Hearing Mollie deal with the challenge of the unstructured nature of University after the imposed order and discipline of school brought back memories. Wandering around wondering what I was meant to be doing, feeling guilty about not doing it, lost in a slippery quagmire of expectations. Looking back I regret not having dealt with the challenge better. I would have done so much better with what I know now.
And what do I know now? After ten years of working for myself, and much of the time alone, I have become so much better at knowing what I need to do, refining my ability to do so effectively, and proactively seeking out the next challenge and opportunity for learning. In fact just in terms of reading I read more, and “better” now than at any time in my life. I am also more disciplined about how I spend my time and building my own structures to do so. Applying and refining David Allen’s principles from Getting Things Done has been instrumental in this and a life saver in so many situations.
But this is not for everyone. I often make the mistake of thinking that everyone can, and should, work like this. I have to remember that some people respond better to an imposed structure, to tasks delegated by a boss, to clear and extrinsic rewards. I forget that for many the daily commute is part of that structure as is sharing space with others in an office.
My worry is that these structures look likely to become less common in the future. As our large corporations crumble under their own inefficiency more people will work for themselves or in small groups. Fewer people will commute to offices. As artificial intelligence nibbles away at work tasks the nature of the “knowledge work” that is left will become less routine and call for more individual input.
The comforts of our structures will become liabilities rather than benefits.