Relax Into Structure in Your Day

There is freedom in surrendering your focus to the tasks you've deemed important
October 14, 2020 Updated: October 14, 2020

There’s something in many of us that resists structure—we want the freedom of not having to do something, of being able to just relax.

There’s something to that: having freedom and going through our day feeling open and relaxed is really nice!

Unfortunately, that’s not actually how things usually go for most people. We rebel against any structure we create for ourselves, and then things get messy. This isn’t necessarily a problem—until that messiness causes anxiety and then we run to distractions and comforts. This all leads to a huge mess.

That mess is an opportunity—to practice with the messiness and discomfort, to create structure that will serve you,  and to relax into that structure so that it doesn’t have to feel suffocating.

Creating Structure to Serve You

If you’re someone who doesn’t like structure—for example, having a rigid schedule gives you the howling fantods—then you might question why you need to structure your day at all.

The answer, my friend, is that the structure can serve you and what you’re doing in the world. If you’re a leader, if you’re a creator, if you’re doing anything meaningful, then ask yourself if what you’re doing is served from having no structure.

Let’s take a couple of examples.

For myself, I know that writing gets pushed back when I have a lot of smaller things that feel more urgent, like responding to emails and messages. So I have to block off the writing time. (I’m in my writing block as I write this.) You, my amazing reader, are served by the structure I create for my writing.

Another example: I know a nurse who’s an administrator at a hospital, and her days are filled with crazy busyness. Her problem is not having enough space to breathe, not enough space for self-care. That will inevitably undermine her ability to serve others. So her team (and the patients at the hospital) would be best served by her creating structure to deal with everything, like messages, budget concerns, and specific projects, but also blocks of time for meditation, going for a walk, resting, and so on.

What kind of structure would serve you and what you’re doing?

What do you need to make space for that isn’t getting done now, but that you are fully committed to doing?

Creating Sacred Blocks

Once you’ve gotten clear on what needs some space in your day, block it off on your calendar.

For me, things I’ve created structure for include writing, meditating, inner work practices, reading, exercise, answering emails and messages, and project work.

Create the space for it in your day. Maybe it will be daily at the same time, or daily at different times depending on the day of the week. Maybe it only needs to be once a week, or three times a week.

Once you’ve created the space in your day, treat it as sacred. This is a space you’ve set aside to serve you and the people you care about. Don’t treat it lightly. Treat it as something that is unmissable and that you care deeply about.

Also think about the space where you’ll do it: Do you need a quiet space? Do you want to play music, or have candles, or declutter the space?

Set a reminder so you don’t miss it. And when you start, set an intention for how you’d like to be during the time you’re doing this. Fully present, open-hearted, etc?

Relaxing Into Structure

Now that you’ve created this sacred structure … you might notice yourself resisting it. Something about this feels restricting, perhaps.

This stems from our beliefs about structure. Maybe we feel that structure is rigid, restricting, suffocating, unnecessary, joyless.

Instead, can we look at it as an opportunity to bring joy and delight into our day? Can we feel the freedom in creating this sacred space for ourselves?

Can we practice relaxing into this structure, so that it can be one of the only places in our day when we don’t have to decide what to do, we don’t have to have doubts or debate ourselves, a time we can just do what we’ve already decided is important?

Try it out: What would it be like to relax into the structure you’ve created, to find the freedom and joy in the structure? See what it’s like to bring the fullness of your being into your commitments.

If you’d like to train in this, join my Fearless Training Program online—we’re going to dive into a challenge on this in October.

Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net