When Can Structure Enhance Your Creativity?

I like structuring my work. Some structures don’t box me in. I use timeboxes and a daily structure to organize my time. I have a default set of book and article organizations.

Sometimes, that means my Groove Turns Into a Rut. More often, the structure enhances my creativity.

I feel more creative because I don’t have to think about the basics:

  • When and how to make my tea
  • How to write a blurb for a book
  • How to write a coaching or consulting proposal
  • How to structure a workshop.

There’s more, but that’s enough. You can see I structure much of my work: including the least significant (tea) to the most significant work (books, workshops).

Instead of thinking about how I start work, I can think about the content of the work. That means that structure frees me to do my best work. The structure allows my creativity to flourish.

The structure helps me start. Sometimes, it helps me finish. That’s me. My amount of structure doesn’t fit for everyone! (Sometimes, it doesn’t even fit for me, because I change the structure.)

I use my time-based and organizational structures to start. Often, to finish. When my structures don’t work, I change them.

You don’t have to like my structures—you might like something different.

Projects have structures, too. Sometimes, that structure doesn’t fit the needs of the project.

For example, I work in flow, not finishing one large project before the next. That’s because I have many large emergent projects. I know the big idea of what I want to deliver, and I don’t know the details. I also don’t know when I can finish the project. My books fall into this category. I’ve been working on virtual workshops, and those—right now—are similar to my books because I have many unknowns.

I also have smaller—often, more defined—projects. I know when I need to finish those projects. Some examples are in-person workshops and this site’s weekly blog posts. That’s because I know how to structure the learning for a workshop and what I might want to say in the blog posts.

You might not think of your work as creative. If you are a knowledge worker, you are. (Your boss might not want you to be, but that’s a different problem!)

I can’t tell you what structures will work for you. I do find that—for me—thinking about the way I structure time and the way I structure the product helps me start and finish work in the most creative way:

  • What’s the smallest first step I can take to either experiment or get feedback?
  • How fast can I create the purpose/idea of the deliverable? I’m working on a collaborative book writing project with three other people. We are still deciding what we want to deliver. It’s a little painful, and we have discovered that collaborating on the purpose will free us to write different sections fast.
  • How small a deliverable can I create? I might need to create a short timebox, say 10 minutes to 25 minutes, to see how small I can make my deliverables.
  • How fast can I get some feedback? The feedback might be from me or someone else.

For me, structures can enhance my creativity. I know how to work. Then, I can create the work inside that structure.

That is the question this week: When can structure enhance your creativity?

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