I felt out of touch with my creative impulse.

When I worked on writing first thing, the creative flow I enjoyed gave the rest of my day an extra boost of inspiration. When I discovered that doing creative projects first actually increased my productivity rather than the opposite I was very surprised, and I haven’t looked back since!

The most important place to start is with a boundary that protects time with your vision. Then you are accountable to nothing more than that amount of time, rather than to a preordained result too early in the game. If you find it hard to concentrate, use that time to journal about your resistant feelings, rather than popping out of the structure to some other activity.

I’d recommend setting aside at least one hour a week for that project you’ve been neglecting, and then no matter how busy your life is the momentum will build. It might be nothing more than a weekly date with you and your journal. Perhaps you’ll form a mastermind group or invest in a personal coach.

Where in your life is the balance tipping too far toward an agenda that is not yours? What kinds of structures will build your momentum while still giving you room to explore and let things evolve over time?

Once you give yourself permission to design your own accountability structure in this way your momentum will become unstoppable. Enjoy the journey!