Making the Most of the Hamster Wheel

Golden HamsterRestricted. Boxed-In. Inflexible. Status quo. Boring…..In short, BLAH!

Ask someone for their gut reactions to the word “structure,” and you’ll likely hear these and other responses.  In short, for many, “structure” has a decidedly negative connotation.  Count me among that group.  I never wanted to be on that hamster wheel…in fact, I got off the wheel intentionally in 2011, and never intend to return to it!

So, it was with a little trepidation that I have entered this new year with “structure” being one of my key goals professionally.  Fear not….it’s not that I’m abandoning the flexibility with which I’ve enthusiastically embraced my career in the past year or so.  I’d never do that….things are going too well for that!  No, it’s because I recognize that it’s not such a black and white world in which I operate professionally.  And it’s in the grey area that I need to both exist and learn to flourish.

In what now seems like a far distant past, I knew a woman who resided entirely in a black and white world.  There was no nuance, no middle ground, no exceptions to the rule.  There was good, and there was evil.  There was right, and there was wrong.  She either liked you.  Or she hated you.  I recall after observing her in situation commenting to her (with more than a little apprehension, ”I’d sure hate to ever wrong you in any way.  Once someone disappoints or offends you, they will never again be in your ‘circle of trust.”

That was years ago, and she’s now my ex.  That was an entirely different hamster wheel, but I digress…

Rather, the point is that this is a grey world, and in a grey world, both structure and flexibility can coexist.  Indeed, they can do better than that.  They can augment and aid in the benefits of both concepts…..let’s call it structured flexibility.

Let me explain how that works in my world as I begin to progress through the new year.

I’ve got a ton on my plate these days.  Classroom teaching.  Online teaching.  Research mentoring. Leadership consulting.  Personal assessments. Dissertation research. Parenting, friends, and relationships with others.  I’ve got ice hockey.  Skydiving.  Pleasure reading. Professional reading. Writing. Speaking. Have I missed anything?

And I’ve got flexibility….lots of it.  That is a true benefit from working primarily from home.  If I want to work at 2:00 a.m., I stoke up the Keurig and settle in for a late night marathon.  If I feel the need for a run or a workout midday, well, by gum, I just take one!

But, without some sort of structure, I’d never get it all done.  Something would fall off my plate.  At times in the waning months of 2012, I sensed that happening.  So, enter structured flexibility…..the ability and, quite frankly, the decision to ultra structure particular portions of my week, so as to allow complete flexibility into other parts of the work week.

I have three large half-day blocks of time set aside during the workweek a flexibility times.  The rest of the week are totally structured and planned out, down to the fifteen-minute increment.

The results so far?  Well, it’s been a change and true comfort with all change takes time.  But it’s also been quite invigorating!  I’ve accomplish more in each day and week this year than I had even planned.  So far….so good.

So, what’s your ideal of structured flexibility?  What works for you?  Please share your experiences and thoughts!  How do you stay off the hamster wheel?

One thought on “Making the Most of the Hamster Wheel

  1. Hi Trevor, I worked out of my home for several years and I had to have structure in order to get all my work done and then take care of children and a home. There was a sense of freedom, yet structure was necessary. Now working back in an office I find that I can complete my tasks in less time than I have to be there, yet I cannot leave because I am the manager. To be master of your own time really has some great benefits 🙂

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