Boost Your Productivity with Constraints
Implementing the system of constraints will help you make your life more manageable
Steve Jobs once cleverly said:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.
I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.
Limitations can make you more productive, hit the finish line more often, and save your focus from slipping.”
How many times have you found yourself overthinking simple decisions, such as deciding on what products to buy, what foods to eat, or what clothes to wear?
We’ve all been there. Sadly, the time spent on simple tasks doesn’t leave you with much time to focus on the most important things that matter.
Let’s say, you want to buy a personal care product that best works for your needs. Your criteria for choosing your product may be: one, it’s fragrant, two, it’s exfoliating, and three, it’s reasonably priced.
But when you do get to the store, your mind is spinning around from all the available options out there. You’re glancing over million products to choose the one that would be best for you. Suddenly, your mind is overwhelmed by too many choices.
You’re at an impasse. For a second, you think what if that one with a “new” label is better? All of a sudden, decision-making doesn’t seem as easy as it should be.
What seemed like an easy task turned into a nerve-racking tedious shopping experience.
The way to avoid it? Set up the system of constraints.
Constraints can come in various forms. It essentially means you will limit the amount of time you spend on making decisions in your everyday life. It also means reducing the number of available options down to a few. Learning to work within constraints is a game-changer.
Constraints Can Boost Your Productivity
Constraints are the solution to making life more manageable. If you learn how to use constraints to your advantage, not only will you boost your productivity, but you will also improve your life in general. And the best part? Constraints help you save so much of your valuable time that you can spend on things that truly matter.
Constraints can boost your productivity and enhance your focus. They also drive creativity by forcing you to work within your limitations. Most importantly, they reduce the amount of time you spend on making simple decisions in half. As a result, your decision-making process is less painful because you reduce the mental workload by limiting the available set of options.
Whether you’re deciding on which product to buy, what clothes to wear for the night out, or what to eat for breakfast, constraints allow you to put a time limit on the decision-making process. In a sense, constraints do all the heavy lifting for you, so your mind is free to choose.
How to Implement This Practice
Constraints work like magic. You can use them in any aspect of your life. Once you implement the rule of constraints, you can achieve astounding results. More importantly, you’ll be able to put the time into things that truly matter — your passions, your projects, your time with a loved one, or your personal time. Your life becomes transformed like never before.
Number One Rule
Reduce the number of available options. For instance, when purchasing a product, set clear criteria on the features your product should have. Let’s say you’ve decided to buy a new coffee maker: write down the list of things your coffee maker should have and use it as a guide in your purchase. Reduce your options down to only a few.
You can apply this rule to anything in life, whether you’re deciding on taking a course, purchasing a product, or ordering takeout food.
Number Two Rule
Set up time constraints on the tasks you put on your to-do list. When checking things off your to-do list, it’s a good idea to decide how much time you will allow yourself to spend on each task. Give yourself a window of time. For example, if you’re pitching clients, set a time limit on how long you will engage in this task (say 20–30 minutes). This will also help you become more aware of how you spend your time and where your time goes. Giving yourself time constraints on the task you’re set to complete will help you be productive and stay on top of your projects.
Imagine this scenario: You’re working on a project for a client which is due tomorrow. You’ve been working on it for a month and the day before you realize you’re only halfway through. Now you’re in a trap and have to force yourself out the way to complete it so your client is happy.
Why did it happen in the first place? It’s all because initially in your mind you thought I have all the time in the world to finish it so you took it easy and didn’t rush through it.
But here’s the thing: The mere fact that you thought you had all the time in the world to work on it was the mistake. If you had set the time limitations for yourself, you would’ve avoided this problem. It would’ve helped you to ensure that you stayed focused on the task.
It may be counterintuitive, but it’s the limitations that drive our productivity, not unlimited time and resources that make us delay our projects and procrastinate on tasks.
Constraints help boost your productivity and avoid mental overload. When you implement constraints, you put the time limit on making decisions, reduce the number of available options, and the amount of time you spend completing tasks.
If you incorporate the two rules of constraints, you’ll become more efficient with your time and boost your productivity. Your mind will be more clear, and you can put more time into doing things that truly matter — your leisure activities, your passions, your time with a loved one, your side hustle, etc.