Structure Promotes Freedom

When I retired I made an odd discovery, which I thought was personal until an equally retired ex-colleague made the same observation. We had both discovered that going from 40 hours a week to No hours a week massively reduced the amount of time we had left to get anything done.

Read that again. Not having a job meant we had less time to get anything done. WHAT!!??

After more gassing we made the following conclusion. It’s probably the experience most of you have (even if you can’t say it out loud). When we were in work (and we were 8-4, Mon-Fri specialists) we had a tendency to do some personal stuff when out and about doing our duty. If we were passing a shop we’d get what we suddenly realised we needed. You can have an ethical huff about that if you wish but I don’t know of any officer who didn’t do that. We just didn’t abuse the privilege. But we realised that having retired we now we had to do that ‘stuff’ in our own time – so it took longer!

Since then I have given it some deeper thought. The conclusion I came to was this.

In work we are subject to pressures and impositions that create a structure to our day. Arrive at work, prep the day, briefings, appointments, course and so on – in a job where things alter at the drop of a hat we are sub-consciously subject to a routine, a process. Even a new incident has a protocol in a sense, and our way of approaching it is based on experience and training, and in the context of what has gone before and what may come next.

Then we go home. Parkinson’s Law* applies and we have as long as we need to do something, and ‘as long as we need’ is not quite the same motivation as that provided by our duties in the workplace.

We go to work and abide by the ever-expanding To Do List, which I cover in great detail in my book, and work through and add to it as our working day proceeds. Then we go home – and rarely apply the same approach. On days off there is a tendency, therefore, to do what comes to mind. We open the fridge – “Oops, must go shopping.” We get into the car – “Oh, it’s telling me I need a service NOW!” We hear Wizzard’s “I wish it could be Christmas everyday” on December the 5th and think, “Damn. CHRISTMAS CARDS!!”

One of the main lessons in the book is that good time management applies all the time, and whatever level of time management you have adopted for work should also be utilised for your personal life. That might sound restrictive – but where’s the ‘freedom’ in that sudden need to go shopping, or in changing your plan for the garage mechanic’s convenience, or in cancelling a morning run because you have 25 friends who’ll be offended by their lack of a Christmas card?

The Plan serves freedom because having a plan means you can ensure time is available for that freedom.

You see, those ‘longer days’ when my friend and I couldn’t seem to get everything done – were the result of no longer having to do things because of duty. We now had as long as we needed to get things done, and as long as we needed was too long!

Structure, whether imposed or voluntarily accepted, promotes the ability to plan execution of all priorities around each priority, and allows us to create space where we can use our freedom to act for ourselves in light of those priorities.

If you prefer having no structure, ask your Sergeant if you can work when you feel like it. I’m guessing she or he will just jump at the chance to help you be free.

*Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands to fit the time available for its completion.” This is his famous one. He has another. “The administrative arm of an organisation expands over time at the same rate as the operational arm shrinks.” How big is YOUR admin section these days?

Published by policetimemanagement

30 year policing veteran and time management authority. Now I've combined the two.

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