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Without structure, you’re a blob

Last December I announced that I was going to be joining the ranks of digital nomads exploring the world.

(In case digital nomad is a new term for you, it’s basically someone who takes advantage of widespread internet access to stay connected and grow their business with digital tools from anywhere in the world.)

After two months of all-consuming ToDo Lists to prepare for international travel and wrap up eight and a half years of life in Nevada City, I left the country on February 5th.

Now in Guanajuato, Mexico a new lifestyle is slowly emerging. And while the colorful city I’m in, food I’m eating, and language I’m attempting to learn is different than what you’re experiencing, there is a universal exploration underlying it all.

It’s based on what I’ve been calling being a Natural Professional, or creating the New Way of Working—easifying your experience so that working, playing, living, and loving are all one big awesome adventure!

When free time is not your friend

The first week and a half in Mexico was dedicated to a writing and meditation retreat in San Miguel de Allende. Oh, what a perfect adventure to begin this journey!

Yay for meditation retreat!As an indy player, you surely know that having total control of your schedule is a double-edged sword. If you’re anything like me, throughout any given day you flip and flop between: “I love being in control of my life!” and “I wish someone would just tell me what to do right now!”

After years of chasing never-ending ToDo Lists and then a solid month of intense racing to deal with everything that needed to be dealt with before leaving the country, having endless open days on the road could’ve been quite the shocker.

It all starts with your butt on the pillow

Instead, my travels began with the retreat. One of the defining characteristics of that week was the schedule. The morning session went like this:

  1. Sit (i.e. butt on pillow to meditate for 30-40 minutes)
  2. Journal (3 full pages)
  3. Write (for the remaining time which was over 2 hours)

It was the perfect amount of structure. Not too much that we felt constrained and not too little that we felt lost. Oh joy!

Long time readers may remember that my morning routine has long been: yoga, sit, journal. Note the one missing: write.

Journaling and writing are different.

Journaling is for processing everything going on in my life, for reconnecting with my Wise Self, and for working out how to deal with stuff that comes up.

Writing is my co-creation with the Greater Powers that Be to produce blog posts, articles, courses, book etc. for others’ benefit.

This is my Work, the stuff that feeds my Soul and allows me to feel like I’m contributing to the betterment of humanity. Not doing it sucks.

Doing your Work takes work

In California, my life had become such that I was hardly writing (it’s been 2 months since last blog post!) Here in Mexico, post-retreat, I’m following the good structure practices we established. (Well, except for those days of being cursed by Montezuma’s Revenge.)

While practicing this structure is best done at the same time each day, tightly holding on to a specific time frame can invite rebellion. Let’s face it, we’re fiercely independent.

Doing your work outta be fun!

My routine is a morning one. And… the other day I was invited to go on a hike the next morning. Oh, dilemma! That’s My Time. And yet… how could I turn down this sweet opportunity? I don’t want to hike these hills by myself and here was someone offering to lead the way.

I talked with Tall Guy (boyfriend) that night. He reminded me that flopping my lifestyle upside down was in part in response to spending too much time in front of the computer and not having enough fun adventures to bounce off of.

Smart guy, he. I’m lucky to have someone who will help me stay aware of that truth.

So I reviewed the rest of the day and renegotiated My Time with myself.

The next day, I got up early, sat, did an abbreviated journaling session and a short writing session. Then, after the hike, had a second writing session to achieve my full two hours for the day.

Structure for your Work is your friend

Your best tools and habits are those that support You. Structure allows your mind to relax which allows creativity to flow.

The right amount of structure for your highest priority work is one that is not so rigid that it’s constraining and not too flexible that you can wiggle out of it.

Because structure is such an impersonal word, I use the term My Time to indicate the time and activity that my structure is meant to protect. This reminds me that when I consider sacrificing this structure, I’m actually talking about sacrificing my Self.

Key components to supportive structure

  1. Identify the important work to be protected by your structure. This is the work that only you can do and that is critical to your advancement in some way. You might include prep activities. As I mentioned above, mine is a threesome: Sit, Journal, Write.Note that I don’t necessarily know what specifically I am going to write about. I just know that writing is the most important Work I can do and that showing up every day will provide ample opportunity for the right Work to be done.
  2. Define your container. How much time? Is there an appropriate/preferred location? What activities are not allowed (for ex. email, social media, “quick questions” from colleagues, etc.)
  3. Be prepared. If you work in a cafe, make sure you have your power cord and internet access (if needed) ahead of time. Don’t waste your precious dedicated time screwing around with logistics.
  4. Be dedicated. The more passionate you are about your work, the more Resistance* will likely attempt to sabotage your efforts and distract you. Be aware of this reality and firmly resist the urge to turn away from it. The only way to do Your Work is to Do It!
    [*Ref. Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art]
  5. Be honest with yourself. Only you can feel and know the difference between cheating yourself out of Your Time and having a clean conscience when negotiating a change to your scheduled time.

P1010440There are two super awesome side-effects of sticking with the structure of doing Your Work.

  1. Satisfaction. You are on this planet for a purpose. Whether you know exactly what that is or not (and really, who does??) making daily effort towards your heart-based highest priorities gives you a deep satisfaction that cannot be achieved with checking even 100 things off your ToDo List.
  2. Relief. Once you’ve done Your Work, the rest of your day is free for ToDo List items, socializing, other projects, and self-care. Gone is that nagging feeling “I should be doing… (that thing you aren’t applying adequate time to).” In other words, relief from having done Your Work gives you lightness of being.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Guanajuato, Nevada City, or Sydney, the right and right amount of structure can make doing Your Work so much easier.

If you haven’t tried it before, give it a try for a month. And if you’re needing some encouragement to come back to something that has worked for you before, let this be that.

If you’re willing to share in the comments, I’d love to hear what Your Time is dedicated to and what you do to keep steady with it.


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