Chaos, order, and doing your best work

It took me a long time to understand how I work best.

Like many of us, I'm a sucker for productivity. I'm on a forever quest to find the tools, processes, and hacks that will enable me to achieve more.

Over the years, I oscillated between working on what I felt like at the moment (total chaos) and planning a day to the minute (total order). Each system worked until it broke, and I would revert to the other.

As external obligations popped up, I would feel overwhelmed by the lack of organization of the total chaos system. On the other hand, the rigidity of the total order system would turn me into a drone, following the plan even after it became irrelevant.

Each system has strengths and weaknesses. It makes it rather complex to position the cursor optimally.

Too much chaos and nothing gets done.
Too much order and nothing remarkable happens.

I need an inflexible structure that I paradoxically can ignore as much as I want. I plan by the principle that rules are meant to be broken; you need the rules or have nothing to break.

The rigid structure is a safety mechanism that prevents me from facing total chaos for too long. It's impossible to be creative and deliberate when you're staring at an infinite number of options.

Constraints act as the reactant. Without it, there is no creative fire.

What does it look like?

I schedule my time. I create time blocks in my calendar, and I follow the plan. Closely.

But when inspiration strikes ... BOY, DO I MAKE ROOM FOR HER!

I don't change my schedule; I ignore it. Totally. I allow inspiration to guide me and decide on the course of action. We make a new plan together.

"Why don't you stick to your own plan?"
It drives some people nuts.

It makes their heads spin. Truth is, it sometimes makes mine spin, too!

But that's what makes work and being creative fun. And now you know the thought process behind it.

You can only achieve something remarkable with chaos.

You can only leverage chaos by binding it with order.