Establishing structure does not mean you need to plan every little detail in your life with no room for spontaneity. Having structure means keeping a schedule or routine, which includes making time for yourself, and activities that bring you joy.
Having structure can do wonders for improving productivity, stress, and even anxiety and depression. For some people, having no routine can be physically and emotionally draining.
In this article, you will learn why maintaining structure in life is important, and five helpful tips for you to start to establish your own unique structure to enhance your well-being.
- What does a structured life mean?
- Why should we create structure?
- The many benefits of having a structured life
- 5 Ways to create structure
- Wrapping up
What does a structured life mean?
A structured life can mean different things to different people, depending on their lifestyle. Oftentimes we don’t know that we depend on structure until it is gone. Structure can mean routines and protocols you implement in order to help get things done.
For example, you may have a morning routine each day before going to work; this is structure. If you make plans to go on a trip with friends, you will decide the date you will go, the length of the trip, where you will stay, and perhaps some activities you will do. When you do this, you have created a structure to guide you.
Why should we create structure?
Maintaining a sense of structure in your life can have many benefits. Having structured routines can have a significant positive impact on your mental health, including improving bipolar disorder, preventing substance abuse, as well as managing anxiety and depression.
A report on addiction and early abstinence states that “Structuring one’s time is an important aid to recovery”. It also says that a structured life helps individuals in addiction recovery to decrease negative emotions such as depression or boredom. Without structure, there is a greater risk of returning to unhealthy and risky behaviors, as there is nothing to help you stay on track and stick to healthier routines.
Research indicates that people in good health engage in more routine behaviors. For example, individuals who are successful at maintaining good health may have a healthy food plan, engage in routine exercise, and do not skip meals. The same study shows that a bedtime routine is associated with improved sleep habits (which can help you live a happier life, as discussed in this study!).
The many benefits of having a structured life
Having a regular routine can help you to feel a sense of control, which can reduce your stress and anxiety levels. Research shows that routine helps to make life feel more predictable, stable, and controllable, which can give a calming and anxiety-reducing effect.
Structure can also help with increasing productivity and ending procrastination. When you establish structure in your life it is easier to complete tasks that you need to do. Having a routine and schedule allows for better time management and the effective completion of mundane tasks, leaving more room for enjoyment or extra tasks that need to get done.
Research shows that people who lack structure in their life may be more likely to suffer from stress, poor sleep, poor eating, worsened physical condition and procrastination.
A lack of structure may result in worrying about finding time to complete tasks and neglecting your health. For example, if you do not schedule time for healthy meals or grocery shopping, unhealthy substitutes become the norm.
5 Ways to create structure
In order to reap all the benefits of having a structured life, here are 5 tips that will help you create structure in your life.
1. Establish a healthy morning and bedtime routine
Having a structured morning and bedtime routine will have a significant impact on your day. A good quality morning routine can help you to feel in control of your day and assist you in attending to your self-care needs.
A morning routine can include your skincare, brushing your teeth, eating a healthy breakfast, and even squeezing in an enjoyable activity such as reading or watching your favorite show. Exercise and meditation are other activities you can incorporate into a healthy morning routine.
A healthy bedtime routine can have an incredibly positive impact on your sleep habits, which are inextricably linked to your overall health. Evidence shows that having a good routine can improve your quality of rest, which in turn can positively affect your mental sharpness, performance, emotional well-being, and energy level.
A good bedtime routine means trying to sleep at a similar time each night, attending to your personal hygiene (for example brushing your teeth, washing your face, taking a shower), and activities that help you to relax and get ready to sleep, such as meditation, reading a book or having a caffeine-free tea.
2. Make a to-do list
Making a list of things you want or need to get done in the day can help you to prioritize and manage your time. When making the list it is important to set objectives that follow the SMART goal guidelines. Setting SMART goals helps you to develop the focus and motivation needed to achieve the goals on your to-do list.
That being said, it is important to remain flexible when it comes to the to-do list. Sometimes your days can become unpredictable, or plans will change, and you will not check everything off your list. Other times you may find it difficult to find the motivation, and that’s okay! Don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s okay to have off days where you don’t achieve everything you wanted to.
Not everything is under your control, and that's okay. Use the list as a guide and a tool to prioritize, manage your time, and provide structure to your day.
3. Plan your meals
Having planned meals adds a layer of structure to your life. It can help improve your overall health, reduce the stress around rushing meals, and help you to save time.
Planning meals can also help you to eat better and can even save you money! As with any new routine, meal planning may take time and practice to get used to. You may have to experiment with what works best for you.
4. Make time for self-care and activities you enjoy
Sometimes when we are trying to increase structure in our life, we may neglect to engage in enjoyable activities due to feeling like our time is too occupied by other routines or activities that need to get done.
It is important to ensure that you are intentionally scheduling time for activities you enjoy when implementing structure into your life. In other words, you need to set aside time for self-care. This can provide a sense of connectedness to others and improve your overall quality of life.
5. Make sure your structure suits you!
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, make sure the structure you implement suits you! Your life is unique, and the structure that helps you may not be suitable for the next person. For example, if you work a nine-to-five job, your sense of structure may look quite different from a freelancer who is a night owl, or a post-secondary student.
There are no rules when it comes to establishing a structure that works for you. As long as the structure and routines implemented are healthy habits that serve you and help you maintain a balanced life, then keep doing what you’re doing!
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Implementing structure into your life is an ongoing process with many benefits. Finding the right structure for your unique life can take practice, revision, and flexibility, but the effort is worth it. Start by trying some of the tips in this article and see what works best for you!
What do you think? Do you find it hard to create and follow a structure in your life? Or do you want to share another tip that really helped you get your life on track? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!