This morning, I was throwing myself into a whirl of workflow, looking for some positive engagement in a world that could use a boost.

I started researching the basics of effective hours and productivity, which made me remember how my approach worked in real life — which was quite different from my theory. And I realized the ways I was channeling structure in my personal life actually didn’t make sense for a professional life.

After all, the byproducts of daily life can be structured into work. It’s not so much the amount of time we spend working as it is the way we shape the time. “Structured” means you make decisions about when you’re going to work, what you’re going to work on, and how you’re going to work. And you do so according to a clear expectation of time and what you want to accomplish.

My workflow is rationalized around that approach. When I am out of my home office, I lay out my computer with its printed task list, hands on it like a conference call. On that list are daily priorities with deadlines of some sort. In addition, I generally check items off when the deadline is approached. It’s a very structured approach to productive working that’s integrated with other decisions I make about where I am going to work (whether it’s home or whether to work at home or in another location).

Over a quick few minutes, though, it reminded me the impetus for my work is about family. So I crossed over to LinkedIn to get some general help from other users and was surprised to discover that the praise I was receiving there came from men (most of them accountants). I clicked on one comment: “The routine I have down is like no other. I have a productive style.” It’s powerful stuff and begs me to think harder about how we can grow and learn that holistic approach to being at work — which is what the world needs.

Finally, I was reminded why my approach to work works. At a recent tech-industry conference, which I attended, my friend and colleague John Gordon introduced me to Jennifer Sauer. She spent the next six hours waiting to speak, sharing her work (which I did not hear about because I am incapable of not checking my e-mail), and getting ready to speak. She spoke well, too, but her voice wasn’t highly articulated (and I assume it will grow and grow as she moves into her next career track).

Each of those six hours was structured as per the above intro. I am in flow when I am working with tools I really love. It has not been about me; it’s been about the work I am doing, and I am in a great space of awareness, focused on providing what my colleagues need (which usually includes direct feedback and encouraging feedback).

In my experience, it is working. And I am reminded of that not just because I’m aware of what I can do to be more productive, but also that I am able to get better, faster results. So I am asking a lot from my work; why don’t we as individuals do the same?

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